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Sue Napier
Sue Napier
Sue Napier
Sue Napier

Mr Price poaches manager of go-getting ad agency

RETAILER NEWS

Business Day Live - May 13th 2016, 11:34

In a blow to multi award-winning advertising agency Ireland/Davenport, it has lost its MD to Mr Price. 

Sue Napier, who has been at the agency since its launch in 2005, had resigned, she confirmed on Thursday.

Napier, who was born in Durban, is returning to her home city to become marketing director of retail chain Mr Price’s apparel division.

She will leave the agency at the end of next month. No decision has been made yet on her successor.

Until the middle of last year, Johannesburg-based Ireland/Davenport was considered one of the most successful independent start-ups in the South African advertising industry.

Named after its founding partners, Philip Ireland and John Davenport, its first client was German car maker BMW. This was followed by names such as Avis and Plascon before South African Tourism, in 2010, and then Vodacom, in 2013, catapulted it into the big league.

The success persuaded global advertising and communications group WPP to buy a stake in Ireland/Davenport, and the agency’s management won a national leadership award at the 2014 industry AdFocus awards.

But it all unravelled in the space of a few weeks in mid-2015, when Vodacom, South African Tourism and BMW all moved their business to other agencies. Vodacom alone accounted for 40% of Ireland/Davenport’s revenue. This led to substantial job losses at the agency.

"It was incredibly hard to do," said Napier. "We had never retrenched anyone before."

At the time, critics suggested the agency had bitten off more than it could chew with the Vodacom account, one of South Africa’s biggest, which previously resided with the large, foreign-owned Draft FCB SA group and is now managed by the even bigger Ogilvy & Mather SA.

Since then, Ireland/Davenport has regained some ground with the Isuzu vehicles and Budget Car Rental accounts. Most recently, it has won business from MultiChoice’s GOtv channel and the Refreshhh soft drinks range.

Despite the crisis of a year ago, Napier said she had no thoughts of leaving then. "It never crossed my mind. It was an incredibly challenging time and I had to be there to start turning things around again."

Napier said: "It’s hard for anyone to take a piece of business the size of Vodacom but we knew what we were doing. We had the capacity. I am very proud of the work we did for the brand. I have no regrets about that or any other of the accounts we landed."

Napier, who has been in the advertising industry for nearly 20 years, said she began considering a return to Durban a few months ago. Mr Price approached her with a job offer in late March and the deal was done.

"The offer was simply too good to ignore."From Business Day Live 

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