by Herman Manson (@marklives) Advertising agencies as we know them will no longer be competitive in their current form and shape. This is according to Andrew Fradd, managing director at independently owned Mortimer Harvey, an agency that has been in business for 24 years and started out life as a below-the-line shop. The agency is looking to reinvent itself through structural and strategic changes that will allow it to offer omnichannel and results-driven marketing services.
In a bid to make it competitive in a data-rich marketing world, it recently appointed Winnifred Knight as direct business director and Luisa Mazinter as group chief innovation officer. Both have extensive experience in direct and digital marketing, data marketing, analytics and social media and ecommerce.
Over the past 18 months, the agency has doubled its digital skill-set but has steered away from building a siloed digital unit. Instead, all staff members have been undergoing a 10-module course in digital and social.
Briefs to the creative team are also media-agnostic, says Fradd. The agency is reinventing how it receives client briefs, how it interrogates them and what it ultimately feeds back to client. Ownership of the process no longer solely resides in the hands of the ECD, he explains.
Understanding and applying data correctly are key for Mortimer Harvey’s evolution. Data drives consumer insights, and should inform the choice of channel the creative team uses. The result is that 60-second TV ads become less likely — a three-minute game or reality show with interactive elements and digital platforms, more so. Ad agencies need to offer measurable objectives and returns, Fradd believes; they don’t serve any other purpose anymore.
Evolving its core offering to content (rather than ads), driven by insights, will be a key part of its transformation. The agency is investing in its content-production business, which will offer programming to broadcasters, short-format video and mobile-ready offerings.
A lot is being said about mobile as the new first screen for Africans, but data charges remain an obstacle to delivering content to mobile. Mortimer Harvey has partnered with a technology company to build a platform that allows marketers to zero-rate those data charges to consumers and deliver mobile video or audio channels to their phones. Fradd says the service is able to deliver content to feature phones running Edge. The majority of phones used on the continent is still feature, rather than smart, phones.
“We have created an aligned business that marries our strategic and creative expertise and the technology to deliver a bespoke and unique owned mobile channel to clients,” he explains. “The data can be zero-rated to the end user if the cost is covered by the brand/product or by the mobile operator if it’s their own content.”
Mortimer Harvey has further boosted its data credentials through a licensing deal with Danish-based Loyal Solutions A/S to bring its loyalty programme management technology into the agency portfolio. LoyalTfacts may be launched without any IT implementation, and is already connected to over 32m stores worldwide [it links directly to POS devices], so, according to a statement announcing the deal, “a local, regional or global programme can be set up within six to eight weeks and virtually any store on the planet can participate. The solutions offer full omnichannel opportunities, combining online and in-store activities seamlessly.”
“Moving past the envelope”
Direct marketing has been forced through radical change, what with the all-but-collapse of the South African postal service. Here, Mortimer Harvey is moving “past the envelope”, as Fradd puts it, and beyond email, SMS messages or outbound calls to digital channels that reinvent immediacy and that direct can deliver. “The digital channels, social media etc, are being expanded to optimise connection to customers/consumers to ensure more meaningful engagement, conversation and the optimisation of data-driven insights,” he says.
The agency is proactively targeting new business with its new offering, according to Fradd, who says no agency can rely solely upon winning business through formal pitches anymore. It’s expensive, bureaucratic and often lacks authenticity (like when the client is actually very happy with its agency, but is forced by internal rules to put the business out to market every couple of years).
SA clients include Absa, the University of Johannesburg and Smile, a telecoms company operating in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and soon in the DRC, but which is serviced by Mortimer Harvey out of SA.
Altech Autopage, another major client, is in the process of exiting its business, an event the agency is prepared for, he asserts, saying it’s been obvious for some time that the mobile-reseller model was not going to survive. The agency has been managing its headcount over the past year in preparation for Altech Autopage’s departure from its own books, and has adapted its recruitment strategy accordingly; Mortimer Harvey currently employs 95 people in its SA office. Revenue (not billings) is in the R45–60m range.
African footprint expansion
Apart from its data-driven transformation, the agency has been expanding its African footprint. It launched in Egypt in late 2014 with local partners, and the Cairo agency now has nine clients and 20 employees. It’s gaining significant traction through its digital and social offerings especially, demand for which is massive, he says.
Mortimer Harvey Africa Middle East is led by CEO, Thibaud Weick, and MD, Hazem El Senoussi, from Cairo. Clients include Orascom, Scripps Networks, Sofitel, Telecel, Tota and Magrabi Optical, Nile Engineering (Alfa Romeo, Fiat, HiSense, Lenovo), Alarabi, Swiss Inn, Ghabour Auto (Hyundai), and Asfour Crystal. Virtual offices are running in Nigeria, where it has consultants on the ground. As clients’ needs grow, it will ultimately create physical presences in both West and East Africa.
From a specialist below-the-line shop into a through-the-line and then integrated agency, Mortimer Harvey has evolved over 24 years. The agency has adapted as client needs have expanded, says Fradd, bringing in-house those disciplines clients have asked for, and he believes it can successfully continue this ongoing evolution.