In just six years, Timothy Vieira (38), Nuno Traguedo (44) and Odair Peres (32) have created Angola’s number one advertising giant that advertises for major brands including Cuca, Chevrolet and Kraft Foods.
“Angolans connect with rhythm, music, happiness and bright colors. Those ingredients work magic in
drawing Angolan consumers’ attention,” Peres says at Special Edition’s humble headquarters in the Angolan capital, Luanda. But creating the perfect match between an advert and its Angolan audience does not end there.
Special Edition’s biggest clients include Angolan beer brands Cuca, Eka and Nokal; Argentinean chocolate company Arcor; Angolan TV broadcast company Zapp; Suzuki, Chevrolet and Volkswagen; Kraft Foods (owner of Cadbury); the Ministry of the Interior; and South Africa’s Standard Bank.
One of the reasons Vieira, Traguedo and Peres manage to hook such big fish is that competition in Angola is only a fraction of what it would be elsewhere. “If you’d set up the same company in Portugal, it would be one in a million,” Traguedo says. “Here, it’s one in five.”
More importantly, though, the three owners know what works in Angola and what doesn’t. They understand the Angolan psyche and the country’s troubled past. “Culturally and linguistically, Angola is not a united country and its civil war (1975-2002) only ended 10 years ago. For outsiders, that makes it very difficult to understand how Angolan consumers will react,” says Traguedo.
One of Special Edition’s companies, Key Research, conducts research into Angolan consumption habits. With Bon o Bons, big chocolate bonbons in yellow wrappers that cost 20 (US) cents each, they made a surprising discovery. “Bon o Bons here are sold by the millions. We always thought Angolans had a sweet tooth, but they don’t: these chocolates serve as a lunch substitute for people who work far from home,” Peres says. “That makes TV ads unnecessary, because Bon o Bon’s eaters generally don’t own a TV. So we just offered a free T-shirt per two boxes of chocolate at branded Bon o Bon’s selling points.
“But until recently, people would go to the store and ask for a Brazilian Garoto (when they wanted a Bon o Bon), since it was the only brand that existed here during the war. We created a jingle that constantly repeated Bon o Bon’s name. It worked.”
Special Edition’s history started six years ago, after Traguedo sold his first Angolan company, Publibrinde. “I originally returned to Angola with just $500,” he says, “but the sale of Publibrinde left me with some pocket money. Tim and I, together, invested about $100,000 in the creation of our first advertising company six years ago, Dilal. Tim’s garage was our office.”
Dilal developed into the group Special Edition, of which Angolan-Norwegian investment fund Fundo de Investimento Privada Angola now owns 20%. Six directors have also been given shares. Directors who stay for more than a decade are entitled to their share. “That’s how they stay loyal,” Peres says.
Special Edition’s growth rate has been spectacular from the start. The group employs over 350 people. “Growth has been an average 20-25% annually and annual turnover has reached between $25-35 million,” Traguedo says. “We chose to reinvest in Angola because returns here are still more attractive than in most parts of the world.” Angola’s growth forecast for 2012 is a staggering 12.8%.
Some of Special Edition’s companies offer a clearer illustration than others that advertising in Angola is a custom-made art. Key People, for example, is a recruitment agency. It was originally set up to prevent clients from “stealing” the group’s employees. “Due to Angola’s lack of human resources, qualified Angolans constantly get proposals from other companies. We created Key People to train employees and rent them out to our clients. That way, our clients are happy and we make sure our employees stick with us,” Peres says.
Key Promotion helps Angolans understand how to use various products “primarily via radio, because TV is not accessible to everyone and internet is even worse. During the war, Angolans only had one type of soap. Now there are hundreds to choose from, but people aren’t used to that. They use Omo to wash their clothes, cars and themselves. That’s where Key Promotion comes in,” Peres says.
Press People is a printing company that produces its own pocket-sized magazine with gossip, music, fashion and recipes. It’s for the masses. “They love it!” Traguedo says. “It’s very unlike the other magazines, which cost $7 or $8. That’s quite a lot for the majority of Angolans (two thirds of Angolans live on less than $2 a day). Our magazine costs $1. While other Angolan magazines print 5,000 issues a month, we print 45,000 a week.”
Special Edition currently has nine companies within its holding. The newest additions include the high-tech outdoor company Big Media, “the Angolan government’s choice during national elections”, which has 2,500 billboards across the country; Digital Print, Angola’s leading digital printing company; Key Service, which was set up to analyze the media group’s competition; Angola’s biggest media buyer, On Media, which develops bluetooth advertising, SMS, plasma rental and indoor advertising in shopping malls; IMACOP, which creates light boxes, stands, store decoration and signs; and the PR company, Uanda, which was set up to create a good relationship between clients and the media, and which is part of the largest independent PR firm in the world, the Edelman Group.
With 98% Angolan employees, Special Edition’s three owners are convinced that human resources are key to their success. “We employ the best staff in the industry,” Vieira says. “The commitment I see here is huge compared to advertising agencies in Europe. None of our Angolan employees have studied abroad, but they are all top people,” Peres adds. “One of them learned to create 3D by watching YouTube. There’s a little competition going on. Our people motivate themselves to learn from each other, which is beautiful.”
In the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report last year, Angola ranks 163 out of 183 countries. “In Angola, finding a place and qualified people is difficult and the stress involved is a lot worse than in other countries,” Peres admits. “Sometimes you don’t have any water or power or the generator breaks down. But Angolans are happy by nature. If we don’t have electricity, we visit our neighbors and have a glass of champagne. What other people call problems, we call challenges. Nothing is impossible in Angola.”
Special Edition has already booked its first international success. “We managed to convince Arcor to do an Angolan campaign instead of simply translating their existing one, which would not have worked,” Peres says.
“The response was so good that we’ve translated the Angolan Bon o Bon TV ad into English and French. For the first time ever, an Angolan TV spot is being broadcast all over Africa.”
Despite that, says Vieira, Special Edition does not have international aspirations. “Angola is big enough to keep us busy. I believe our story has just begun.”