Our advertising has always been, and continues to be focused on informing our clients and prospective clients about who we are, our investment philosophy, beliefs and approach. This strategy supports our purpose, which is building long-term wealth for our clients. Zwelethu Nkosi elaborates.
Our latest advertising campaign acknowledges the value of time in both life and investing. Despite technological advancements, and unlike most things in life, we cannot create more time; once it has passed, we cannot get it back. We cannot buy more time, bank it, or wish it away. Time simply goes on, used or unused. In investing, as in life, time is no good if one does not make the most of it. This makes time a truly rare and precious commodity.
Our new campaign is the latest in a series of time-themed campaigns we started back in 2009. We have repeatedly revisited this theme due to its depth, nuances and unique ability to be experienced on both a personal and universal level. Time means something different to each one of us, and yet we collectively have the same hours in a day. The concept of time is a rich territory underscored by qualities such as focus, patience, commitment, conviction, perseverance and persistence. It is these underlying qualities that give time its texture and substance.
… we believe time is an essential ingredient in the recipe for long-term wealth creation.
As Miles Davis, the jazz icon, once said: “Time isn't the main thing. It's the only thing.” This is something we live by at Allan Gray. It is the foundation on which our brand is built: long-term investing.
Over the past five decades, we have repeatedly stated that we believe time is an essential ingredient in the recipe for long-term wealth creation. This campaign reinforces the notion that time is indeed the most valuable currency of all.
Our television commercial
“Everything comes around”, which launched in November 2023, relays the story of our investment philosophy and approach over time. Through the narrative, we reflect on our 50-year journey, while painting a picture of the highs and lows and how we have navigated the investment landscape.
We gravitated towards music as the vehicle through which to tell our tale, given its versatility, universality and undisputed place in celebrations across demographics and cultures – appropriate as we marked our 50-year milestone. We used music trends as a metaphor by tapping into their fickle, transient and cyclical nature. The same can be said about the various styles of managing money that have come and gone over the past five decades.
Within the ever-changing world, we have stayed true to our values. Despite the cyclical nature of the markets over the last 50 years, we have resisted the urge to change how we invest based on short-term trends. We have remained comfortable with who we are and what we are about. We are steadfast in our conviction and belief in our contrarian way of managing money, as reflected in the consistent application of our investment philosophy and approach.
With the end title “Give it time”, our latest commercial joins a long history of advertising built on emotive storytelling through a human lens, beautifully crafted in our signature black-and-white filmic language – the hallmark of our advertising. The advert has rich undertones of how skill that is crafted and refined against a backdrop of trials and tribulations can withstand the test of time.
Set in New York, the story follows the life of a jazz musician, spanning several decades, from the late ’50s to the present day. It opens backstage, in a jazz club dressing room, in the heyday of jazz. With a somewhat pensive look on his face, we are introduced to our protagonist, a trumpet player, as he goes through a series of gestures that we later come to know as his pre-performance ritual.
The pounding, upbeat, energetic tempo reverberating through the ceiling gives us a sense of the exhilarating mood that awaits him as we are instantly transported to one of New York’s popular downtown jazz clubs. His manner and attire give us a sneak peek into his character. He is clean-shaven, without a single hair out of place, clad in an immaculately tailored white jacket, a pinkie ring alluding to his social status, with a confident and suave rhythmic walk.
He takes to the stage, encased in the spotlight, minimising all distractions. It is pandemonium as the adoring fans lose their minds on the dance floor. It is undeniable that he is at the height of his stardom. He later exits the club, a big wad of cash clasped in his hand, into a sea of photographers hoping to capture a glimpse of the star.
In the decades that follow, his music career takes a sharp downturn. You can sense the change in the air. The fashion is different. He is now playing in sparse-looking clubs to uncaring, smaller crowds engaged in their own conversations, paying him no attention. The once packed dance floor is now deserted, yet he continues to play.
We see him busking in the streets as his music career takes a turn for the worse. Through it all, our jazzman diligently continues to refine his craft, despite its waning popularity. He keeps returning to his signature riff, consistently and passionately, which speaks to his commitment. We see him at home, honing his skill to the beat of a metronome. His distinctive style remains the same throughout. His character is never swayed by the music trends around him, from rock and roll, Motown, disco, hip-hop and electronic music to the live DJ. The jazzman holds true to his values.
In his twilight years, the jazzman is rediscovered by a contemporary artist. His music has transcended generations. His sound is now appreciated by the younger generation. In a full-circle moment, reminiscent of the beginning of his story, he takes centre stage, once again in the spotlight. Even in his later years he remains clean-shaven and elegantly dressed. Through his visibly shaken face, a sea of adoring fans is revealed, cheering him on in anticipation, eagerly waiting for him to play. With all the composure he can muster, he plays to a roaring young crowd. His signature riff has stood the test of time. His devotion and commitment have finally paid off.
Parallels to our approach
Most seasoned investment managers would attest to the fact that investment track records are not linear. Like most managers, we have had our fair share of trials. Our investment philosophy and approach have been put to the test, sometimes resulting in severe underperformance relative to our peers, as the stocks we held continued to fall, and those we did not hold, rose in value.
We have seen many investment trends and fads over the past 50 years and have remained true to our style of managing money, even in the face of a rapidly changing world. We have consistently applied our investment philosophy, continuously refining and applying our process across multiple generations of investment teams since 1973. Our investment team continues to invest in shares when we believe a margin of safety exists, i.e. when they are trading at a discount to their intrinsic value, and we sell once they reach our assessment of their true worth.
Our investment philosophy is our signature riff. It is not a tool that we simply abandon when short-term results are disappointing. We have remained committed to it over the past 50 years, and we will remain committed to it in the future.
This campaign reinforces the notion that time is indeed the most valuable currency of all.
In support of our television commercial, our digital, newspaper, magazine, radio and out-of-home advertising comprises single-minded and thought-provoking brand messages about the value of time in the investing process. The adverts explore the relationship between time and money and encourage us, as investors, to consider how we make use of our time when investing.
The messages challenge us to think deeply about why we work. Do we work for money? Or are we working to ensure that we own more of our time, to be able to choose what we do with our time, what we spend it on and who we spend it with?
Our brand adverts explore this symbiotic relationship and suggest that, while for many, more money may be the ultimate goal, at the heart of it, we invest to earn more time to spend on what truly matters to us. In the long term, investing money wisely frees up time. And while lost money can be replaced, lost time cannot.
It is often the simplest things that can prove the hardest to put into practice, like the age-old advice of starting the investing journey early. Life will always provide good reason to hold-off investing. We are often left wondering, where all the time went.
It is generally accepted wisdom that the sooner you start investing, the better off you will be in the long run due to the compounding effect of returns. As one of the newspaper headlines from our press campaign asserts: “Money grows on time.” It turns out that our parents were right all along: Money does not grow on trees. It grows on time. Spend yours wisely.