Africa and its amazing potential, natural wealth, emerging middle class and quest for a better life, seems more and more like the land of “Milk & Honey”—a land waiting to be explored by courageous marketers.
The facts speak for themselves. Nestle today generates sales of more than 3 billion CHF on the continent. South African Breweries, better known as SAB Miller, operates 32 breweries and 19 bottling plants with more than 13,000 employees in Africa. Porsche has just opened its first show room in Lagos. Rural Cameroon is on the verge of overtaking Ireland as the largest guzzlers of Guinness. It seems almost certain that Africa will become the next global growth engine. But fast growing economies come with their very own challenges. It is not just about spotting opportunities; it is about organizing them in a way that benefits our clients and brands.
By launching the Middle East and Africa Region and establishing Africa as a JWT cluster, we have put considerable focus on this part of the world, investing in talent, training, capabilities and the implementation of a new client-centric operating model. Rather than viewing Africa as a monolithic continent mainly served out of South Africa, we have decided to invest in five hubs covering key growth markets in distinct regions. These “Centers of Excellence”—namely Cairo, Casablanca, Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg—provide the full range of capabilities and are collaborating closely with activation offices in selected smaller markets. While geographic clusters ensure operational focus and excellence, Business Unit Directors support their clients in identifying market opportunities, developing effective solutions and implementing them across markets and disciplines.
To complement this client-centric operating model, we have set up Transmission, a highly centralized and fully digitalized asset for production, distribution and management system in Johannesburg. Today Transmission is servicing clients across 25 African markets with minimal local involvement, and therefore ensures effectiveness far beyond the offering of more traditional production setups.
Operational excellence and efficiency, however, is just one side of the coin. It wouldn’t mean much without superior market intelligence and consumer insight. Africa is a vast continent that could easily combine the landmasses of North America, China, India, Europe and Japan. Sharing the continent are more than 100 million Arabs, 65 million Berber in the north, 30 million Hausa in West – and Central Africa, Igbo, Yoruba, Oromo, Fula, Amhara, Somali, Hutu, Zulus and hundreds of smaller tribes. They speak more than 2,000 languages and are largely ignoring national borders drawn by colonial powers in a rather artificial ways a century back. All this poses a massive challenge for even the most experienced marketer.
“Consumer understanding remains the single most important value we can add to our clients’ business”
To cope with this challenge we have created the “JWT Pan-African-Planning-Network” where more than 50 senior Planners across key markets gather and share market intelligence and consumer insight. In true worldmade fashion they collaborate and share insights with Planning colleagues within Africa and around the world. It is important for us to gain deeper understanding for the amazing variety of cultures, communities and people on this vast continent. Apart from being channel savvy and creative, consumer understanding remains the single most important value we can add to our clients’ businesses.
Also of growing importance is the central role digital continues to take in our Africa strategy. We are talking about 150 million Internet users and more than 600 million mobile phone subscribers. 40 million people in Africa are on Facebook. South Africans send out more than 5 million tweets per month. And M-PESA has made Kenya the World Leader in the use of “mobile money”. Add the rapid decrease of smart phone prices to the mix, and expect to see these numbers grow exponentially over the next few years.
To tap into this potential, we have decided to invest equally in digital culture and digital capabilities. More than 30% of our new recruits are coming with a digital background. We are investing in data access, analytics, and engagement planning, as they are key to more measureable and accountable communication. Meanwhile, our creative teams are adding technologists and story architects to their mix. In addition we have decided to run a network wide “digital language training” designed to convert digital immigrants into digital natives. These changes shape our culture into one that sees media as a range of screens; a culture that creates storylines able to engage audiences across various platforms rather than developing traditional work, which is later adapted to other media silos.
“JWT is one of the longest lasting success stories in the advertising world, mainly because we embrace new technologies, new formats and new ways of engaging our audiences.”
To drive this transition and ensure smooth implementation we have set up dotJWT in Johannesburg, under the leadership of Yoav Tchelet. Comprising a team of almost 20 digital experts dotJWT produces award winning digital and social media campaigns for clients like Avis, Brandhouse (Diageo), Barloworld and Gautrain. We are in the process of moving our digital teams in other key markets under the umbrella of dotJWT, which will further stimulate the exchange of knowledge and best practices. But dotJWT doesn’t just sum up our digital expertise in Africa, it also provides access and is the gateway to more highly specialized disciplines like e-commerce, data mining, apps development and mobile gaming available within JWT worldwide.
JWT is one of the longest lasting success stories in the advertising world, mainly because we embraced new technologies, new formats and new ways of engaging our audiences. Just imagine what would have happened if we had outsourced TV in the early 1940s by acquiring a TV agency! On that note, we are not looking at digital generalists, but rather, want to continue our investment into highly specialized digital disciplines like data, analytics, mobile and e-commerce.
As we continue to grow, we want to continue tapping into our strong network—our talent pool of more than 1,100 highly skilled people in the MEA region and more than 10,000 JWT employees worldwide. Carrying on our worldmade philosophy, we will facilitate sharing knowledge across the region, bringing people together, as well as embracing diversity and technological innovation.
In this spirit, welcome to Africa!
— Chris von Selle is the Chief Operating Officer of JWT Africa.