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Agency Leaders 2015: The one to watch in South Africa in 2016!

by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today, we reveal which Agency in South Africa fellow ad execs feel is the “one to watch” in 2016 — the agency from which they expect great things in the year ahead!

Every year since 2012, MarkLives has been polling South Africa’s top Agency Leaders to find out what they think of their competitors, whom they see as effective managers and great creatives, and where they believe their future competition is likely to come from. First we announced the 2015 regional results from Cape Town, and last week we announced the 2015 regional results from Johannesburg. This week is dedicated to national results.

  • Monday: Most-admired ad agency bosses in SA
  • Tuesday: Most-admired creative leaders in SA
  • Wednesday: Most-admired ad agencies in SA
  • Today: One to watch in 2016 in SA!
  • Friday: Most digitally integrated ad agencies in SA

Regional polls recap

Johannesburg: Promise was named the one to watch and King James II was runner-up for 2015.

Cape Town: Here the votes were for NATIVE VML. Named as contenders were PUNK, FoxP2 and Publicis Machine.


The one to watch in South Africa (tied)

This is the first year our One to Watch category has resulted in a tie. Promise, an independent agency launched by Marc Watson and James Moffatt 10 years ago, and Young & Rubicam South Africa have both been selected by SA’s agency execs as the agencies they expect to make waves in 2016.


It’s a feat for Promise, who has also been named the agency to watch by its Joburg peers; it really has been building up its industry visibility over the last two-to-three years.

Clients include Renault, Edcon (CNA, Edcon Cellular), AfriSam and South African Breweries (Castle Lite, Redd’s and Brutal Fruit). Over the course of 2015, the agency won business from Castle Lite (BTL), Virgin Mobile, Edcon (additional), Ellies Holdings, JTI, Forever New and Brutal Fruit (digital). Promise grew its revenue by 24% year on year in 2015, and digital revenue has grown 80% in the past financial year and is now 40% of its total income.


Young & Rubicam South Africa

Y&R SA has undergone significant change since handing the business reins to CEO Andrew Welch and CCO Graham Lang in 2011. Together, they have sought to bring stability and innovation to an agency that had gone through significant turmoil prior to their arrival. In 2014, Lang also added the role of CCO of Africa to his responsibilities as CCO of Y&R South Africa.

Their efforts have now been recognised by their peers: Lang is our 2015 runner-up in the most-admired creative in SA, too.

The agency won significant business in 2015; new clients included Investec, International Hotel School, University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, Sunfoil Stadium Activations, Bel Cheese, Aspen, Über Flavour, Amka Gold Series, Universal Music, Häagen-Dazs, Old El Paso and Nature Valley.

[Y&R SA suffered a significant loss in early 2016, when it lost the the Pick n Pay business to King James Group. This will obvious impact upon the agency in the year ahead as it gets to grips with the implications of losing such a major piece of business. This does not change that, among its peers, it was viewed as gaining momentum through 2015 and being the one to watch in 2016 — ed.]


In 2014, it was Publicis Machine, and Ogilvy Johannesburg/Gloo and FCB South Africa (now FCB Africa) tied as runners-up. In 2013, it was MACHINE (which merged with Publicis Worldwide in 2014 to become Publicis Machine).


The contenders

King James Group, King James II, M&C Saatchi Abel


34, NATIVE VML and FoxP2 Group


A special mention goes to Kilmer & Cruise, which is only several months old but already featuring in our poll.


How the poll works

Towards the end of 2015, agency leaders were invited to nominate their most-admired ad agency, the most-admired creative director and the most-admired ad agency boss. We also asked them which agency did the best at digital integration and which agency they saw as the one to watch in the future. Nobody could nominate his or her own agency or staff members. All the nominations were then tallied up for the final result.

Note: Runner-up(s) will only be named if they achieved a good nomination tally relative to the winner’s position. Contenders are named if they stood out significantly above other nominees, but weren’t able to close in on the winner’s tally.

See previous national poll results:

  • Agency Leaders 2012
  • Agency Leaders 2013
  • Agency Leaders 2014


Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of He was the inaugural Vodacom Social Media Journalist of the Year in 2011 and has, over his 20-year-plus career, contributed to numerous journals and websites in South Africa and abroad, including AdVantage magazine, Men’s Health, Computer World and African Communications.

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Agency Leaders 2015: The one to watch in South Africa in 2016!


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