Joe Public goes private
Founders buy back their agency
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,