Natasha Kleyn, head of strategy of consumer and lifestyle, says that 2020 was characterised by a high degree of uncertainty, which presented massive challenges for many South African businesses. 

“Many of our clients were unsure of what to make of the circumstances and what would come next, publications began to close rapidly, the news was dominated by Covid-19, and the adage 'sink or swim' became a reality for everyone," adds Kleyn.

Kleyn says that several client budgets were paused or cancelled. "We had several alcohol and hospitality clients in our stable, which obviously had to pull back. The physical events and festivals that we were planning or representing were also put on hold and our own (and our clients’) agility, perseverance, creativity and resourcefulness were put to the test in a big way."

As the pandemic and its various restrictions took hold, the agency team says that it had to take a step back, review its business growth strategy and work hard in the latter half of the year to grow its consumer and lifestyle division, successfully winning business from Woolworths, Country Road Group and McCain. 

Kleyn says that the agency has always been flexible and was able to quickly adjust to the new normal. "We restructured parts of the business to meet changing client needs, boosted our digital media capabilities and shifted our focus to virtual and hybrid eventing. We also decided to offer more services in-house and place a greater focus on our own marketing efforts," Kleyn adds.

"We've added some incredibly exciting new clients to our stable. In addition to theWoolworths, Country Road Group and McCain wins, we are in the throes of launching DiDi, the world's leading mobile transportation platform in South Africa, as well as Garena, the leading game developer and publisher in Southeast Asia, Taiwan and Latin America," says Kleyn. 

She says that some of the agency's hospitality and alcohol clients have resurfaced, both old and new. "In the latter half of 2020, we were responsible for the 360-degree launch of Boity's celebrated fragrance (Boity Pink Sapphire) and haircare ranges.  Our production and virtual eventing capabilities served us well, with highly successful campaigns produced for Netflix, Nespresso, Cape Union Mart, M&C Saatchi Abel, British Council Teaching For All and others," says Kleyn.

Kleyn says that while the agency delivers different offerings for its various clients, it has noticed that more clients are looking for full-service offerings and entrusting Eclipse Communications with additional marketing functions.

"Over and above traditional PR and publicity, we're doing influencer campaigns, digital and social media, design work, production, virtual eventing, media buying and more," Kleyn says.

She says this has meant having to boost the team with the right skills. "We've established new business units in the year focused on specific markets and geographies to enable further diversity and growth," she adds.

“We have dedicated teams to provide local support. New hires were made across the board from group account directors, to senior designers and digital strategists. Our overall team across the business grew from 54 to 74 in the last financial year, a 37% growth in headcount," adds Kleyn.

Looking ahead, Kleyn concludes that the business is looking to expand its footprint across Africa, grow  its service offering and value proposition as a full-service communications agency. "This is an exciting time for us as a business. The lessons may have been difficult at times, but we have emerged stronger and more resilient."

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