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Habari Media: Adrian Hewlett

How a passion for sport created a world leader in online marketing.



Adrian Hewlett of Habari Media

Some entrepreneurs struggle to survive, let alone grow, in many of South Africa’s highly competitive sectors. These entrepreneurs may also experience difficulty in breaking through today’s advertising clutter to communicate to their chosen customer groups. Habari Media’s Adrian Hewlett has impressively demonstrated how to break away from competitors, while creating online advertising services that allow clients to break through the clutter and reach online consumers more creatively and effectively.

Hewlett completed his studies at UCT just as the bubble was gaining momentum. His “heavy involvement” in the local rugby club at the time led Hewlett to an interest in sports marketing and landed him a part-time job with then recently launched When the Internet bubble burst, Hewlett found himself marketing manager of a business with no money.

He moved strongly into sales to raise revenues. While Hewlett’s passion for sport became a passion for online advertising, he knew he wanted to do something for himself – to create an organisation “the way a business should be run.” The opportunity arrived when, in 2004, he won the local advertising sales account for and negotiated an exit from – with the MSN account.  Hewlett gets a“real kick out of being responsible” for his own destiny. The calculated risk of “finding a client and working from your bedroom” gave him exactly that and thus Habari Media was born.

Hewlett may have won MSN’s business through excellent salesmanship and dedicated focus, but he learnt quickly that relationships and delivery were key to keeping the business. Within two years, Habari Media had become the most successful sales house globally, with 100% of their available space sold – this for an organisation, Microsoft, which had a policy of not doing business with start-ups.

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Hewlett then extended the MSN contract to other African countries (Nigeria has as many online users as South Africa) and subsequently landed Habari Media now represents the largest online audience in South Africa with 3,4 million users. The other lesson Hewlett learnt after a few months was the need for multiple revenue streams, both to cover increasing operating costs and to balance out possible downturns in certain sectors. As a consequence, he has learnt as much as possible about below-the-line marketing and created a promotions division as part of the business, Habari Direct. Hewlett believesthat one needs to “think big and act big” to grow your business:

“If you think they are bigger and better than you, then they will be.”

Habari Direct has invested in a set of leisure and lifestyle partnerships that allow it to link unique lifestyle rewards to client promotions. One recent campaign Hewlett executed with Kellogg’s included anoffer of free pedicures and manicures to Kellogg’s Special K consumers, for which Habari Direct directly contracted over 350 beauty therapists – not atypical agency practice.

Habari Media’s online advertising sales business employs some of the most creative and effective international best practices to ensure clients don’t land up with a “Christmas Tree” site. Hewlett warns entrepreneurs against advertising below the “fold” of a website or using flashing (or green) banners that may irritate users rather than nurture strong and positive brand associations. Research has found that the brand recall from online advertising can be twice as good as TV advertising and eight times as good as press. He suggests that when advertising online the brand should achieve a consumer frequency of five views per user in order to have brand impact.

Hewlett offers an Egyptian example of a rich media online advertisement for Coca-Cola that allows Internet users to play a game, watch a TV commercial, enter a competition or listen to a jingle, without leaving the page on which the online “banner-type” advertisement has been placed. In this way, online advertising can be both effective and captivating as part of an integrated communication strategy for launching a new product or engaging existing customers.

Media companies are well known for educating, entertaining and encouraging their customers to invest in their media offerings. Habari Media created a unique platform through an annual Digital Symposium to assist advertisers to better understand the opportunities for online and mobile advertising. Hewlett acknowledges that advertising agencies, which in Europe are responsible for most online advertising, have been relatively slow in South Africa to embrace online advertising. It is with this in mind that Habari Media is supporting The Bookmarks, South Africa’s first online creative awards created by the On-line Publishers Association.

Some people have questioned the number of South Africa’s online users, suggesting that the market is too small to be significant or profitable, especially given the low bandwidth speeds and penetration. Hewlett disagrees strongly, arguing that, with over five million Internet users, South Africa has almost as many online consumers as taxpayers.

This Internet population is greater than that of Austria, Finland, Greece or Romania. Hewlett also believes that the growing number of online consumers is a very appealing market. As Hewlett looks forward to greater bandwidth during the coming year, he doesn’t necessarily expect these developments to dramatically grow the number of Internet users.

He suspects that the South African Internet population may climb to eight million, with the real change being a significantly enhanced user experience. Hewlett is confident that the future of the Internet in South Africa will see double the number of page impressions (meaning longer time online and greater engagement) and double the online spend.

As the online and mobile environment in Africa changes, Hewlett believes that Habari Media is well placed to take advantage. He points to his business’s great reputation and long-standing relationships in the market; his strong sales team; his organisation’s ability to learn from its mistakes and grow; and his team’s speed to market. Although Hewlett believes that “no-one can sell your business like you,” he has focused strongly on developing and retaining good people.

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In addition to competitive salaries and social activities, Hewlett believes that he is able to hold onto good people partly because he “really likes the people who work [for him]” and the culture celebrates top performance throughout the business. One piece of advice Hewlett received was not to takehis “foot off the client stuff”.

Although he still regularly visits clients and supports his sales team, Hewlett is now spending more time managing his team and focusing on the “people issues.” Having pursued his love of sport into the Internet boom and then online advertising sales, Hewlett has demonstrated how to deliver superior performance, develop a winning team and build a successful multi-divisional and multi-national entrepreneurial business. Contact: +27 21 487 9100;


27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton



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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton



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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton



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Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
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