by Herman Manson (@marklivesToday, we reveal which Cape Town agency fellow ad execs feel is the “one to watch” in 2017 — 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 creative leaders, and where they believe their future competition is likely to come from. Next week, we announce the 2016 results from Johannesburg. National results will be announced in two weeks’ time.

The one to watch in Cape Town!

The VML and Y&R Africa Group

Native VML Cape Town. Source: VML website.
In mid-2016, the South African operations of the Y&R network — including advertising agency Y&R South Africa, digital agency NATIVE VML and shopper agency Labstore South Africa — were integrated under a single management team. NATIVE VML co-founder and CEO, Jason Xenopoulos, took on the role of group CEO*. The move has sparked significant interest in the industry and marks an end to the siloed approach taken by many agency networks when it comes to integrating their agency offerings.

The partnership between Y&R, Labstore and NATIVE VML is off to a fantastic start, according to Xenopoulos. “In a few short months, we [won] two major accounts as an integrated team: Edgars and Amstel.” Both were highly contested accounts.

“It is important to note that The VML and Y&R Africa Group is not a single agency. Y&R, Labstore, and NATIVE VML continue to operate as separate, individual agencies servicing their own clients, but the group structure allows us to provide an integrated service to clients who want it,” points out Xenopoulos. “Edgars and Amstel are perfect examples of this; both accounts were won by Y&R but the group’s combined offering allowed us to offer these clients a broader and more-integrated service.”

The group offering is also allowing all three agencies to extend their service offering significantly to existing clients.

“The teams are working well together and we have started to streamline the systems and processes required to operate in a truly integrated way. The biggest barrier at the moment is geography. The intention is to bring Y&R, Labstore, and NATIVE VML physically closer by co-locating the Joburg teams in one office park, but there are some basic logistical issues (such as existing leases) that need to be overcome first,” he says.


NATIVE VML (now VML South Africa) was also our one to watch for 2016. For 2015, it was Publicis Machine — for the second year in a row — as its previous incarnation, Machine, took the title for 2014.**

The runner-up

There was no runner-up for 2017, nor for 2016. For 2015, it was Saatchi & Saatchi BrandsRock and, for 2014, it was MetropolitanRepublic Cape Town.


How the poll works

Towards the end of 2016, Cape Town’s agency leaders were invited to nominate their most-admired agency in Cape Town, the most-admired creative leader in Cape Town and the most-admired agency boss in Cape Town. 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 Mother City 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 Cape Town:

*Updated at 10:15am on 2 Feb 2017: A previous version of this story erroneously identified Graham Lang as chief creative officer of the integrated group. Both Y&R and NATIVE have separate creative leadership teams. Lang is CCO of Y&R Africa (including SA) and Ryan McManus continues to lead the NATIVE VML creative department as its national ECD.

**Updated at 10.48am on 6 February 2019.


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

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