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Cross Colours: Adelle Wapnick

Finding A Balance Has Been The Key To The Success Of Design And Ad Agency Cross Colours

Juliet Pitman

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Adelle Wapnick of Cross Colours

Wapnick’s Yeoville flat after growing tired of the traditional advertising industry scene. After landing the Mercedes Benz Honda account as their first job, the word of their creativity spread and the business grew organically. Twelve years later they look back on their original dream to create something agile, flexible and creative, that would meet client needs but also provide a place where staff would be valued and respected.

In an industry where truly good creative minds are difficult to come by, it’s a strange incongruity that agencies don’t work harder to retain their staff. This provided Cross Colours with one of its key differentiators. By establishing a culture that valued its people as much as it valued their creative output, the company has managed to build up a unique team of highly talented individuals –and what’s more, it’s managed to retain them.

The same can be said for clients. A good deal of the company’s work is in below-the-line advertising and, as Wapnick explains: “Too many agencies don’t treat below-the-line with any kind of strategic approach. One of our biggest strengths is strategic insight and we look at every job holistically from the client’s entire brand point of view.”

This has helped the company build a kind of client loyalty that’s rare for below-the-line operators. But Wapnick is quick to point out that Cross Colours’ strong client relationships do not hinge on good work alone. “Our relationships with clients have been characterised by some very heated debates in the past.

We are very vocal and if we don’t think a client is right, we are very open about telling them so. But although we have arguments and debates, the relationship is mutually respectful and I think this has been key to retaining clients,” she says.

Getting to this point has meant an often-difficult journey and Wapnick explains how, over the years, she and her team have had to learn about confronting clients. “Too many agencies are only interested in the money and they get into relationships with clients who don’t respect them and see them as nothing more than a supplier.

This means they brief them late and badly and put them under tremendous pressure – at the end of the day this affects the quality of work that an agency can produce. The upshot is that both the client and the agency end up stressed and unhappy,” she says.

In an industry notorious for being highly pressured, Cross Colours has managed to strike a balance between client demands and their vision of creating a nurturing environment for staff. Wapnick explains how they did it: “Part of the journey has been to find clients who mirror our ethos and values, so they respect our staff and see us as partners in their business. And part of the job of our account managers is to manage the relationship properly. In this, they have our full support.”

But in spite of the ‘softer’ side of their business, Wapnick and her partners understand the value of their creative clout. They stay creatively relevant by immersing themselves in popular culture, believing that creativity can’t happen within one frame of reference. She concludes: “The only way for original thinking to happen is to be so stimulated by the world that it broadens your horizons and changes your structure of interpretation,” she concludes.

Contact: +27 11 459 0600; www.crosscolours.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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