Joe Pub­lic goes pri­vate

Founders buy back their agency

Finweek English Edition - - Advertising & Marketing -

JOE PUB­LIC, which has emerged as a shin­ing star in the Draft­fcb group, has con­cluded a 100% share buy­back from its par­ent com­pany. The part­ners who started the agency 10 years ago – MD Gareth Leck and ex­ec­u­tive creative di­rec­tor Pepe Marais – are again in con­trol of their own des­tiny. “That means we’re a step closer to achiev­ing our vi­sion of be­ing rated the num­ber one home-grown South African ad agency,” en­thuses Leck.

It’s an am­bi­tious tar­get, given that the home­grown ti­tle is prob­a­bly still held by The Jupiter Draw­ing Room, South Africa’s fourth big­gest agency, which has just sold a 49% stake to the WPP Group. Most in­de­pen­dents are small, but they in­clude some of the best agen­cies in the coun­try. Of SA’s 15 big­gest agen­cies, 12 are in­ter­na­tion­ally af­fil­i­ated or owned.

“In­de­pen­dence is crit­i­cal for us to achieve our vi­sion and ob­jec­tives,” says Leck. “It means we can re­ward star per­form­ers ap­pro­pri­ately by allocating eq­uity based on per­for­mance. That was the main rea­son. We didn’t have any prob­lems with Draft­fcb. We want staff to be em­pow­ered and to have own­er­ship. Pepe and I bought the com­pany back and are now allocating eq­uity to man­age­ment and putting an empowerment deal in place.

“Our po­si­tion­ing – ‘For Peo­ple; By Peo­ple’ – re­flects our be­lief that to be the best you have to have the best staff.”

Joe Pub­lic is small to medium-sized, with a staff of 42 and billings of R150m. The agency started in Cape Town with a unique “take­away” busi­ness model in­spired by fast-food restau­rants. Ini­tially suc­cess­ful, it be­came a lim­i­ta­tion in try­ing to at­tract clients more comfortable with the tra­di­tional ad agency struc­ture.

A few years ago Joe Pub­lic moved its offices to Jo­han­nes­burg and be­came part of the big­ger group. But Leck has mixed feel­ings about that. “There weren’t any ad­van­tages,

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