March of the PenQuins
Advertising outsiders have unconventional approach
WELL UNDER THE RADAR for much of its life, PenQuin International comes as a surprise. Now 10 years old, with a staff of 82 (making it roughly the country’s 12th biggest marketing solutions group), it now turns over R150m/year. It started life as a below-the-line specialist but has evolved into a broad-based marketing solutions group offering advertising, media, activation, digital, inhouse media buying and strategy.
“We now have a competitive abovethe-line offering we integrate with marketing elements to deliver solutions appropriate to client needs,” says MD Darren Leishman.
Not being steeped in sometimesquirky agency shibboleths has its disadvantages. The Leishmans have done what many agency executives would like to do: bring back media planning and buying into the agency. In 18 months media billing has grown to R60m/year. “We’ve also been able to amortise costs by bringing media and creative closer together,” Leishman adds. “That’s the big driver.”
Neither of the founding partners – Darren, a designer, and his brother Grant, an accountant – came out of the ad industry. But when an opportunity was presented to Darren, he persuaded Grant to return from London to South Africa to run the business.
Says Grant: “My job is to allow Darren to do his job. You’ve got to have your top people in front of your clients.”
Suzuki, a core client, provides a telling example of the success of this strategy. In 27 months from start-up, its Grand Vitara compact SUV sold 10 000 units, the fastest ever launch in SA’s car market.
“With the objective of moving volume we identified key pillars as the 3Ds: Dominate; Distinctive. Differentiate. Media placement was very selective. If we used TV our strategy would be to dominate that space. We used alternative media, such as Metro buses, which are very much more cost-effective than billboards. We took media ownership for 18 months of the Action Sports arena.
“The target market was young adventurous adults and we appealed to them with a core value of excitement and fun. The message was that Suzuki can facilitate your lifestyle. We’ve been able to sell vehicles at 25% of the marketing cost of our competitors. Normally, up against established market leaders you have to spend more than the opposition. We don’t do creative for its own sake, but to achieve results.”
DARREN LEISHMAN AND GRANT LEISHMAN