This Small TTL Agency Is Punching Above Its Weight

When VMLY&R decided to pitch for the Vodacom account, they enlisted the help of a small agency called Think Creative Africa. We explore what gives this proudly South African small business the edge in an industry dominated by much bigger players.

  • Vodacom Creative Team

Since VMLY&R won the Vodacom account earlier this year, a stand-out feature of every campaign has been the local flavour, which authentically represents and resonates with a South African audience. That quintessential South Africaness is largely the result of a collab that VMLY&R formed with Think Creative Africa – a small, black woman-owned and run through the line agency with unparalleled local insights.

Built For Purpose
Think Creative Africa was founded by high school friends and Vega alumni Nkgabiseng Motau, chief creative officer for Think Creative Africa, and CEO Mukondi Kgomo in 2016. “We started the company out of a need to do work that not only reflects our society more responsibly, but impacts it positively,” explains Motau. “We wanted to create an agency that strictly does work for do-good organisations but when we realised that ordinary brands had the potential to do more impact-driven work, we pivoted to make brand dollars work harder for the people.”

The pair were no strangers to the industry. Each of them brought a wealth of experience and clout – including numerous industry awards and experience creating campaigns that went global. But starting a business brought a new world of challenges. “In the beginning we were a team of two,” recalls Motau, with a chuckle. “We would make up different email addresses – like accounts@thinkcreative – but it was all us. All those email addresses were managed by us!” Just five years later, Think Creative Africa has 20 full-time staff and a list of impressive account wins, work and awards to shout about.

Some of their recent wins include Spar, international private schooling provider Inspired Education Group, Jet Home, SuperSport, Bombela (the company behind the Gautrain) and the Jack Ma Foundation. And then, of course, there’s Vodacom.

Local Insights
The Think Creative Africa team was introduced to VMLY&R CEO Jarred Cinman through a mentor. “We really wanted to find ways to work together,” recalls Kgomo. “Jarred roped us in when Vodacom presented an opportunity to pitch – something for which we are truly grateful.”

After helping VMLY&R win the pitch, Think Creative Africa has continued working alongside them on the Vodacom account, as part of an integrated team, which also includes marketing agency Demographica and digital design agency DYDX. Think Creative Africa brings a lot to the party in terms of creativity and conceptual thinking – but a major asset is the deep insight they have into what makes South Africans tick.

“We generate local insights that you won’t find on Google, Twitter or in any international report,” says Motau. Championed by head of strategy Zetu Damane, their unique cultural insights are garnered through data analysis and interviews and collated into a monthly report that they disseminate to clients and partners and use to inform all their creative and strategic work. Having access to data that no one else has sets them apart in a highly competitive industry.

On The Rise
Do great work and more work will follow. This has certainly been the case for Think Creative Africa, which has continued to grow in a difficult climate that has seen some larger agencies struggling. “Some of it is down to the Vodacom partnership, but the rest is the result of getting more and more work from clients that, previously, would give us smaller projects,” says Motau.

They’ve also signed on to VMLY&R’s supplier development programme, which provides support to small EE suppliers with whom the agency has a close, long-term working relationship. “Our partnership with VMLY&R has resulted in growth in terms of skills, networks and revenue,” says Kgomo. And as far as getting to flex your muscles goes, it doesn’t get better than Vodacom. “It’s one of the only brands on which one can use technology, scale and data to connect with millions of South Africans daily,” she says. “The size alone is inspiring and the fact that the techcom is purpose driven makes it all the more fulfilling.”

In a pandemic-ravaged business landscape and an industry that has been criticised for its lack of transformation, Think Creative Africa looks set to be just the success story that advertising and South Africa need.

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