MarkLives set out to discover which agencies, agency bosses and creative directors other agency execs most admired over the course of the past year.

We sent nomination forms to 54 agency CEOs or MDs from ad agencies in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. We received 34 responses.

Cape Town’s agency leaders were invited to nominate their most admired agency in Cape Town, the most admired creative director in Cape Town and the most admired agency boss in Cape Town. Johannesburg agencies received a similar form for their city. Executives in both cities received a request to similarly vote for those they most admire on the national stage (ignoring where an agency is headquartered) and Durban execs were invited to participate in the national poll only.

Nobody could nominate his or her own agency or staff. All the nominations were then tallied up to see whom adland’s highest decision makers most admire.*

We kick off our poll results in Cape Town and will release results for Johannesburg on Jan 28 and for our national poll on Feb 4.

The Cape Town execs Cape Town’s ad execs most admire*

• The most admired agency in Cape Town (as voted for by Cape Town ad execs)

King James Group

Most Admired: King James
Runner-up: Ogilvy Cape Town

Cape Town’s ad executives most admired agency in Cape Town was King James. Lead by Alistair King and James Barty the agency has in recent years emerged as South Africa’s most acclaimed independent ad agency. It won accolades for its work for Santam in 2012 and managed to survive the Cell C pitch saga seemingly unscathed. In another brave move the agency brought in Michael Udell, formerly deputy MD at DDB South Africa, and Matt Ross, a former ECD from the same agency, and tasked them with positioning the agency group’s strategic and creative offering somewhere between ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’ advertising.

The runner-up, Ogilvy Cape Town, won big at award shows last year for its ‘Be the coach‘ campaign for Carling Black Label. As we noted in our Loeries coverage the work serves as a brilliant example of an integrated campaign that brought together digital, mobile, TV, print, sponsorship, PR and eventing. It also positioned the agency as one able to integrate digital strategy into its through the line offering.

Last year Ogilvy won Castle Lite and Revlon and revenue now stands at between R120m – R140m. Staff count has climbed to 273 at the end of November 2012 from 229 for the same period in 2011.

King James received 46.7% of the vote, Ogilvy Cape Town received 33.3% of the vote and FoxP2 received 20% of the vote.

• The most admired creative director in Cape Town (as voted for by Cape Town ad execs)

Alistair King, King James

Most Admired: Alistair King
Runner-up: Justin Gomes

King James Group Creative Director Alistair King was voted the most admired creative director in Cape Town by his local peers. Justin Gomes from FoxP2 was our runner up.

Alistair King received 40% of the nominations, Justin Gomes 33%, Chris Gotz (Ogilvy Cape Town) 13.5% and Mike Schalit (Net#workBBDO South Africa) 13.5%.

• The most admired agency boss in Cape Town (as voted for by Cape Town ad execs)

claire cobbledick and james barty

Most Admired: Claire Cobbledick and James Barty (tied)
Runner-up: Gavin Levinsohn

The Jupiter Drawing Room Cape Town MD Claire Cobbledick was rewarded for her efforts in steering the agency through the turmoil of the Woolworths account loss in December 2011 when it lost 30% of its revenue in one swoop. The agency recently collapsed their separate ‘leadership’ and ‘management teams’ into a single unit. The move simplifies the corporate management structure at the agency which is also experimenting with restructuring its internal cross functional teams (each serves a portfolio of clients). The agency also took an inside-out approach to digital – digital specialists sit in the creative department and in a nod to the rise of social media so does PR.

Cobbledick tied with King James Group Chief Executive James Barty as most admired agency boss Cape Town. As with Cobbledick Barty helped lead his agency through a difficult time with the Cell C pitch saga. His agency also received the vote for most admired agency in Cape Town and business partner Alistair took the vote for most admired Creative Director in Cape Town.

Claire Cobbledick (The Jupiter Drawing Room Cape Town) drew 27% of nominations, as did James Barty (King James). Gavin Levinsohn (Ogilvy Cape Town) received 20%, Charl Thom (FoxP2) 13% and Mike Abel (M&C Saatchi Abel) 13%.

• The Cape agency with most success in integrating digital into its offering


Ogilvy Cape Town was the only agency to receive more than a single nomination. It completely dominated this aspect of the survey. It won off the back of its award success with the fully integrated ‘Be the coach‘ campaign for Carling Black Label and its efforts in investing in digital education through the ODMA.

* Only agencies or agency staff who received more than a single nomination were included when we worked out voting percentages.

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Published by Herman Manson is edited by Herman Manson. Follow us on Twitter -

2 replies on “Agency Leaders: 2012’s most-admired ad agency in Cape Town”

  1. I am very interested to know why the nominations for agency had to be region specific, surely there are a number of agencies in Joburg that also voted for Cape Town agencies, taken that the advertising industry is not exclusive by region, this logic seems a questionable.

    So, the most admired creative director in Cape Town (as voted for by Cape Town ad execs) is Alistair King – How did he fare nationally? Or was there another individual (quite likely to be King as well) who was voted the most admired creative driector by ALL agencies?

  2. Hi Mandy – we figured that agency execs in geographic regions would know their neighbours best. Joburg agency bosses also got to vote for Joburg agencies and then we did a second poll where we dropped geographic limitations and opened it up nationally. Results for Johannesburg runs on Jan 28 and for our national poll on Feb 4.

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