by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today we close off our annual Agency Leaders poll with the brands South Africa’s agency execs most wanted to work on during 2018.

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 brand that agencies most want to work on in South Africa


Nando's logoNando’s beat Coca-Cola and VW as the brand most agencies wanted to work with during 2018. This should come as no surprise, as the brand keeps on challenging convention and starting worthwhile (and necessary) conversations, all while continuing to serve up some of the best flame-grilled peri peri chicken.

In late 2017, Nando’s produced “We can fix our s#*t” leading up to the ANC elective conference, aimed at reminding South Africans that we have the power to change the things we care about — that we’ve done it before and can do it again. “We didn’t know (but were hopeful) that the changes sparked by the change in presidency would be as accurate as we demonstrated in that commercial, and were thus understandably delighted by the positive reception to the ad,” says Doug Place, Nando’s CMO: Africa, Middle East, South Asia.

The brand struck the right chord again in late 2018 with “You people”. It built on 2017’s call-to-arms to “fix some of the sh!t things which plague our communities, most potently the idea of ‘you people’ being a major blight on our ability to get together and make a better country,” explains Place.

While Nando’s lead creative agency is M&C Saatchi Abel, the brand enjoys working with a broad network of agency partners. On what it takes to build and maintain a successful and fruitful agency/client relationship, Place believes there isn’t any one recipe for success but that, as a brand, Nando’s strives to have a strong mutual admiration for the role each of its agency partners plays. “This firm foundation allows us to fight openly and constructively, and some of the brave work we’ve made in the past few years is testimony to this,” he says.

2018 achievements for the brand include Gold at the Loeries for the #rightmyname campaign, a top 10 ranking in Kantar Millward Brown’s most-valuable South African brand (Brand Z) rankings and Gold Assegai for its customer care programme. “We’ve never had a year where we’ve been so thoroughly recognised for a body of marketing work that goes beyond just advertising; as such I am thrilled to be working with the best marketing team in the country,” says Place.

This year, the increasing role of making purchase decisions online is going to be a key focus for the brand. “We have a brand new app which we’re really proud of. It’s transactionally efficient but also has the unmistakably fun Nando’s tone. We’re delighted with VML, who produced that with us. We’re also thrilled to be able to offer free customer wifi in all our restaurants, a first for a restaurant brand of our size.”

— Profile by Sabrina Forbes.

Previously: In 2017, Coca-Cola tied with Volkswagen. In 2016, it was Nando’s and, in 2015, it was Coca-Cola. In 2014, the first time we polled this category, it was Coca-Cola, too, with FNB close behind Coke.


The runner-up

Volkswagen logotypeVW South Africa

Previously: There were no runners-up in 2017 and 2016. In 2015, the runner-up was Nike. In 2014, the first time we polled this category, FNB was runner-up.



The contenders

KFC logo Chicken Licken logo


Chicken Licken


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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