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Despite being operational for just 3 years, fireworks Advertising Uganda Limited has established itself as one of the premier media advertising agencies in Kampala. While still an SME, the company has handled large campaigns from international organizations including Pepsi and The Broadband Company. Fireworks Advertising has made an immediate impact on the market by pooling together the talents of some of the industry’s best practitioners and by building strong relationships with their continually growing client base.

Founder and Managing Director Caleb Owino shared a brief moment with SBR on his successes as an entrepreneur and the uniqueness of brand whose sole purpose is to build the brands of other companies.

Stumbling into entrepreneurship

My story is not so entrepreneurial. I would always discuss with my college mates who were entrepreneurs, but I always believed that I did not need to start a company to be enterprising. I never believed that I would start an enterprise of my own. I have a consulting background; I started my career consulting for Sony Ericsson. It is from here I gained a comprehensive view of management. From Ericsson I moved to Safaricom where I was in Marketing. From Safaricom in Kenya I crossed over to Uganda to ZK Advertising and suddenly I was running the organization. ZK was running through many difficulties at the time. For the one and a half years I was with ZK, we grew the number of accounts from 5 to 15. Though we were running large campaigns for major corporations, if you looked at the fundamentals of the organization they were not right. The tipping point for me was when the head office refused to provide health insurance for immediate family members of staff without increasing staff salaries.

In starting up fireworks, I was not looking to be my own boss, or to make a lot of money. I believed things should be done differently. I wanted to create a workplace where people are happy and give their best knowing they are going to enjoy it. I stumbled into entrepreneurship without actually intending to do so. If you look at our logo, there is a small (f), all the letters are in lower caps, which shows that we are all equal, the only thing that makes you shine the way the letter (i) is shining in our logo is if you have an idea that can turn the company around. On Monday if you have a brilliant idea you’re the boss. We will follow you and on Tuesday if another person has a brilliant idea, then (s)he is the boss. We supply ideas to our clients, so we need an environment that encourages ideas to come.

Strategic advertising

We are turning three years old this month, we started our operations in June 2008. We have a team of bright young men and women, 21 in total. We provide largely integrated marketing, advertising and publishing services. This includes brand strategy, media planning and public relations with a focus on reputation management. Within the past three years we have managed to successfully position ourselves in the market. We go about advertising in a strategic way because we engage the clients in conversations that go deep into their business. Going forward our vision is simply to be the best communications company in Africa.

The advertising industry is full of many players and often the players are trying to please their customers but that is not sustainable. When you work with us there is a transformational story about what the campaign has done for you. This is our vision and we have been able to successfully do it in Uganda, but want to replicate it in other Africa countries. By 2014 our goal is to be present in all the 5 East African countries.

We focus on the clients’ results

Because of my consulting background, I look at a prospective client’s business differently and not just from an advertising perspective. We advise clients on the best strategy for them to maximize their return on investment. As a result, most of the clients that we have worked with have achieved tangible results because of this kind of approach. For instance, we started working with Pepsi when it had about a 25% market share but now they have 47% of the market. We have just started working with NSSF, but as a result of whistle blower campaign, we have assisted them bring in Ugx. 10.5 billion in additional collections.

It is easy to create an advert which people can remember but difficult to do one that drives them to buy the product. Advertising if executed effectively fortifies sustainability in the market. We particularly believe that we owe it to our clients to run campaigns which produce tangible results, benefit their business as well as lift their reputation. Each contact between us and the client leaves the client feeling touched. We have also benefitted because the marketplace is so small that prospective clients are drawn to us based on the service they have seen us provide to preceding clients.

A people focus approach

Our starting point has been that our product approach is more solution oriented; at the end of the day the client has a product they need to sell first. However we would not be able to provide such a quality service without sustenance of our people because our product is very people- centric. Just as a manufacturing firm requires raw materials, our raw materials are the people. We invest a lot of time in selecting people who work with us. We have a group of young people who all pull their weight, will eloquently hold a conversation with a client and the client will have a lot of respect for them. In addition we do a lot of training. We believe that the core product is the expertise of our individuals.

We are very vigorous when it comes to hiring. When we bring people on board, we look specifically for talent. We consider qualifications, but the work that we do is heavily vested in ability, so we are strategic in the way we place people. If the job requires talking to people we will never give it to someone who is not outgoing. It will be painful for one to do that job even if he has the qualifications. I think we are close to perfection when it comes to hiring, and we see it as one of our competitive advantages. Without quality staff, you can never satisfy your clients.

Advice to new entrants

This industry is broad and you cannot integrate it fully. Anything you do is just part of a bigger game and it is difficult to do everything even if you are a full service marketing, advertising, and public relations firm. Before you step into the industry you have to identify what it is that you can do better than anyone else in the industry. This should be your niche.

Furthermore the problem we have in the industry is the constant battle between creative and managerial talent.

Any entrepreneur venturing into this industry should be aware of the importance of managerial talent. Creative talent is not enough; it needs managerial talent to help it operate. And such is a control that any other business needs. Many times you find a team of very creative people, they come together start up an advertising agency but then lack the managerial rigor that is required to run the business. It is for these reasons that entry is easy into this industry, but maintenance is a bit difficult.

Company Profile:

Fireworks Advertising Uganda Limited is a full service advertising and PR agency that has a unique and audacious approach that can be seen in the memorable and effective campaigns the agency has worked on.

Head office: 38B – Windsor Crescent Kololo

Year founded: June 2008

Managing Director: Caleb Owino

Tel: +256 414 500052 /3 /4.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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