Getting To Know The Duo Behind SA’s Most Loved Events

One Eyed Jack PR

Photo by by Karl Rogers

An interview with Darren and Manuela from One-eyed Jack

“Behind the scenes are long hours and lots of running around, but it’s awesome. If you’re looking for advice, mine is: Open doors for people and they’ll open doors for you.”

One-eyed Jack is an award-winning specialist entertainment marketing agency in South Africa. Over the years, their expertise in events marketing and communications, brand marketing, launches, and sponsorship rights management, has brought to life some of South Africa’s most loved events, launches and activations. Their clients include Rage Festival KZN, the Savanna Comics’ Choice Awards, Ballantine’s, Jameson and Olmeca, VW, MINI and JOOX music streaming, Savanna, and #VWVIVOnation festival.

I caught up with Darren Sandras, co-owner, and head of the marketing and PR division at One-eyed Jack, and Manuela Dias De Deus, owner and founder of the agency, to find out more about their exciting brand, what they’ve been up to this year and what their plans are for the future:

I can’t believe we are almost at the end of 2018! Any highlights so far for you guys at One-eyed Jack?

2018 was a great year for us. We hired a great new addition and our team vibe has never been better. We won six new clients, produced a massive lifestyle festival and have had our highest revenue to date, everything seems to have fallen into place beautifully.

That’s fantastic! Manuela, you’ve founded this brand in 2011. How do you feel it has grown over the years? What has changed and what has stayed the same?

For the first few years we made a decision to stay small until we figured out what we loved doing the most and with which type of clients. Now that we’ve got that bit waxed, we’re on a drive to expand. We’ve grown from doing sponsorship and PR to being a full-service marketing communications and activation agency. Our niche will always be the entertainment sector as music and festivals are in our DNA.

And how has the live eventing space changed over the years? Where do feel it is going in the future?

There have been lots of changes which have enhanced the consumer experience. Cashless technology has taken the hassle out of direct payment, and RFID technology has made the festival experience safer. Live events and festivals are a means for people to escape the “real” world and switch off. As much as technology is advancing and making the festival experience smoother and simpler for both the organiser and the punter (online ticketing, pre-booking transport, accommodation, food and drinks, RFID), we’d like to see more festivals encourage people to go “offline” and embrace being switched off from the always-on world. Social media isn’t going anywhere – but sometimes it’s great to down tools and really just be in the moment.

Over the last 7 years, if you can single out one project you worked on, which one would it be and why?

It would have to be Rage Festival KZN. Hosted in Ballito, Umhlanga and Durban, the week-long festival sees 15,000 school leavers head to the coast to have the time of their lives. Created by G&G Productions, Rage is exceptionally well run and the production value and technical design are world-class. G&G was one of One-eyed Jack’s first clients. They’re pioneers, they’re consistent, their events are always exceptional and they’re really nice guys.

One Eyed Jack PR

Any tips for brands on how to stand out when it comes to eventing?

Create branding that suits the environment. Our client JOOX has a small light box that they place on DJ boxes or stages at events they sponsor. It’s simple, looks premium and is so effective as it’s seen by everyone in the venue as they’re all looking up at the DJ as he/she performs. So, many brands repurpose stock-standard branding for all events such as fence-wrap panels, pull-ups and feather banners. I understand that they’re maximising cost efficiencies, but if you’re sponsoring an event, try budget for bespoke branding as it’ll have much more impact. Another way to stand out is to do something relevant and meaningful that adds value to the festival-goer’s experience. Don’t simply repurpose the same activation you do at a mall and think it’ll work at a festival. Think about what people need or want at an event and what could add value to them – and tailor your brand experience to that.

Interesting! So, tell me about your team. When looking for new talent, what do you look for in an individual?  I am sure you are always looking to keeping things fresh and interesting, especially in this industry.

The team at One-eyed Jack is all completely different, we all have our own unique skill sets yet they all complement each other’s.  We’re  always scouting for new talent as the best hires are always people you’ve worked with and met through the industry.  I (Manuela) make mental notes of nice people with a good work ethic who seem to have something to offer.  When recruiting, we’ll choose the person over the skillset, as you can train someone up, but you can’t instil a culture that doesn’t come naturally.  We’re a small team of seven and we’re all team players.  We have each other’s backs and build each other up, that’s core to our values.

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The team with Babes Wodumo, taken at Vivonation festival.

For any young people looking to enter this industry, what can you tell them about working behind the scenes in the entertainment marketing field?

Behind the scenes are long hours and lots of running around, but it’s awesome. If you’re looking for advice, mine is: Open doors for people and they’ll open doors for you. If you meet someone high up in the industry, bring your A-game as you never know what opportunities they’ll create for you if they like you. It’s okay to not know everything, don’t pretend that you do, just be honest about your experience and people will end up teaching you what you don’t know. Be lekker, this is a small industry, you’ll be working with the same people at all events so try to get along.

Great advice! So, are there any South African events/brands that you feel are currently getting it right?

Rage Festival, MTN Bushfire, Ultimate X and The Annual South African Savanna Comics’ Choice Awards totally get it right.  From a sponsorship perspective, Ballantine’s partnership with Boiler Room is a winner. As for brands that create their own events, VW’s VIVOnation and Absolut One Source Live are very impressive.

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The team with Black Coffee, taken at Rage KZN in 2017 

So, what’s next for you and One-eyed Jack? What can we look forward to in 2019?

We’re pumped to take on the world! We’ve spent the last year working on our strategy and are excited about taking One-eyed Jack to the next level. We have a clear vision and a strong focus and are launching something great within the next few months that we’re all really excited about. Watch this space…

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