Agency Insights From A Success Story That Has Been 12 Years In The Making

“We are perfectly primed for limitless creative excellence.” Keke Mahlelebe, Partner and Head of Strategy at M&C Saatchi Abel Cape Town, shares his insight into the agency’s evolution and dynamic presence as it celebrates 12 years of solving complex business challenges with hot creativity and award winning solutions.


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M&C Saatchi Abel’s story began in 2010 in an unfurnished open space on the fourth floor of The Hudson Building in De Waterkant, Cape Town with 13 people. To say that the odds stacked against them were high is an understatement. An agency opening its doors during a recession in an over-traded industry with powerful and established competitors seemed like madness to many industry players.

But, from day one, the founding partners had a vision for an agency stitched together by a philosophy of simplicity and an unwavering belief in solving problems with creativity, and it was this which won the agency its very first account – an extremely coveted one – Heineken. This win, along with the start of a long standing and collaborative partnership with (formerly Take2), allowed the agency to ramp up in people almost overnight. Since then, they have been recognised twice by Financial Mail as Agency of the Year, and won the coveted Partnership of the Year award with its clients Nando’s and the Takealot Group.

For the last 12 years, every success they have had has been led by a philosophy that permeates the DNA of their current leaders, partners and every creative in their ranks – that of Brutal Simplicity of Thought (BST). This means that at the core of the business, the purpose has always been to create beautifully simple solutions in an increasingly complex world. This has been the north star that has underpinned everything the agency creates – from the sharpest of strategies to the most astounding creative work that sets out to be both highly effective and globally acclaimed.

Coupled with BST, they have also always had a strong orientation around how to grow their client’s top line and market share. What has set them apart within the industry is that they first see themselves as a marketing and solutions company that happens to do advertising, and not the other way round. They collaborate and build enduring partnerships that allow their creatives to become creators that add true value to the agency’s client’s brands because creativity and value must live together to allow them to provide the most powerful solutions. The starting point for each conversation that they have with our clients is defining their specific problem statement and then using hot creativity to find new and better ways to solve for that.

When the pandemic hit it changed the way they approached their client’s problems but it didn’t change their underlying value proposition. Creativity thrives when people ask the right questions and are able to anticipate what may not currently be there, but is likely to unlock opportunity. It became more important than ever to stick to creatively finding better ways to solve client problems and seamlessly connect all the dots in the simplest, yet most effective way.

Today they are a growing agency with over 250 talented, creative and diverse people, across a Cape Town and Johannesburg campus that has been providing hot creative solutions that directly impact their clients, and their bottom line for 12 years. And there is still so much more to come.

This includes a shift into the digital space focused around the agency’s expansion into the Metaverse. They can’t wait to begin exploring the unlimited creative potential of this space. They are one of the first agency’s on the continent to purchase land in the Metaverse and are currently in the process of developing our digital campus. Once established, the possibilities for clients are truly endless. Imagine what could be done for Superbalist, for example, in terms of fashion, and they have already started working on a strategies for a number of clients within the space. The driving force behind the Metaverse will be the creative connections made between people around the world. And the beauty of this space is that, globally, we are all standing right at the beginning. We are all on the same ground, starting off from the same gates. It’s a really exciting space to be in as a creative right now. Celebrating their 12+ year – their baker’s dozen – is their chance to orientate ahead of where they currently are and continue to offer clients the substantial added-value that they have come to expect from M&C Saatchi Abel. The fire that ignites creative magic when coming up with ideas is even brighter, that little bit extra that we bring to the table, the more than what is expected to unlock something amazing. For Keke, that is incredibly powerful. Seeking ways to unlock the power of creativity will remain a priority. This includes continuing to build partnerships with clients to successfully navigate what will go down as the toughest economic climate this country has faced. The agency has a deep understanding that for brands to position themselves in a post-pandemic world their creative agency must step up to a challenge that finds them at the frontlines of a new economic landscape. They are more than ready for that challenge.

M&C Saatchi Abel loves a good problem. With their ‘teenage’ years ahead, they are looking forward to providing hot creative solutions for another 12 years, and beyond. During his time at M&C Saatchi Abel, Keke has been incredibly lucky to have worked on many ground-breaking campaigns. Here is a list of 12 of their best that have been solved with hot creative solutions.

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