Iden­tity cri­sis

Metropoli­tanRepub­lic try­ing to change per­cep­tions about it

Finweek English Edition - - Advertising & Marketing -

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.”

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