After 18 years building Africa's leading youth marketing agency, HDI Youth Marketeers', its CEO (and Fairy Godmother), Liesl Loubser, is retiring at the end of May 2015. During this time, she's made an incredible impact in so many people's lives - from the ever-expanding, always-inspired HDI team that she's nurtured and empowered to millions of youth across South Africa and Africa.
HDI Youth Marketeers, her brainchild, started life as Hot Dogz Inc. in 1996, and rebranded in 2006. She had a belief, as an ex-teacher that brands and kids could play in the same space and achieve a win-win for all. So she built an agency which now services over 25 blue chip marketing and social entities' youth marketing needs. HDI now has offices in Nigeria and Kenya, servicing large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Some of its longest standing clients' tenure exceeds 15 years, and include Pick n Pay, Procter & Gamble, Cartoon Network, Nedbank and Lucky Star.
So, Liesl's journey has come full circle from corporate to agency hotshop to what is now a significantly sized marketing company: "When you leave the corporate world, you need an entrepreneurial spirit, which is one of the key things that leads to success for your business," says Liesl. "Taking risks is one of the most crucial steps in the world of business, and I was willing to take that risk because I was, and am, so passionate about young people," she adds. HDI joined the TBWA\Group in late 2013.
Creating change in South Africa means building opportunities. "I really wanted to make magic, but I also always wanted to create change in the economy and youth's place in it," she says. HDI was the first marketing company which focused solely on under-25 year old consumers. "People didn't then, and some still don't, understand the impact and spending power that youth have on brands - they are influencers, but also have their own spend, which in 2015 adds up to R120.3bn a year."
Liesl thinks she has been on the best rollercoaster ride ever for almost two decades now, and says she feels confident that she can move out of the business because HDI has built such a strong leadership and delivery capability over the last five to 10 years. The cumulative youth marketing experience of the management team exceeds 50 years, but there is still constant innovation. "I can assure you, you will see a different company in the next five years," she beams. "I can best serve the business by taking a step back and giving Jason and the team even more room to bloom. But I will definitely be a part of HDI forever," she adds.
"Liesl built a business with deeply-embedded values, and her touch in the form of those values and the HDI culture will run through the business's veins for many years to come. When I arrived seven years ago, everyone here already knew the importance of clients; the fact that youth are our lifeblood; that our passion is our power and that respect, delivery and the extra mile are non-negotiable," says Jason Levin, HDI's MD.
Through relentless market understanding, impeccable service, deep relationships and measurable results, HDI has managed to retain and grow its enviable client list. "The fact that we have retained so many of our clients for over 10 years is one of my proudest achievements," Loubser is happy to say. It is a rare thing to witness in the marketing industry."