by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today, we reveal which agency leaders were most admired by their peers in South Africa during 2017! This is part of this week’s announcement of the 2017 MarkLives Agency Leaders’ Most Admired Poll results for South Africa. Over the past two weeks, we have announced the regional results from Cape Town and Johannesburg.

  • Monday: Most-admired agency bosses in South Africa
  • Tuesday: Most-admired creative leaders in South Africa
  • Wednesday: One to watch in South Africa
  • Thursday: Most-admired agencies in South Africa
  • Friday: Most digitally integrated in South Africa
  • Monday 12 March: Contribution to agency diversity and transformation (SA)

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 agency boss in South Africa

Brett Morris October 2016 by by Jeremy Glyn.Brett Morris
Group CEO & group CCO
FCB Africa

FCB Africa’s group CEO and group CCO, Brett Morris, is not only  Joburg’s most-admired agency boss for the fourth year in a row but also the most-admired agency boss in South Africa, clinching it for the second year in a row (he also shared the top spot in 2014). He is widely admired as a creative who drives business success at his agency.

FCB Cape Town and FCB Joburg won the Sasol account for the group. Hellocomputer Joburg added Ascendis Health and Hellocomputer Cape Town Uber Kenya. FCB was also appointed as one of two agencies across Tiger Brands’ major portfolios.

Morris has driven a transformation agenda at the agency; FCB Africa is a Level 1 BBBEE contributor that is 55% black-owned and 32% black female-owned. “It is also the only large black-owned network agency in our industry not reliant on modified flow-through,” he says. “However, we believe we can always do more.

“On that score, the other thing I’m excited about is our ambition to become the best learning and development organisation on the continent. We [already saw] the fruits of our labour in 2017 and this is just the beginning. Only by retaining and growing the best talent will be able to continue paving the way for authentic transformation and creating an inclusive economy that is sustainable for all South Africans.”


In 2016 Morris took top honours. In 2015, James Barty, co-founder and chief executive of King James Group, emerged as our most-admired agency leader for SA. In 2014, Gareth Leck (Joe Public United) and Morris tied for joint honours. In 2013, it was Gavin Levinsohn, ex-MD of Ogilvy Cape Town. In 2012, our inaugural poll, it was Barty.


The runners-up (tied)

Alistair Mokoena

James Barty

Alistair Mokoena
Chief executive officer
Ogilvy & Mather South Africa

James Barty
Co-founder & CEO
King James Group

Alistair Mokoena stepped up as the chief executive officer of Ogilvy & Mather South Africa, after the departure of Abey Mokgwatsane at the end of September 2017 to join Vodacom as its new managing executive for brand and communications.

Mokoena’s career includes SAB, Unilever, Tiger Brands and Mondelez. He joined Ogilvy Johannesburg as MD in 2014 from FCB Johannesburg. He is a lawyer by training and has both MBA and chartered marketing qualifications.

James Barty was named the most-admired agency boss in Cape Town for 2017 for the third year in a row.

He leads one of the largest independent agencies in the country, with a blue-chip client base that includes Pick n Pay, Sanlam, Santam and a host of Tiger Brands and AB Inbev brands.

King James Group also achieved 19% year-on-year revenue growth in a touch economic climate.


In 2016 it was James Barty and in 2015, Gareth Leck (Joe Public United) tied with Mike Abel (M&C Saatchi Abel). In 2014, the runner-up was Barty. Leck was the runner-up both in 2012 and 2013.


The contender

Nathan Reddy
Credit: Loeries.

Nathan Reddy
Founder/chief creative officer

Grid rebranded as G in Culture at Loeries 2017 and announced its full service integrated offering (beyond branding and design). The agency won its 6th Grand Prix award for the work done for Marble as well 5 other Loeries awards. Reddy was also inducted into the Loeries Hall of Fame as youngest recipient of this prestigious award.

Grid’s overall revenue growth in 2017 stood at 71%with its head count growing from 28 to over 45. New business wins across the globe include Secureworks New York, Louvre Abu Dhabi and Gran Kaz Seychelles. Locally, Grid worked with clients including First Rand, KFC, BCX and VS Gaming over and above other long-standing clients.


In 2016 it was Zibusiso Mkhwanazi (CEO & co-founder, AVATAR) and Mike Abel (Co-founder & CE partner
M&C Saatchi Abel). In 2015, the contenders were Graham Warsop, founder and chairman of The Jupiter Drawing Room and Le Patron of Utopia; Charl Thom, CEO of FoxP2 Group; and Ahmed Tilly, ECD of Black River FC.


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 South African results


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

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