by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today, we reveal which Joburg 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. 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 ones to watch in Johannesburg! (tied)

Riverbed logo The Odd Number logo


The Odd Number

R\VERBED is one of the few black-woman-owned ad agencies of scale in the country. Lead by founder Monalisa Zwambila, it launched as an PR and activations agency, bought out creative agency Chillibush Communications in 2014 to build an integrated offering, and is today a R50m+ business. In 2016, the agency grew revenue by 35% after picking up business from Diageo Trust, Fundi (formerly Eduloan), KFC (field communications business), Translux, City-to-City and Potatoes SA. The Odd Number was launched by Xola Nouse and Sibusiso “Sbu” Sitole in April 2015; since then, the agency has grown from the two founding partners to a team of 18 and existing clients include BBC Worldwide, VIP, MSQ Health, Multichoice and Health Systems Trust. Its most-recent account wins include Brand SA, the official custodians of Brand South Africa (one of two ATL agencies), and Heineken (TTL agency for one of its innovation brands, Sol). The agency won a Bronze and Gold Loeries, a Gold Pendoring and shared the Pendoring Umpetha Award last year.

“This growth has not been without its challenges. We continue to navigate the perils of a startup agency,” says Nouse. “The systems, processes and controls we’ve implemented in the business have allowed us to mitigate the risk. As we approach the new financial year, we intend to continue to grow from the platform we’ve already established.”


The runner-up


AVATAR was launchedAVATAR logo in 2012 by Zibusiso Mkhwanazi and Veli Ngubane. Over the course of 2016, it experienced rapid growth, picking up business from Caltex, Unilever, Sanral, Hollard, Sowetan Sunday World, Fox Life, Astrazeneca, TopT, Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality and Mpact. Revenue doubled, profitability increased by 300% and staff count is up 33% on a year ago. Also in 2016, the agency opened an office in Cape Town, headed by Mthunzi Plaatjie, as well as a new online video production studio as part of a creative studio. In January 2017, it was announced that Mkhwanazi and Ngubane had acquired a significant minority stake in M&C Saatchi’s South African agency network. This has allowed M&C Saatchi PLC to acquire a 20% stake in AVATAR from Avatar Investment Holdings.


Promise was named as the one to watch in 2015 and King James II was our runner-up. No agency was named in 2014. Quirk took the honours in 2013.


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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