It’s a year since The Jupiter Drawing Room joined the scramble for partners in Africa, and in that time its first foreign agency has built fee and commission income to R30m, making it the largest ad agency group in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe? “Fortune favours the brave,” responds a jaunty Graham Warsop, Jupiter group chairman. “We are backing the man, Denford Magora (pictured), and the outstanding people he has gathered around him. We have great confidence in what he’s trying to do. He’s committed to good work and deserves to be supported.”
Jupiter has ambitious plans for continental expansion. “We understand the potential of Africa, its cultures and mindsets,” says Magora. “We could, together with such a partner, establish the most prominent, creative and successful African agency network.”
In a complex shareholding structure, The Jupiter Drawing Room (Harare) is a sister agency of Magora’s agency, Jericho, in the Jupiter Zimbabwe group. As group CEO, Magora holds a majority stake in the agency and a minority stake in the licensing/holding company, The Jupiter Drawing Room (Zimbabwe) and Partners.
The prospects have been illustrated dramatically by its growth and creative success (among the biggest winner at the recent Zimbabwe advertising awards. Clients include Old Mutual Zimbabwe, Zimplats, Toyota, Nando’s, Schweppes, CBZ Bank, Delta Beverages (SABMiller Zimbabwe), Western Union and South African Airways.
Magora says he found Jupiter an attractive partner because of its creative reputation and local experience. “Americans and Europeans see Africa as one country, and they come in with one solution.
“We didn’t want to affiliate ourselves with a faceless global conglomerate that looks at Africa s a third or fourth-tier market appended to their Europe and Middle East region. We are focused on Africa, born here and determined to grow up here before tackling Europe, the Middle East and Mars. We aim to marry the creative excellence inspired by international standards with unique, deep insights into the local market.”
Warsop concurs: “Successful expansion depends on partnering talented and ambitious local partners in each market, with a shared vision for greatness,” he says.
On the cards is another Zimbabwe office, and then rolling the model out into other southern and east African countries next year.
“Financial prudence is key,” says Magora. “We have grown without borrowing a single cent. Everything we make is currently being ploughed back into building a solid infrastructure with world class systems.”
Tony Koenderman comments: It’s a high-risk strategy, but the stakes are commensurately high. Whether Jupiter ends up as a flag-bearer of an economic revival, or another failed investment in a strife-ridden country, depends on how well the Zimbabwe government manages the return to normality in the next few years.
If only because it’s moving off such a low base, the growth potential is probably greater than in any other African country. One thing Mugabe did right in his early years in power was to raise the standard of education, and today there are thousands of well-educated Zimbabweans all over the continent. People with degrees, working as waiters and petrol pump jockeys, are eager to return the moment they see signs of a return to normality.
Many will find it impossible to forgive the Mugabe government for the injustices perpetrated on the Zimbabwean people but if foreign investors get what they need, political stability, many will overlook past offences.