“Education is the most important thing you could do for a person in the world”

This week join Stokes as he discusses Quirk Education, Red and Yellow, and the reasons behind giving away the Digital Marketing textbook to the public for free.

To read more about the Small Business Network click here (link).


Running a vision lead and values driven agency

Steve Jobs famously said, “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” I hope that is how most of our staff feel at Quirk. We have always had a “vision lead” culture – Rob, our founder and CEO, wrote our original vision whilst still at university. He can still (and often does) recite it verbatim.
We have made some updates to this vision over the years – mainly focused on semantics, like ditching no-longer-cool terms like “e-marketing” – but the gist of it has remained the same. In today’s world of constant, rapid change, I believe our company vision has been a critical “North Star” for our leaders and Stars.

Many of our people are in theire 20’s – forming part of the much discussed, often maligned group dubbed “the millennials”. This is the bunch that are born-digital, have big expectations of themselves, have high levels of self-worth, are comfortable job and career hopping and want to work in innovative, creative environments that have a positive impact on the world around them. They are hard to manage, hard to incentivise and hard to retain. They also make up the majority of our industry’s young talent.

At Quirk, we believe our vision and values (as captured in our Quirk Charter) are a key tool to attract and retain the best of the Millennial generation. In fact, I would argue that they are equally important to keeping our older, less expectant staff. A clear vision allows our staff to understand the “why” of Quirk:

- Why do we do what we do?
- Why should you be excited to work for us?
- Why are we different from that other agency down the road?

This “why” allows them to buy into what we are doing and thus find meaning and fulfilment in their time with us. It also allows us to deter prospective employees who want something different from their career in marketing.

Successful vision authoring is tough. You have to create a statement that connects to the current culture (so you don’t alienate your core staff), yet sets out a stretchy, inspiring goal that is going to be as relevant in 20 years time as it is today. We found (after many, many iterations), that the inspiring part was the toughest thing to get right. It was relatively easy to write out in “business speak” what we wanted to be as an agency (in fact, Rob had already done this 16 years back) – the exceptionally hard part was trying to express this in a way that would be uniformly inspiring to the current and future humans who work for us. Especially those pesky Millennials. Eventually, our ECD Conn found the solution in our name. The new articulation of our vision celebrates the quirks that make our people different, special and uniquely able to drive the evolution of marketing.

Our values then become the principles by which we operate as a group of humans chasing a collective vision. We were greatly inspired by how Netflix authored their values and tried use a similar construct when putting ours together. Instead of just listing a bunch of words that could mean very different things depending on the company culture and the individual’s personal context, we instead opted to describe each value with a few qualifying sentences – hopefully giving each more meaning to our staff and relevance to Quirk.

So far, we’ve had a great response from the QuirkStars around the new charter. We hope to now truly embed it in our culture by building it into our hiring and induction process, by using it to set and score our performance appraisals and to celebrate those who chase the vision and uphold the values.

We’d love to hear your point of view on our Charter, so please let us know what you think in the comments.


Quirk Jozi’s first TV ad

When Director, Cindy Lee, approached Quirk to develop an ad for Orange Babies we leapt at the opportunity. Orange Babies is a Dutch NGO focused on assisting HIV-positive pregnant women and their babies in Africa and they needed help to increase the awareness of their organisation to raise support and funds for their work here in South Africa.

“We knew that if we were to move people to take action – in this case, make a donation, we had to create something that would move them emotionally” says Steph van Niekerk, Creative Director and copywriter of the ad. A big part of the process was finding the right story to tell and inspiration came in the form of a compelling fact: With the medical advancement made in recent years, the Pregnant Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) rate of HIV has decreased from over 90% to less than 1.7%. It’s just a case of having timely access to the right medication, education and support. Which means there is no good reason for another child’s life to be cut short by HIV.

The ad is based on the insight that when you can’t have one, an ordinary life is an extraordinary thing and depicts an HIV-positive mother trying to let her baby see and experience as much as possible before it is too late. Armed with a script, Fresh Eye Films and Quirk rallied some of the film industry’s most talented players and everyone involved generously donated their time and skills to take Orange Babies’ rather urgent message to the world. After 6 months of conceptualising, developing and planning, the ad was shot over two days long days in JHB CBD and Hillbrow. It’s set to an original track ‘Light’ which was donated to us by American singer-songwriter, Sleeping at Last.

From a digital perspective, we spent a lot of time making sure that the donation process is as seamless and easy as possible and that the film would work as hard it could online. Stephen Sandmann, SEO Specialist, explains, “We applied SEO to their YouTube video and website to  maximise their online reach in a cost-effective way.  The SMS line was also added to their website’s Google Search descriptions; meaning that people can make a donation via there phones, without having to visit the site or watch the full video.”

In just few days since launch, the ad has been viewed and well received across the world.

“We’ve used the diverse talents of the people at Quirk and Fresh Eye to make sure that our story and our call to action would appear on people’s screens and in their timelines in the most impactful, engaging way. In a sense, half the job was creating the film and the other half was making sure it was effective and impactful online.” says Fran Luckin, CCO of Quirk.

If you would like to make a donation, SMS ‘babies’ to 4925 to donate R20. Alternatively, you donate online here.

Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make ‘Borrowed Time’ happen. It was a true collaboration and a meeting of disciplines that would not have been possible without the following people.

Adrienne Feldner-Busztin  – Country Manager, Orange Babies.

Cindy Lee –Director, Fresh Eye Films

Jamie D Ramsay – DOP

Graham Smith – Editor, Orchestra Blue

Louis Enslin – Sound Engineer, Produce

Brian Critchfield – Producer, Fresh Eye Films

Fikile Mthwalo – Lead, MLA

Fran Luckin – Executive Creative Director

Steph van Niekerk – Creative Director/Copywriter

Sarah Gourlie – UX Design

Wesley Forsyth – Web Developer

Stephen Sandmann – SEO Specialist

SMS line donated and operated by Channel Mobile.


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