The creative industry in South Africa is in a good place. We’re delivering quality work at a good price, and while the industry is young, it’s growing fast.
Schools and design studios have emerged teaching the craft, and the Cape Town CBD has been transformed into a creative hub of burgeoning talent, ripe with hungry entrepreneurs embracing a start-up mentality.
Make no mistake: The advertising industry in South Africa is being taken seriously – and it shows.
But if anything, location is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Just because you’re based in South Africa doesn’t mean you should limit yourself, and the power of the internet means you can cultivate relationships – and create work – for clients anywhere in the world.
Thanks to a common language and a favourable time zone, one place in particular stands out: The UK.
What does South Africa offer? Quality work at a good price
As an Englishman living in South Africa, I have worked for clients like Coca Cola, Nike, Toyota, Johnnie Walker, Microsoft and local powerhouses like Sanlam. I began my career in the UK, W+K London and Euro RSCG before moving to Cape Town nine years ago to lend my expertise to agencies like The Jupiter Drawing Room and Isobar South Africa. Earlier this year, I embraced entrepreneurship by starting my own venture: Area 213 Communications.
As a foreigner living in South Africa, this is my observation: the industry is bigger in the UK but not necessarily better. More choice doesn’t equal a superior end product. Clients’ needs are still the same. They want innovative thinking and quality work delivered on time at a good price.
While the industry in South Africa is smaller, we have the tools and expertise to deliver work that’s comparable – if not better – than Europe.
But our number one selling point? We’re cheaper.
The exchange rate presents a value proposition any entrepreneur would be mad to pass up. While we can protect our margins and enjoy living in a beautiful country, we help clients abroad by delivering quality work at a price that makes them happy.
It’s a win-win for both parties.
Geographically, we’re well-positioned
What do clients want? They want to know that you’re taking care of them and producing great work. If there’s an issue, they want to be able to pick up the phone, speak to the agency and leave the call free of stress.
Invariably, brands in the UK and Europe will look to agencies in their own country – and often their own city – for simple peace of mind. If there’s a problem, they know they can get assistance from someone who can pick up the phone and address their concerns right away.
The beauty of South Africa is that clients can do that, only they’re using Google Hangout, Skype, or a landline. There are no tricky time zone differences to navigate. The spoken language is English, and the accent is easy to understand. Culturally, we’re very similar too. In fact, South Africans are naturally hardworking, and the UK appreciates that.
The number one challenge? Boosting our name
So, let’s get this clear. We can deliver great work. We can do it very competitively. And we’re in the same time zone as all major European countries. We’re not four hours ahead like India, or eight hours behind like the Americas. We have a beautiful milieu ripe with creative talent and we’re growing.
So, what’s stopping us? If anything, reputation. Advertising is a results-driven business, but it’s also image-conscious.
At the moment, South Africa is a market unfamiliar to Europe. The trick is cultivating relationships with people who are key stakeholders in brands abroad.
That’s difficult if you’re not familiar with the market, but not insurmountable. South Africa is an attractive proposition, but too few clients know that.
We need to raise the profile of the country abroad, because in the end, it all comes down to the quality of the work you’re delivering. No client in the world will turn down great work at a price that’s lower than they’re expecting to pay – irrespective of geography.
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The key is to remove the barrier to entry and to get over the first hurdles: The small, very human quirks that prompt brands to choose agencies they’re familiar with, rather than agencies that can save them money.
My goal with Area 213 Communications is to nurture an advertising agency with a global approach to business and one that values the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit. I hope many of my peers will follow suit, putting South Africa on the map in the process.