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TBWA Hunt Lascaris South Africa : company profile

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TBWA South Africa is the largest unit within what is now TBWA Africa. The local agency was formed in 2005 from the merger of what were previously two separate agencies, TBWA\Hunt Lascaris and TBWA\Gavin Reddy. Long established as one of the country's most creative agencies, it scooped numerous awards around the world in 2010 for the widely admired Trillion Dollar campaign for The Zimbabwean independent newspaper, which highlighted the financial plight of the people of Zimbabwe in posters made from the country's near-worthless currency.


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The group had a couple of rough years after 2006, losing several large accounts at the end of the 2000s to The Jupiter Drawing Room. However, it maintained its position as one of the world's top creative shops, not least with the Zimbabwean campaign. At the end of 2010, TBWA was joint winner of the Ad Agency of the Decade award from local business magazine Finweek, sharing that prize with The Jupiter Drawing Room. The judges commented "Hunt Lascaris was the dominant agency of the first six years of the decade, heading the creative league table in five years, and placing second in another, twice winning Agency of the Year, and making the running as the country's most successful agency business. It then went into a slump, falling to a low point of 11th in the creative league, and would have blown its chances of winning the Decade accolade - were it not for last year's stunning comeback with the Zimbabwe Trillion Dollar Billboard." It has held that creative standard. TBWA Hunt Lascaris was the #2 network in South Africa in 2014 (behind Ogilvy) by local Creative Circle awards.

TBWA\SA's original core Hunt Lascaris earned a reputation in the 1990s as one of South Africa's foremost creative agencies, and among the few to establish a global standing. John Hunt and Reg Lascaris had met while working at local agency Hands during the early 1980s, and decided to go it alone in 1983. The TBWA network acquired a small stake in 1985, and increased its shareholding to 20% towards the end of the decade. At the time South Africa was in the grip of apartheid, but Hunt and Lascaris went out on a limb by calling for an end to race-based marketing, attempting to use black actors or musicians wherever possible in their ads. Shrugging off death threats from right-wing activists, they were later appointed as the agency for the ANC in South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994. TBWA raised its shareholding to 50% a year later.

The agency has won a string of international awards over the years. In 1999 it was the first agency from the Southern hemisphere to be named Agency of the Year by Advertising Age, and South African business paper Financial Mail named the shop Agency of the Decade in 2004. Meanwhile Hunt and Lascaris moved on to greater things. John Hunt was appointed as TBWA network's worldwide creative director in early 2003, a position he still holds. Reg Lascaris is now chairman of TBWA's Africa & Middle East group. Both men were jointly awarded the Adfocus Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009; Hunt collected the Loerie Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

TBWA\Gavin\Reddy operated as a separate agency under the TBWA umbrella until mid-2005. The shop was founded as DDB South Africa, until being transferred to the TBWA network in 1997 under managing partners Louis Gavin and Nathan Reddy. It enjoyed a meteoric ascendancy over the next few years, although it was widely regarded as a design agency which also offered advertising, rather than a full ad agency. Gavin and Reddy moved on in 2004, launching dedicated design agency Grid, also with backing from TBWA (which eventually took control of that unit too in 2011), and creative agency OpenCo. Following TBWA\Gavin\Reddy's loss of the prestigious Edgars retail account in 2005, the agency was merged into TBWA\Hunt Lascaris. Integrated agency TBWA\Fusion in Cape Town also rebranded as TBWA\Hunt Lascaris in 2007. There is also an office in Durban. The main TBWA agency in South Africa now trades simply as Hunt Lascaris, albeit under the overall TBWA banner. Other satellites include branding and design specialist Yellowwood, management consultancy Magna Carta and youth marketing unit HDI. In 2019, OpenCo was merged into Grid.

Omnicom now has overall control of the group. Black empowerment investment fund Shanduka Group has 10% and some shares are held by an employee trust. Greg Lascaris remains chairman of TBWA Africa. John Hunt was TBWA's global chief creative officer until 2017 when he moved up to global creative chairman. Sean Donovan was appointed as group CEO at the end of 2016. Karabo Denalane is CEO of the main TBWA\Hunt Lasaris agency. Marie Jamieson is international strategy director and executive director, TBWA Africa. Peter Khoury is chief creative officer for TBWA Africa.

Last full revision 28th July 2017

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