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Lowe Bul: Matthew Bull

A commitment to liberation has turned this agency into an award-winning powerhouse

Juliet Pitman



Lowe Bull

When it comes to creativity, Matthew Bull’sphilosophy is simple: don’t be boring. Pretty obvious for someone working inthe advertising field, except that it’s advice that few creative people reallytake to heart. Borrowed from UK advertising guru, David Abbott, it’s aphilosophy that speaks of continually pushing the boundaries, doing thingsdifferently, changing the status quo. It means creating excitement – in bothclients and consumers. And for Lowe Bull, the advertising agency founded byMatthew Bull, it has also meant success. Lots of it. It’s meant signing clientslike Nike, Nandos, Axe, Coca Cola and, most recently, Hansa. And it’s meantawards. Having recently returned from the Cannes International AdvertisingFestival (where he was selected to be the South African judge in 2000), MatthewBull is in proud possession of two gold Lion awards (for the company’s pressand radio adverts for Axe deodorant) and two bronze awards (for the Axe pressand Anti-smoking outdoor adverts).

“This is a tough business and it’s easy tobe ordinary. You have to constantly remind yourself to be exceptional,” saysthe 43-year-old, who started the company with partners John Pace and IanCalvert, as Bull Calvert Pace in Cape Town in 1996, with founding client, theCape Times. Bull approached the global Lowe & Partners network, looking forfinancial backing, but was turned down. “Initially they told me they investedin going concerns, not start-ups, but my partners persuaded me to go back tothem. So I gave it one more go and sent a business plan over,” Bull relates. AUK meeting with Sir Frank Lowe turned out to be auspicious in two respects:firstly, Bull and his partners received R800 000 in return for Lowe &Partners taking a 26% stake in the business and secondly, the meeting was heldin the offices that Bull himself would later occupy as worldwide chief creativeofficer for the Lowe group in London.

Looking back on those early days, Bullsays: “We were fanatical believers in ideas and we were incredibly andwonderfully naïve. The beautiful thing about naïvety is that it means you don’tknow what you can’t do. We weren’t afraid to try new things.” This earlyculture is something he and his management team have fought hard to retain asthe company has grown and expanded, but, as Bull points out, this hasn’t alwaysbeen easy. When the agency lost the Smirnoff account, which made up 40% of thecompany’s revenue, a retrenchment of a third of its staff presented a seriousthreat to morale. But as Bull points out: “I realised that how you let peoplego is vitally important to the people who stay behind, because it shows themthat you care. We tried to treat people in accordance with our principles.” Andwhen the agency took over Johannesburg-based Lintas, Bull recalls a meetingwith staff during which he put across a clear but uncompromising message:Either fit in with what we stand for or leave.

“When you start a business it’s like acultural impersonation of yourself but as it grows, the culture becomes dilutedand you don’t really articulate these things until you are in danger of losingthem,” he explains. What Lowe Bull stands for is something he’s given a gooddeal of thought to lately, especially in light of recent partnerships that thecompany has entered into. And what he’s come up with is ‘liberation’. “My dutyand the duty of my leadership team is to liberate the people within the companyso that they can be themselves and express themselves – because that’s when youget the best creativity,” he says. Again, this might seem obvious but theimportant thing is that he’s onto something, because the net effect is anaward-winning team that delivers exceptional work. And that’s anything butboring.


25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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