by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today we reveal, as part of our annual Agency Leaders poll, which media agency South Africa’s agency execs most admire — the last of our brand-new categories.

MarkLives logoEvery year since 2012, MarkLives has been polling South Africa’s top ad 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. The first week we ran our Cape Town results, the second week our Joburg results, and last week our South African results. This week, we run our remaining categories.

The most-admired media agency

The Mediashop

The MediaShop logoTurning 30 wasn’t the only achievement for The Mediashop in 2018. For this media agency, 2018 also saw a 5% growth in revenue increase, 13 new staffers joining its team and the welcoming of MultiChoice into its client stable.

It was also the most-awarded media agency at the AMASA Awards and brought home the Media Agency of the Year and Media Agency of the Decade titles at the MOST Awards. It won a Gold Loeries Media Award and, together with M&C Saatchi, took home a Loeries Grand Prix, too

Looking back at 2018, Chris Botha, The MediaShop group MD, understands that challenges last year, such as a tough economy and constrained budgets, were the same for everyone and are continuing into the new year. “The industry will remain under pressure. The economy isn’t growing so we cannot expect spend to grow significantly either,” he says. “2018 was an exciting year where we laid the foundations for our new sister agency, Meta Media. We expanded our services for the group, including activations, research, and promotions. We are geared and ready for a great 2019 [and] as an agency we have big expectations.”

In terms of 2019 industry trends, Botha believes a deeper understanding of data and how it integrates into communication will continue to be important, as will finding better ways to connect relevantly with consumers in a meaningful way.

— Profile by Sabrina Forbes.


The runner-up


PHD logoPHD Media South Africa had a stellar 2018, adding Bob Martin, BIC, Best Med, Oceana Group, Pernod Ricard, Anglo American, Stadio Group, HP and Unilever to its client list. Year-in-year revenue growth stood at 7% (2018 on 2017) and the forecast for 2019 is 10%.

Staff count grew by 23% to 80 people — much of this due to staffing up following the Unilever win. 2018 was also the year that PHD saw expansion north of South Africa as it opened offices in Cote d’Ivoire, Zambia, Mauritius, Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi to service HP, HSBC and Unilever.

“PHD continues to put our people first; our culture is central to our business,” says Anne Dearnaley, PHD South Africa MD. “Hiring the right staff, with the right approach and attitude, has been paramount to our success; this is a continual challenge but something that is critical for us to succeed. We are constantly uplifting and transforming our people. We’ve increased black representation at management level and again are proudly a level 2 BEE contributor, for four consecutive years, and have just achieved level 2 status for 2019, too.”

Dearnaley says PHD remains dedicated to creative media thinking, with a founding principle of “strategy first” embedded in all work and output. “Our philosophy is ‘Finding a Better Way’ and there is some work that we are really proud of in 2018 that highlights this way of working — the social syncing work we did with VW — this was the first time mobile-video content was sync’d with in-show moments, rather than commercial airtime, as well as the content work we did with Mafikizolo and Aquafresh,” she says. “Our work was recognized at both the AMASA Awards and the MMAs, where we won two Golds and a Silver respectively. Importantly, our new-client wins are certainly testament to our way of working, thinking and quality of output.

“We have continued to diversify our offerings and continue to grow our econometric modelling division, finally being able to answer the question of which media is working hardest to deliver ROI. We have [ran] five full models for clients in 2018, and anticipate significant growth in this area in 2019.

“Digital transformation has been central to our plans for an agency of the future; this has been both a challenge and an opportunity. Our staff are hybrids or on a journey of becoming hybrid. This has required significant investment and relooking of the agency’s structures, but the disruption has been very worthwhile.”

— Profile by Herman Manson.

Updated at 5.10pn on 28 February 2019.


How the poll works

In November 2018, we invited a panel of 120 agency executives — creative and management, and ranging over a wide spectrum from small- and medium-sized to network agencies — to nominate their most-admired agency and agency leaders regionally (for Johannesburg or Cape Town) and nationally (South Africa). 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 held 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.

See also


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

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Published by Herman Manson is edited by Herman Manson. Follow us on Twitter -

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