MetropolitanRepublic trying to change perceptions about it
SINCE ITS LAUNCH three years ago – on the back of its acquisition of the MTN account – MetropolitanRepublic has demonstrated to a congenitally sceptical advertising marketplace it’s no onehit wonder. After the initial success of its “clap” commercial for MTN it’s picked up FNB’s brand and sponsorship business, Wimpy, SA Breweries’ Castle Milk Stout and Anglo Platinum (among others) – a blue-chip portfolio if ever there was one. One of its biggest successes has been devising MTN’s much-acclaimed Ayoba campaign.
But an identity problem continues to bedevil the agency: its slightly confusing relationship with The Jupiter Drawing Room group, under whose umbrella it was founded. WPP Group now holds 27% of MetropolitanRepublic and 49% of Jupiter, but there’s no longer any cross-holding between the two South African agencies.
But it’s unsurprising there’s confusion, as the two agencies share the MTN account: Jupiter handles account management and strategy while Metropolitan handles creative. “When people see our MTN work they think we’re just a division of Jupiter,” says newly appointed MD Dawn Klatzko. “But in all other respects we operate totally independently” – even to the extent of handling competing banks, FNB and Absa.
A big success of 2009 was MTN’s Ayoba campaign, partly because for the first time both the retail and brand components of MTN have been housed in one agency. But the creative spark comes out of the agency’s characteristically unstructured spontaneity, rooted in specific methodologies and disciplines. Founder and CEO Paul Warner calls it “the Metro magic”.
One of the biggest impediments to national unity in SA is the language barrier, notes executive creative director Pete Khoury. “Ayoba gives the nation a positive word that everyone can unite in using. Our intention was to help all South Africans understand what Ayobaness is and get it into the South African lexicon.”
The media spontaneously took up the word with massive coverage, ranging from the Sunday
Times using the headline “It’s Ayoba time” to its use on the streets as colloquial for “cool” and in media, such as Facebook, Twitter and even stage productions. “It’s become a unifying cry for all South Africans,” says Khoury.
MetropolitanRepublic experienced income growth of 46% last year, taking its revenues to R40m – without the full impact of the FNB account, which it won in mid-year. New billings totalled R60m.
Talent is core to MetropolitanRepublic’s success and it’s been successful in attracting some of the best talent available. Black people hold 25% of its equity, partly through a staff trust. More importantly, 48% of the agency’s advertising professionals (copywriters, art directors, client service executives and so on) are black.
Creating media interest beyond the paid campaigns is another strategy MetropolitanRepublic integrates into every campaign. The “making of” video of the recently launched Wimpy Collectable Glasses campaign achieved thousands of YouTube and Twitter followings in the space of a week.
“Clients that have come to MetropolitanRepublic are all looking for groundbreaking communication that requires a high level of creativity, underpinned by the assurance of strategic insight,” says Klatzko. “If you want vanilla this isn’t the place for you.”