Africa one of the last frontiers for world’s biggest advertising company

WPP, one of the world’s largest advertising firms, is actively pursuing opportunities on the African continent.

A billboard in Lagos, Nigeria

A billboard in Lagos, Nigeria

Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, last year told the Wall Street Journal that many of their major clients looking for geographical expansion opportunities have Africa and the Middle East high up on their priority list.

Over the last year WPP, which owns advertising, public relations and consumer insight networks such as Grey, Hill & Knowlton, JWT, Ogilvy Group, TNS and Young & Rubicam, announced a string of deals in Africa.

A pan-African powerhouse

WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather and Kenya-based Scangroup Limited last year agreed to create a pan-African joint venture called Ogilvy Africa in order to strengthen a common expansion and growth strategy for sub-Saharan Africa.

“I passionately believe that sub-Saharan Africa is one of the last great frontiers in global communications – and that it will be one of the most fertile. Now is the time to invest, ahead of the curve, just as we have done in other developing geographies. Africa’s growing middle class, its increasing political stability, its fast economic growth and its attractive talent base make it a critical component of any truly global business strategy. This partnership creates the first African powerhouse in the marketing services business – and it is a defining moment,” said Miles Young, global CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, at the time.

Researching West African consumers

At the end of December 2010, WPP said that it has agreed to buy a controlling stake in Nigeria-based Research and Marketing Services group of companies (RMS), one of the largest custom research networks across West and Central Africa. WPP made the acquisition through the TNS network, part of Kantar, WPP’s consumer insight arm.

Founded in 1980, RMS is a full service research agency, providing knowledge and understanding of the African market. RMS services many multinational clients in sectors including consumer goods, financial services, telecoms and social research. Key clients and partners include Cadbury, Coca-Cola, Diageo, Heineken, MTN, Nigerian Breweries and Unilever. Operating from a hub in Lagos, Nigeria and with offices in Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana, Kenya, Ivory Coast and the UK, the network employs 225 people.

Not losing sight of South Africa

WPP is also looking to boost its presence in the more developed South African market. Last month Ogilvy & Mather announced its agreement to acquire a majority stake in Ogilvy South Africa. The transaction is still subject to regulatory approvals. Completed, the deal will increase Ogilvy & Mather’s ownership of the agency from a 49.9% to 59% stake.

Established in 1984, Ogilvy SA employs over 700 staff across 12 companies, with offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. The agency’s clients include a mix of local and multinational companies including BP, Cell C, KFC, MultiChoice and SABMiller.