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International Small Agency of the Year, Silver: Volcano

Johannesburg Shop Grabs Market Share For New Products

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Paul Jackson, Glenn Jeffrey, Francois Boshoff and Jessica Wheeler
Paul Jackson, Glenn Jeffrey, Francois Boshoff and Jessica Wheeler

Johannesburg-based Volcano has thrived for 20 years on long relationships with blue-chip multinationals like Procter & Gamble, Nestlé and Sony, but this year it also impressed with market-share-grabbing launch campaigns for Garmin personal fitness devices and Act II ready-to-eat popcorn, as well as a repositioning of Tabasco sauce.

Spanning advertising, PR, social, digital and design, South Africa's Volcano has 70 staffers and has become a springboard for brands wanting to reach the whole continent. Projected revenue for 2014 is $20 million, up from $15 million last year.

For the launch of Garmin Fitness personal fitness devices, Volcano developed a campaign based around the line, "Glory is a journey, not a destination." The premise was that fitness enthusiasts fight for their own personal version of glory every time they exercise. Garmin entered a crowded market against established competitors including Adidas, Polar, and Casio, but Volcano's campaign helped win a 57% market share for the brand.

Act II was well known as a microwave popcorn, and the company wanted to introduce a ready-to-eat version without cannibalizing its existing product. The "Not just for movies any more" campaign showed people encountering exciting movie-style scenes during their everyday lives, and pausing to enjoy them with a bag of Act II. That helped the brand to achieve 80% trade penetration.

For Tabasco sauce, Volcano grew sales by 18.6% for the year—and 37.8% for the duration of the campaign–by positioning Tabasco as an everyday liquid seasoning and not just a hot sauce. The colorful print, outdoor and digital campaign promised "A little Tabasco, a lot more flavor."

After meeting a number of multinational agencies, Volcano sold to WPP in June 2014 and is now Grey Africa. The deal happened during the Small Agency Awards judging, so Volcano was eligible to be awarded. The Volcano name still exists as a below-the-line and shopper marketing unit within Grey.

"We saw a marriage of ideals," said Paul Jackson, one of Volcano's co-founders and now group managing director of Grey Africa. "Grey has an urgency to get to market, and the ambition to take global brands into Africa, not just from Johannesburg but from places like New York, too. There was a great connection in terms of people and the way we do things, plus it made sense from the P&G perspective."

Procter & Gamble is one Grey's biggest global clients, and already worked with Volcano. For Grey, the deal is a re-entry to South Africa, where Grey closed its Johannesburg and Cape Town offices last year due to underperformance. Before selling to Grey, Volcano was the lead agency for sub-Saharan Africa for ICOM, an international network of independent agencies.

"Six of us – all from bigger agencies -- got together 20 years ago and decided to go it alone and be masters of our own destiny," Mr. Jackson reflected on his agency's history. "It was tough to get the momentum going, but the breakthrough came with Sony Electronics 18 years ago."

Later, Volcano worked with Sony on its sponsorship of the World Cup tournament held in South Africa in 2010. Mr. Jackson said, "As the host country we were very involved in all the global strategy and execution, working with Sony in London and Tokyo."

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