by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today we reveal which creative leaders were most admired by their peers in Johannesburg during 2016!

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. Last week we announced the 2016 results from Cape Town. This week is dedicated to finding out the choice of Jozi’s industry leaders. National results will be announced next week.

The most-admired creatives in Jozi (tied)

This is the first time this category for Johannesburg returned a tie (although there have been tied runners-up).

Pepe Marais Ahmed Tilly

Pepe Marais
Chief creative officer
Joe Public United

Ahmed Tilly
Joint chief creative officer
FCB Africa

Pepe Marais, CCO at Joe Public United, retains his position as the most-admired creative leader in Joburg, an honour he also took in each of the previous three years. This year, he is joined by Ahmed Tilly, joint CCO at FCB Africa after leaving Black River FC towards the end of 2016.Marais was more than happy with the group’s creative performance: “We had another very solid creative performance at the Loeries, [placing] third as a group against the very large groups.”

More than creative rankings was the agency’s focus on its product. “As an industry, we have fallen into the trap of thinking we are a service industry when, in fact, we are a product industry,” says Marais. “I have become very conscious of how the subjective and collective management of our product has resulted in mostly wallpaper and, if you are in the business of growing clients, you should not tolerate an inch of mediocrity. This [resulted] in a very tough battle [in 2016], fighting every step of the way for creative calls and decisions to remain in the hands of the people who are trained to conceive and produce communication — the creative department.”

It didn’t result in wins on every job, says Marais, but a few facts became very evident: 1) When clients trust the creative process, it puts more pressure on the agency and, as a result, the agency takes a higher level of responsibility. 2) In every instance where clients allow for pure creative control, the work results in higher levels of effectivity, talkability and more-connecting communication.

Marais is excited about the work the agency is doing for Panado’s and its Phambile Sandile campaign for Nedbank, as well as having won the sought-after Chicken Licken account.

On Ahmed Tilly’s appointment, Brett Morris, GCEO and GCCO of FCB Africa, says, “We’ve been lucky enough to have significant growth, particularly in Joburg, having more than doubled in size. We’re a talent business and we believe in investing in talent in order to scale the business so, with Ahmed on board, our expectation are to ensure we can continue producing iconic South African communication for our clients that adds with value, has scalability, and offers real integration.”


Marais also took top honours in 2015, 2014 and 2013. In 2012, our inaugural poll, it was Pete Case (founder of Gloo).


The runner-up

None awarded.


In 2015, Fran Luckin, chief creative officer at Grey Africa, was our runner-up. In 2014, tied runners-up were Mariana O’Kelly, co-ECD at Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg, and Morris, then GCEO & ECD, FCB South Africa (now FCB Africa). There wasn’t a runner up in 2013 and, in 2012 — our inaugural poll — it was Marais (see above).


How the poll works

Towards the end of 2016, Joburg’s agency leaders were invited to nominate their most-admired agency in Joburg, the most-admired creative leader in Joburg and the most-admired agency boss in Joburg. 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, and only agencies or execs who work out of the City of Gold could be voted for. All the nominations were then tallied up for the final result. The editors of MarkLives had a single vote in the poll. The most-admired agency of the year is disqualified from the One to Watch category; votes cast in its favour in this category is discarded.

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 poll results for Jozi:


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

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