by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today, we reveal which creative 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 Joburg.

  • 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 creative leader in South Africa

Alistair KingAlistair King
Founding creative partner
King James Group

Once again, Alistair King won our national accolade for creative leader by a generous margin — for the third time in a row and the fourth time in total.

According to King, the independent agency (which has just celebrated 20 years of existence) — is doing exactly the kind of work he wants it to be doing: “We’re trying a lot of new things, and I’d highlight our Sanlam UK’shona Kwelanga WhatsApp Drama as an example of how we’re evolving as an agency.”

King ranked fifth in the official 2017 Loeries ranking of CCOs. The agency ranked seventh overall, up from the 20th spot in 2016.


King took the crown in 2015 and in 2016. Chris Gotz, previously Ogilvy & Mather SA CCO, won in 2014 and again in 2013. King took the vote in our inaugural poll in 2012.


The runners-up (tied)

Ahmed Tilly

Sbu Sitole

Ahmed Tilly
Joint chief creative officer
FCB Africa

Sibusiso “Sbu” Sitole
Co-founder & creative director
The Odd Number

 Ahmed Tilly has been joint CCO at FCB Africa since October 2016 and is our joint runner-up for the most-admired creative leader in Jozi for 2017.

He is bestknown for work he did on Nando’s, including the iconic “Last Dictator Standing” (our Ad of the Year for 2012) and the Nando’s diversity advert.

Sbu Sitole is co-founder of The Odd Number and our most-admired creative leader in Jozi for 2017. He was also our Young, Gifted & Killing It! interviewee for October 2016.

The Odd Number won our 2017 Ad of the Year for its Inspired By My Constitution campaign for Brand SA.


In 2016 it was Tilly. Graham Lang, CCO, Y&R South Africa, was our runner-up in 2015. In 2014, it was Pepe Marais, Joe Public founding partner and CCO. In 2013, it was Justin Gomes, FoxP2 ECD. Mike Schalit (Net#work BBDO South Africa), Chris Gotz (then Ogilvy Cape Town), Pete Case (then Gloo) and Tilly (then Black River FC) all tied as runners-up in our inaugural poll in 2012.


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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