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#AgencyLeaders2017: Most admired ad agency in Cape Town

by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today we reveal which ad agencies in Cape Town were most admired by their peers in 2017! This is part of this week’s announcement of the 2017 MarkLives Agency Leaders’ Most Admired Poll results for Cape Town. Next week will be the Joburg results, followed by the national results in two weeks’ time.

  • Monday: Most-admired agency bosses in Cape Town
  • Tuesday: Most-admired creative leaders in Cape Town
  • Wednesday: One to watch in Cape Town
  • Thursday: Most-admired agencies in Cape Town
  • Friday: Most digitally integrated in Cape Town
  • Monday 26 February: Contribution to agency diversity and transformation (Cape Town)

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 creative leaders, and where they believe their future competition is likely to come from. We ask them who’s got digital integration right and — for the first time — who’s done best on transformation.

The most-admired ad agency in Cape Town

Ninety9cents Facebook cover image

Source: Facebook.

Ninety9Cents (99c)

It’s a surprise upset in a poll that is traditionally dominated by King James and Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town. It’s been a two-horse race since the poll started in 2012, with King James having grabbed the title outright three times and Ogilvy twice (once in a tie with King James, its fourth time with the title).

Ninety9Cents — best-known for its work on the giant Shoprite/Checkers account — also works on Ackermans, Capitec (the second-biggest bank in South Africa today), PUMA and Distell. In late 2017, it was appointed lead creative and digital agency for Spur Steak Ranches after a four-way pitch which saw it go head to head with TBWA\Hunt Lascaris; it already worked on the John Dory’s, Panarottis Pizza Pasta and Captain DoRegos accounts, which fall under the Spur Corporation umbrella.

The agency has added media strategy and planning, as well as search and digital media capabilities, to its offering. It opened an office in Lusaka in 2017, headed up by Natasha Omokhodion-Banda, and although still small, it gives notice of its intentions. Taking on Woolies, it helped Checkers launch “Oh My Goodness” meals, a range of healthy kiddies meals, which the agency says has been extremely well received by customers.

The agency employs 250+ people with offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Lusaka.


In 2015 and in 2016, King James was named our most-admired ad agency in Cape Town. In 2014, King James tied with Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town. In 2013, it was Ogilvy Cape Town. In 2012, our inaugural poll, it was King James.

The runners-up (tied)

James Barty, King James Cape Town, and Alistair King


King James Group (Cape Town)

King James Group enjoyed year-on-year revenue growth of 19% during 2017, amid a macro-economic climate that continues to place pressure on our industry and the marketing priorities of our clients, says managing director James Barty (our 2017 Most Admired Ad Agency Boss in Cape Town). After a little over three-and-a-half years apart, Allan Gray returned to the group as one of King James the Second’s leading clients in Johannesburg. King James also won Tyme Digital by Commonwealth Bank SA; the agency will be responsible for all elements of launching the brand into the South African market in 2018. It did, however, lose Parmalat in late 2017.

“Bringing together the ever-growing suite of digital expertise and offerings within the agency group, King James Digital builds on the strong reputation our agency has established in digital over recent years,” says Barty of a move that combined digital agency Punk and social media specialists, Society, with acquisitions Flint & Tinder and SOC (trading as Punk Johannesburg and Punk Media respectively). The new entity launched in October 2017 with over 90 digital specialists across Cape Town and Johannesburg, covering expertise from marketing communications, customer experience, data analytics and media.

Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town

Source: Facebook.

Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town

Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town had a good start to 2017 when it announced it had been appointed global lead agency for Appletiser after a two-way pitch. It also won Tracker South Africa after a competitive pitch against two other agencies (reportedly M&C Saatchi Abel and King James Group) and was appointed lead agency for KFC’s New Africa Markets. However, it lost Allan Gray in mid-2017.

Importantly, it set about a major internal restructuring process to reorientate the agency and the way it operates. “This is the largest structural undertaking by the agency in well over a decade,” explains managing director Luca Gallarelli, done in an effort to meet Ogilvy’s own ambition to be a truly modern agency and configured in a thoroughly reimagined way, underpinned by new systems, processes and personnel to deliver against what the agency has determined are the fundamentals of modern marketing. “With this move, we have made a significant step towards achieving the stated ambition of ourselves, our people and — most importantly — our clients.

“We’ve overcome the obvious disappointment of the Allan Gray loss and bounced back immediately with the news of Investec appointing Ogilvy SA as their agency of record,” he continues. “In addition, we have landed Tiger Brands and will, together with Ogilvy Joburg, be one of two agency partners across their portfolio of tier-one brands, together with FCB Joburg. We have also expanded our AB InBev portfolio of brands to include a number of continental local market brands, which is incredibly exciting as it expands this offices already significant footprint across the continent.”

Aramex, Turkish Airlines and Mondelēz have been significant digital PR/influence wins, as well as a significant KFC mandate for PR across Africa.


Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town was also our runner-up in 2015 and in 2016. FoxP2 was runner-up in 2014 and 2013. In 2012, our inaugural poll, it was Ogilvy Cape Town.

How the poll works

Towards the end of 2017, we invited agency executives to nominate their most-admired agency, creative leader and most-admired agency both in their region (Johannesburg or Cape Town) and nationally. We also asked them which agency did the best at digital integration and at transformation (a new question), and which agency they saw as the one to watch in the future. Execs couldn’t nominate their own agencies or staff members. All the nominations were then tallied up for the final result. The editors of MarkLives had two votes in the final poll.

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 stand out significantly above other nominees but weren’t able to close in on the winner’s tally. The most-admired agency of the year is disqualified from the One to Watch category; votes cast in its favour in this category are discarded.

Previous Cape Town results

  • Agency Leaders 2016
  • Agency Leaders 2015
  • Agency Leaders 2014
  • Agency Leaders 2013
  • Agency Leaders 2012

Herman Manson 2017Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of

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#AgencyLeaders2017: Most admired ad agency in Cape Town


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