RAPT Creative: Adland newcomer proves its mettle, again

RAPT Creative: Adland newcomer proves its mettle, again
RAPT Creative CEO, Garreth van Vuuren

RAPT Creative, the agency that opened its doors with three employees just months before the global Covid-19 lockdowns yet emerged from the pandemic years having added international brands like Sol, Miller, Fox, Strongbow, Ballentine’s and Windhoek to its stable and over 100 people to its staff complement, has proven its mettle – again.

This achievement, plus its continued growth as countries worldwide ended lockdowns and resumed trade and business, saw it named as Financial Mail AdFocus’ Small Agency of the Year for 2022. And now, just 10 months after lifting that trophy, RAPT Creative has been listed as one of the three finalists for the Medium Agency of the Year for 2023.

The Financial Mail AdFocus Awards are the most highly regarded in South Africa’s adland because they recognise agencies and individuals not only for their creativity, but their marketing skills and all-round business acumen.

Should RAPT Creative take the top spot in the Medium category this year, it will become the first agency in Financial Mail AdFocus’ 25-year history to do so in the year immediately following that in which it was the Small category winner.

“The thought of being named Agency of the Year two years in a row – first in the Small category and then in the Medium – is just absolutely mind-blowing, almost difficult to believe,” said RAPT Creative CEO, Garreth van Vuuren.

“Like all agencies in South Africa, we have had to work exceptionally hard to succeed in a rather slow and risk-averse sector this year. We are just very grateful that our efforts and work are the ones being awarded,” he said.

Announcing the finalists, Financial Mail AdFocus Awards chair Luca Gallarelli, group CEO of TBWA\SA, said that he was confident that the shortlisted finalists genuinely represent the very best the industry has to offer. This year’s leading agencies, he added, are not content with delivering only against the expectations of today but push, year-on-year, to meet the demands of the future.

  • Brief account of RAPT Creative’s story

RAPT Creative was in the eye of the storm with the rest of the world when Covid-19 went global in early 2020. Previously unstoppable businesses became shipwrecks in its wake, with the economy and normalcy forever changed. RAPT Creative’s founders’ only refuge was an unused windowless recording studio, occupied by three people, and which resembled a humble little boat that continued its pioneering path regardless.

Amidst this Covid-19 chaos of lockdowns, shutdown of global air travel and tourism and – in South Africa’s case, alcohol and tobacco and roast chicken bans – they leaned into the oars, steered into the swell, and tried a somewhat different strategy to keep the business afloat.

Instead of battening down the hatches, they recruited people with top talents from all walks of life. These were the strategists who knew how to negotiate the rough seas. The creatives that kept the sails strong by producing work with relevant marketable solutions that captivate the imagination. Digital that pitched fresh, new ideas to give the business an edge. And PR that made sure that RAPT Creative’s reputation and that of its clients remained intact.

When next they raised their heads to peek over the bow, RAPT Creative had sailed into a new era of business pioneers. During the first tempestuous months of the pandemic, the agency had had on-boarded international brands like Sol, Miller, Fox, Strongbow and Windhoek, and did ad hoc work for South African Soweto Gold and Tafel. It also took on Ballentine’s, which became its first major digital account.

But, rather than find a safe harbour and drop anchor, it forged ahead. A big break was in sight just on the horizon. Jameson. It had just launched a big global campaign called ‘The Stay In’ and wanted to bring it to life in South Africa.

Jameson’s main agency hadn’t cracked the ‘Covid Campaign’, so RAPT Creative took a deep breath and plunged in with an adaptation of the global concept it’d put together in two days. The agency loved it. Irish Distillers loved it. And, … RAPT Creative landed a really big one, two weeks later going ahead with the full campaign. It was the middle of lockdown but South Africa rode the crest of the wave to become the number one most spoken-about campaign in the Jameson market worldwide.

This success, and RAPT Creative’s innovative perspective, gave it the opportunity to pitch on Jameson, Mumm, Martell, and Beefeater with campaigns that knocked them off their feet. These campaigns really impacted Pernod Ricard’s business, and put RAPT on the map from an agility, concept, execution, and digital capability. One of those that came walking up the gangplank was Coca-Cola, which entrusted RAPT with activating a campaign that documented the landing of the FIFA World Cup Trophy and its exciting trip around South Africa.

By maintaining its momentum, at the close of 2022, RAPT Creative had grown from a boat to a fleet of ships. It started with a staff of three people and was sitting at 43, evidence of its massive growth over the past three years.

  • The human touch is key

RAPT Creative gives its partner brands that personal touch. Its clients know that they are in safe hands. The agency has maintained a very strong relationship with them over a short period of time compared with other legacy agencies whose passion for cutting-edge work and strategic solutions has waned over the years.

RAPT Creative closes that so-called imaginary rift between client and agency. An open, transparent communication is what is important. The agency believes that, together, by keeping its finger on the pulse of what is happening, it can produce iconic, innovative work that stops the industry in its tracks.

The agency is inclusive. It has diverse faces of well-skilled people ranging from the LGBTQIA+ community (15%) and Black (70%). There is a belief that true value in creating jobs and building communities. RAPT Creative is about thinking of the collective good of everybody. And how to take clients to greater heights.

This inspires bold moves within defined boundaries, which are driven by clear-cut insights. It is expert risk-taking. Data-based creativity. A challenger spirit. Informed disruptors. Influential change-makers. This is RAPT Creative’s culture.

  • Four focus areas for RAPT Creative’s future

Consistency. But not consistency that sees the agency deliver the same quality of work, day in and day out. No, consistency in that the agency will consistently deliver a better product each and every time the client asks us to step up to the plate.

Talent. Recruiting ahead of the curve was the agency’s tipping point during the lockdowns, but it believes it will only achieve its consistency goal if it loads the dice with the best talent it can find, he said.

Client diversification. Given its start-up client base, the agency was given the nickname the ‘Booze Brothers’. The addition of clients from the pharmaceutical, fashion, footwear and dairy sectors did not quite quieten the market but it is working hard on adding to the list.

The agency is also keen to deliver in markets other than South Africa. RAPT Creative has already impressed for Miller Beer in Kazakhstan, Staropramen in Czechoslovakia, and Carling in a number of European and Asian countries. The agency is keen to add more countries as markets in which it works.