Oxygene nibbles Ogilvy, becomes Safaricom’s Corporate PR agency


Just over 4 months after it quietly entered Kenya’s PR scene, Oxygène Marketing Communications is already on a serious hunt for more clients, and despite it’s comparatively ‘young age’, the company is not afraid to take on the big predators (read established players).

The firm – founded by former Nation Media Group (NMG) CEO Linus Gitahi, former Ogilvy PR MD Nick Wachira and former Ogilvy PR’s partner for public affairs and government relations Alfred Ng’ang’a – seems to be keen on winning over clients who’d established and long-running personalized working relationships with its founding team.

Oxygene started off with Chase Bank, Kenya Bankers Association, I&M Bank and KCB as one of its initial clients before adding Sanlam Life Insurance (formerly Pan Africa Life).

And now, Oxygène’s predatory lens has led it to Safaricom, becoming the telco’s Corporate PR agency even though Ogilvy PR retains and is still in charge of the other PR aspects of the country’s leading telco.

From the beginning of September, Safaricom’s press statements have been coming from 2 sources – that is Ogilvy PR (for usual product and brand announcements)  and Oxygene (mainly for events involving the CEO).

Oxygene handling Safaricom’s Corporate PR is interesting from many fronts. Alfred Ng’ang’a – one of the partners at Oxygene – was for a long time seconded to Safaricom head offices from Gina Din Corporate Communications during Michael Joseph’s tenure at the telco, and basically acted as the CEO’s PA when it came to media issues. Gina Din later lost the Safaricom account to Ogilvy, at a time when coincidentally, Ng’ang’a had also changed employers to Ogilvy, thereby giving him another opportunity to continue interacting with and serving the brand in terms of PR.

James Makau – Oxygene’s other partner – was previously Ogilvy PR’s Account Director and was in charge of the Safaricom account.

So should having Oxygene handling some aspects of Safaricom’s PR worry Ogilvy, more so when one looks at the long and established relationships some of the partners have had with the telco? Could this be the strategy Oxygene wants to use – chipping off various PR aspects – until it eventually wrestles the whole Safaricom account from Ogilvy PR?

An Oxygene partner dispelled such fears, insisting that the two PR firms are complementing each other, with the overall objective being to ensure that Safaricom’s strategic communications needs are met.

“Safaricom is a robust firm so we are one among several other integrated marketing communication firms. Quite an exciting experience working with a contemporary and dynamic firm such as Safaricom. Safaricom has several agencies for several briefs. We are one among the many and playing a mutually complementary role with the other agencies and the internal team as far as Strategic Communications is concerned,” stated the Oxygene insider.

The two communication outfits can complement their efforts for the overall benefit of the client. The question however is how they intend to handle an event like an AGM – which agency (Corporate or Product PR firm) takes the lead in such a case?

Only time will tell for how long Ogilvy and Oxygene will complement each other on Safaricom before one of them decides to win back (or wrestle away) the whole account from the other.