Creative thought factory

BRAND IMAGINEERS: Strategy advertising agency directors and master brand builders Warren Upton, left, and Matthew Swarbrick are blazing a creative trail through Nelson Mandela Bay Picture: EUGENE COETZEE
BRAND IMAGINEERS: Strategy advertising agency directors and master brand builders Warren Upton, left, and Matthew Swarbrick are blazing a creative trail through Nelson Mandela Bay

Agency marks 11 years in the ad business

They are in the business of building businesses – brand by brand. Nelson Mandela Bay’s Strategy advertising agency this year marks 11 successful years as the creative and strategic think tank behind a string of leading companies, and local and national brands that have more than made it in the Bay.

Strategically positioned in Produce Street, a stone’s throw from the newly revamped Tramways building in Port Elizabeth, the vibrant agency is all about strategy and engineering the appropriate, head-turning advertising and marketing collateral required to introduce, maintain and grow successful brands.

Smart, straight-talking and selfconfessed “brand imagineers”, Strategy is headed by a dynamic duo – Warren Upton, 37, and Matthew Swarbrick, 36, both of whom started their careers as graphic designers.

Speaking from their brightlycoloured premises, which, complete with a foosball table, bares all the interior design cues one expects to find in an inspirational ad agency environment, the pair outlined their company’s journey and imparted critical insights into the local creative industry and the future of this business art.

The directors, who were friends as design students, decided to launch their own agency after gaining valuable experience while employed at another two of the Bay’s competitive creative houses.

“We wanted to create a space of creative freedom fuelled by strategic thinking. We saw the gap in the market and realised that Port Elizabeth didn’t need just another design agency. But what clients’ brands needed was strategic guidance and positioning.

“We believe that design is simply an aesthetic exercise unless informed by a strategy that delivers on business objectives,” Upton said.

The agency was born in a spare bedroom in June 2006.

Today, the agency employs seven full-time creatives and, in addition, is currently up-skilling three interns as part of an on-going, sincere effort to put well-trained and proficient ad men and women into the national advertising industry.

“We are very proud of our intern programme, the results of which we see when our former interns secure top jobs and win awards from other leading creative houses,” Swarbrick said.

The company’s core service offerings include brand strategy development and management, communication strategy, graphic design, media placement, digital marketing, copywriting, website development and art direction.

More of a thought factory than a creative production facility, much of Strategy’s success can be attributed to methodology.

“We want our guys to think comprehensively before we provide anything for our clients. An example of this is that we encourage our team to generate image, ideas and concepts long before they hit the computer and the internet where those creative ideas are fine-tuned.

“Today, there are too many people hitting the glass (computer) to get their idea – which clearly impacts on the originality of concepts and artwork,” Upton explained.

Expanding on Strategy’s workings and philosophy, Swarbrick said: “We’re a small agency, by choice, and we’ve built a team that lives each client’s culture to create brands that resonate with target markets on an emotional level.

“Through our integrated processes and intimate structure (no silos), we are able to seamlessly marry strategic insight with creative flair to develop robust and adaptive brands for the future.”

Commenting that the local creative industry was “growing at a rapid pace and highly competitive”, the directors agreed that the region boasted a strong skill set, and combination of creatives and relationship managers within agencies.

“The local industry is seen as a ‘small’ fish in the big pond, but the city’s creative offering is on par with the major creative hubs such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, but with the added benefit that we genuinely care about the brands that we work on,” Swarbrick said.

In a world of all things digital, the good news from Strategy is that the print medium is far from dead.

“There is massive growth towards the digital space, but print still holds its own and has a place within the marketing strategy for clients. This, of course, is dependent on the target market and demographics.

“Social media marketing has created platforms that allow specific reach and targeting of markets, making it an ‘easier’ way to reach the consumer. Marketers are realising that there is a space for a mix of channels, with each channel needing to perform a specific task in the consumer’s journey to purchase,” Upton said.

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