Creating a partnership based on shared responsibility enables clients and their agencies to build brands that become permanent fixtures in the hearts and minds of consumers. It is a philosophy and way of working that puts compelling brand relevance, authenticity, and relentless consistency at the centre of everything that the brand says and does.

The client-agency relationship that is responsible for growing and marketing brands to iconic status is complex and filled with contestation and wariness.

“The key to unlocking the power of such brave ideas is putting fearlessness at the centre of the client-agency partnership.” says Suhayl Limbada, Marketing Director for KFC South Africa, and Enver Groenewald, Group CEO of Ogilvy South Africa.

Suhayl Limbada, Marketing Director for KFC South Africa and Enver Groenewald, Group CEO of Ogilvy South Africa

Enver Groenewald, Group CEO of Ogilvy South Africa

While the power of great ideas fuels the growth of brands, the power balance in the client-agency relationship can often stand in the way of breakthrough ideas and creativity. This is understandable since it’s the client that ultimately “hires and fires” the agency. Hence the balance of power often determines the type of creative work that the brand ultimately produces.

Suhayl Limbada, Marketing Director for KFC South Africa

An agency often places too much focus on the client’s opinion, with the result that a great idea gets buried before the client even sees it. “’But the client won’t like it’ has probably generated more advertising wallpaper across the world than anyone would care to imagine”, is an insight Suhayl has often shared.

But if the goal of effective brand marketing communication is to consistently deliver magic to grab the consumer’s heart, mind and spend, clients and agencies should walk in the shoes of the consumer when assessing how an idea will resonate. In underscoring this point, a key aspect of Suhayl’s brand-leadership philosophy is that we need to remove the layer of fear between clients and agencies. Creativity does not thrive in captivity. It is at its best and most powerful when it is unrestrained.

Enver believes giant ideas that are relevant and meaningful lead to giant growth and giant value for brands. However, when we seek to create ideas using the dangerous filter of anticipating what a client might think of the idea, then giant ideas tend to become smaller and eventually disappear due to the agency’s fear of rejection.

Let giant ideas thrive
The 22-year partnership between KFC and Ogilvy South Africa has not been an easy one. That’s the way it should be. Great partnerships that deliver great work and great brand growth have to have some tension at their centre. The debates and the discomfort that go with boldly pursuing new and extraordinary thinking are precisely what give rise to breakthrough ideas and creativity – and work that continuously surprises and delights consumers.

The robust, brutal honesty in our partnership and the atmosphere of fearless creativity in which we collaborate have given rise to incredibly successful KFC campaigns like “Make A Meal Of It”, “Sad Man Real Meal” and “KFC Soundbite”. These are just a few of the iconic, memorable campaigns that have driven business growth and won awards over the years.

While it’s easy to focus only on the creative work that makes a campaign successful, the reality is that great, impactful ideas don’t come about by themselves. Underpinning an effective client-agency partnership is not technology nor greater levels of data-led insights, it’s a trusting, human relationship. An environment where creatives spend time with clients building an understanding of one another as a starting point to creating an environment where creativity thrives. Being on the same page around the single-minded pursuit of big ideas and not “servicing the client” is key to building that trust and excitement as both agency and client search for opportunities for the brand to play. This is where magic lives.


According to Suhayl, this is what supports the KFC appetite for greater risk-taking in brand communication. Being too conservative and playing it too safe can be more dangerous than being bold! It’s when you know you trust your creative agency partner and you stay close to your consumer that you can be brave.

We both agree on the shared responsibility of client and agency in putting the brand and consumer above all else. “Nothing else matters really”, says Suhayl. “If you want to drive business performance, strengthen your agency relationship and your brand will naturally benefit.”

“Both KFC as the client and Ogilvy South Africa as our trusted partner must show up every day as authentic, honest partners, if we are to do our best by the KFC brand. It’s a brand that for the past 50 years has been seen as truly authentic and deeply honest by all South Africans. Our fearless partnership will ensure it continues to do so for the next 50 years”.

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