by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today we reveal,  as part of our annual Agency Leaders poll, which Cape Town agency fellow ad execs feel is the “one to watch” in 2019 — the agency from which they expect great things in the year ahead.

Every 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. Next week will be the Joburg results, followed by the national results in two weeks’ time, and then our remaining categories.

The one to watch in Cape Town!

DUKE Facebook cover image 2019


DUKE wasn’t a surprise pick as our Cape Town agency to watch in 2019. Since its launch in 2015, the agency has made steady gains in the market. The agency was founded by an old hand in SA’s advertising scene, Wayne Naidoo, who was previously Lowe + Partners SA CEO and Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA) of SA chair, plus our 2018 Runner-up Most Admired Agency Boss for Cape Town.

In 2018, the agency saw more than 70% year-on-year growth as a result of organic and new business wins, including Woolworths (Frozen, Produce, Fresh, W.Lab, Dairy), Jive, Pioneer (Imbo, Pasta Grande, Safari, Bokomo and Wild Island), RisCura and project work for Rhodes Foods.

It was ranked third-best small agency at Loeries and was shortlisted for AdFocus Small Agency of the Year. The agency model to date has been based on the employment of a core senior team with senior freelancers when required. It currently counts 18 employees.

Naidoo believes transformation will play an even greater role in the year ahead and expects major client shifts to occur as a result (DUKE is a level 1 BBEEE agency). As bigger multinationals consolidate and shed jobs and people, more independents will open and the credible independents in the marketplace will gain even more traction while the fly-by-nights will be found out, he says: “More exceptional freelance talent will enter the market, supporting more-agile and leaner agency models.”

Naidoo also expects procurement to play an even greater prominence in the awarding of advertising accounts, wrestling control from CMOs.

“A tumultuous South Africa will lead to increasingly interesting and culturally relevant work, especially with the industry’s more-mature grasp of the channels,” he predicts. “The battle for ground will subside between consultancies and agencies as they find their more-comfortable places in clients’ lives.”

Previously: FoxP2 was named the one to watch in Cape Town for 2018, and the VML and Y&R Africa Group for 2017 (at the time, the SA operations of the Y&R network, including Y&R South Africa, NATIVE VML and Labstore South Africa, were integrated under a single management team). 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 is no runner-up for 2019. For 2018, it was Old Friends Young Talent (OFYT). There were no runner-ups for 2017 and 2016. For 2015, it was Saatchi & Saatchi BrandsRock and, for 2014, it was MetropolitanRepublic Cape Town.


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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