Inside Ogilvy’s social media performance division, Social.Lab SA



In 2013, award-winning advertising, marketing, and public relations agency, Ogilvy, envisioned the promising future of social media marketing – and as a result, bought an 80% stake in social media agency Social.Lab. Social.Lab operates in numerous major cities around the world including New York, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Singapore, Dubai and Amsterdam.

Since then, Social.Lab has become the fastest-growing company in Ogilvy’s international network. With Social.Lab’s focused approach to the strategic use of social media as a business tool, Ogilvy has been able to enhance its offering to further support clients in their digital transformations.

“There have been many highlights in the partnership between Ogilvy and Social.Lab over the past few years,” says managing director of Social.Lab SA, Christophe Chantraine. “Perhaps some of the most memorable are the global account wins that have been achieved with Social.Lab. Some of these include the Nespresso global social account as well as the BMW global social work. Another key milestone has been the set-up of the Real Time Marketing Centre for Philips, which is a unique internal social performance marketing centre in the Philips headquarters in Amsterdam.

“More recently, the developments of new propositions around e-commerce and influencer marketing have been very exciting. These are initiatives we soon hope to bring to South Africa,” Chantraine adds.

On 22 February 2019, Ogilvy’s Social.Lab established its very first African office in South Africa: a social media performance division specifically focused on helping African businesses make the most of the digital revolution.

The launch of Social.Lab SA was held in conjunction with a two-hour conference at the Ogilvy offices in Bryanston, titled ‘How social media is fuelling the e-commerce economy.’

“We observed globally that social platforms are delivering double the volume to e-commerce sites compared to what they did two years ago, and that they accounted for 76 per cent of direct and indirect (influenced) online sales,” says Chantraine.

Speakers at the conference expanded on how social platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, have capitalised on this substantial increase in online viewership and social selling by rolling out advertising formats that encourage online commerce conversion.

According to Chantraine, South Africa’s online spend is predicted to reach R60 billion by the end of this year, with a projected annual growth rate of 15% by 2021. “This represents only a fraction of the value of the country’s retail sector as a whole, and indicates immense potential for growth and opportunity.”

Chantraine says that the launch of Social.Lab SA has been on the cards for quite some time. Just last year, Ogilvy SA sent several of its staff members to train at the Social.Lab head offices in Brussels. These staff members now form part of the eighteen social-media experts – composed of SEO and SEA, programmatic and display experts – working under Chantraine for Social.Lab SA.

Chantraine, who previously had led the social media team at Social.Lab’s Brussels headquarters, now heads up Social.Lab SA.

As a result, he has spent ample time familiarising himself with the African market and its online potential. He shared some of his findings on Africa’s digital status:

e-Commerce is on the rise

According to Chantraine, social-media platforms are becoming leading marketing tools in South Africa – and as a result, they are increasingly being employed to build brands and drive sales.

“From Facebook or Instagram with their Collection and Dynamic ads, to Snapchat and its recent Amazon partnership, or even Pinterest’s ‘Shop the Look’ feature, social selling is slowly taking over and it’s here to stay.”

Africa versus the rest of the world

While high data prices still remain a challenge to South Africa’s online trade, millennials are finding creative ways to help solve these connectivity hurdles, says Chantraine.

‘Journeys to Connectivity’, a Facebook-commissioned study done by D3 Systems which looked into the online patterns of young people in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, identified these as some of the creative workarounds used to stay online and continue to make use of the social market:

  • Unreliable network: Over 86% of users have complained about experiencing spotty network coverage – as a result, 38% combat this problem by having multiple SIM cards;
  • Load-shedding: About 31% of users have reported unreliable electricity supply – this has motivated over 34% of mobile users to turn their phone off until it is needed;
  • High data cost: High data costs have led to more than 67% of users needing to recharge each week – to save on data, consumers have opted to turn off their mobile data connection off until it is needed.

Content + Social Media Expertise = Campaign Success

With Social.Lab being a social-first marketing organisation powered by Ogilvy’s strategic and creative muscles, the new social performance division will help Ogilvy SA combine top-drawer creative content with extensive paid-social media expertise.

“Launching Social.Lab in South Africa answers a need for agencies to consolidate advertising, activations, direct marketing, digital, PR and social media. We bring these capabilities together – fittingly per client and brief – to develop integrated, dynamic content strategies that make brands, sales and customer value grow. Our conviction is that social has a transformative power for business when you combine creative content and sophisticated distribution,” Chantraine concludes.



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