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Durban, 6 August 2020 – Avatar Agency Group, the largest fully black-owned agency group in South Africa, is expanding. It is growing its geographic footprint with the acquisition of Durban’s leading integrated independent agency, Espresso DBN. By doing so, it is also growing its below-the-line and shopper marketing capabilities to address the growing demand for insights-led FMCG and retail marketing.

Espresso has sold 51% equity to black empowerment conglomerate M&N Brands, the holding company that owns Avatar. The deal will result in Espresso being renamed Avatar DBN. Antony Ellis, who co-founded Espresso with Natalie French in 2001 will remain at the helm as managing director. French will remain Avatar DBN’s Executive Creative Director, working closely with Veli Ngubane, Avatar’s Chief Creative Officer. They will also be joined by Avatar BUD Ayanda Dlamini in the new operation.

Avatar DBN’s client list currently includes Snowflake, Iwisa No.1, Nyala, BB Bakeries, Blue Ribbon, Toys R Us and Babies R Us, Nivea, Eucerin, Labello, Lil-lets, Universal and Paramount Pictures Africa, Mondi and many more.“While we see the continued pressure of COVID-19 on media and advertising spend in general, research indicates an upsurge in food brand investment. Espresso’s FMGC expertise, combined with Avatar’s digital pedigree and broad market insight will bring something truly unique for our clients, comments Zibusiso Mkhwanazi, Group CEO of M&N Brands.

Set against the backdrop of the pandemic, Avatar launched a new business practice, Resilience at Avatar, in April to help businesses navigate their way through the uncertainties. “This acquisition is another step for us as we pivot as a business during these difficult times. We believe in finding opportunities in the midst of crisis,” adds Mkhwanazi.

Avatar’s move affirms the group’s position as the country’s largest fully black-owned agency group. It also serves the firm’s entrepreneurial plans to continue growing its African presence and integrated skills offering through partnerships that delivers real impact and value to clients.

Over the last decade, Avatar has developed valued relationships with clients and partners. Avatar DBN will complement the group’s growing base of specialised practices including Avatar JHB, an integrated agency; Avatar Cape Town which specialises in retail, Avatar Media, the group’s media buying arm; Avatar PR and Resilience at Avatar, a dedicated consultancy unit and B2B specialist.
The launch of a fully resourced Durban office will now give Avatar a base of over 100 employees across different agencies in three major hubs including Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The KZN landscape is overtraded with shops of all sizes, disciplines and capabilities, says Antony Ellis. “We believe there’s a need for change, improvement and a higher level of creative performance from Durban agencies, and it’s our intention to spearhead that change by challenging ourselves to adopt new process, new skills and new thinking.”

“We will be expanding our strategic scope to deliver work that’s more insightful, more meaningful and more relevant. With the move to Avatar, we’re also fully embracing digital as a critical channel to meet our clients’ consumers in the palm of their hands, with smart, original creative work that delivers impactful ROI,” explains Ellis.


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