by Herman Manson (@marklives) We list the agencies you made time to read about here on MarkLives during 2019 for our #BigReads2019 series.


Brand South Africa logo

#1. Avatar vs Carte Blanche

On 10 March 2019, Carte Blanche broadcast a story on Brand South Africa‘s previous contract with its then digital marketing agency, Avatar [Carte Blanche posted the episode online but the video has since been set to private on its YouTube channel — ed.]

“Not paying attention to detail may damage your reputation and brand,” wrote Zibusiso Mkhwanazi, Avatar co-founder and M&N Brands GCEO, in an op-ed on the site. “It’s less likely as a startup or even a small business but, as you grow to medium or big business and your client base grows, your billings get bigger and the contracts become wily and cumbersome, you will need to be extra careful. Because, ultimately, it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong in such cases. What matters are two important things: taking responsibility and morality. No business leader should be found wanting on either.”


south-african-coins-banknotes-money-currency courtesy of Pixabay

#2. Ranking South African ad agencies by revenue

Our latest revenue ranking update, released in October 2019, aims to give marketers an overview of the relative scale of advertising agencies in the South African communications landscape. Agencies listed in the ranking are included based upon publicly available revenue bands for 2019. The information has been sourced directly from agencies and holding companies, through a survey run via, and from publicly available information, including the business and trade press, such as AdFocus, and our directory service,

2019 ranking (largest to smallest)

Network/ independent
Staff count


Incubeta Independent 350 Level 2 Management
Ogilvy South Africa WPP 850 Level 1 Management
TBWA\South Africa Group Omnicom 533 Level 2 Management


Publicis Groupe Africa Publicis Groupe 1500+ Level 1 Management
Wunderman Thompson South Africa WPP 500 Level 1 Management


The Creative Counsel Publicis Groupe 1000+ Level 1 Management


TBWA\Hunt Lascaris Omnicom 305 Level 1 Management


FCB Joburg IPG 188 Level 1 Management
Joe Public United Independent 300 Level 3 Management
King James Group SA Independent 329 Level 1 Management
VMLY&R South Africa WPP 300 Level 1 Management


99c Independent 350 NA Management
M&C Saatchi Abel M&C Saatchi 170 Level 1 Management


MADE Agency logo

#3. MADE went into liquidation

MADE Agency went into liquidation. The creative agency had enjoyed steady growth, often in the region of 40–50% per annum for a number of years, and had invested accordingly in expanding its team; at its peak, it employed 35 people. But, during the course of 2018, the agency lost several clients, its project pipeline suddenly dried up and existing projects saw a steep decrease in budgets.


King James Group SA logo and 34 logo King James Group SA logo and Cedar Communications logo

#4. King James Group acquired 34° and also publisher Cedar SA

Integrated communications group, King James Group South Africa, acquired a majority stake in retail and shopper marketing agency, 34°. It also concluded a deal with Cedar Communications in the UK to take over the licensing agreement in southern Africa by acquiring a majority stake in privately owned content marketing agency, Cedar South Africa.

34° remains a standalone brand to continue growing this business while integrating and collaborating with the other specialist teams in the group, according to a statement issued by King James Group SA. Its client portfolio at the time included Coca-Cola, Imperial, IEC, Lindt, Game Africa, Java and Brookside.

Cedar SA also continues to operate as an independent agency brand within the King James Group structure.


McCann Johannesburg logo and 1886 logo

#5. McCann merged with 1886

Interpublic-owned McCann Johannesburg merged with 1886, the wholly owned subsidiary of the FCB Africa group (now Nahana Communications Group), to become McCann 1886. The move came at the request of IPG, said Brett Morris, then FCB Africa GCEO.

This news broke in December 2018 but the story was one of our best-read for 2019.


HelloFCB+ logo plus management team

#6. CT agencies of Hellocomputer, FCB formed HelloFCB+

Hellocomputer Cape Town and FCB Cape Town merged to create a new agency, HelloFCB+, a full-service offering with a staff count of 90+ . The merger had been a long time coming, said HelloFCB+ MD Robyn Campbell, previously MD at both Hellocomputer and FCB Cape Town. In the past, the two agencies collaborated on several shared clients and found that the merged teams produced better work across all channels.


Duke Group

#7. Duke, Mark1, Positive Dialogue teamed up for scale

Five years after launching Duke, its CEO, Wayne Naidoo,announced the launch of a group structure that pulled the creative agency, alongside digital media specialist Mark1 and PR firm Positive Dialogue Communications, into a new full-service offering: Duke Group. The three agencies had been working together on shared clients, including Pepsi and Jive, over the previous year, with sufficient success to lead them to formalise the arrangement. Duke Group allows further close collaboration, and all three agencies have retained their own brands under the auspices of the group


Zibusiso Mkhwanazi, Veli Ngubane and Avatar logo

#8. Avatar expanded into Durban

Avatar Agency Group (formerly Avatar South Africa) announced that it was opening a new office in Morningside, Durban. Avatar Durban joined Avatar Johannesburg and Avatar Cape Town, as well as a public relations agency, Avatar PR, and media agency, Avatar Media, as being a member of the group. The new office assists in managing the group’s Durban clients locally, which include the recently awarded Aromat, Knorox and Chicken Express accounts, and more.


M&N Entertainment

#9. M&N Brands launched a content hub, acquired a youth mag

M&N Brands established M&N Entertainment to house its media investments, the first of which was the newly acquired youth culture magazine, The investment in Zkhiphani gives M&N better understanding of the lucrative youth market, and fits the company’s vision of owning various elements of the media and communication ecosystem, according to Zibusiso Mkhwanazi, M&N Brands co-founder and GCEO.


Nahana Communications Group logo and FCB Africa logo

#10. FCB Africa rebranded as Nahana Communications

FCB Africa rebranded to Nahana Communications Group. “Nahana” means to “think” or “imagine” in Sesotho.


Demographica Facebook cover image

#11. #AgencyFocus: Anthropology works at atypical Demographica

“We believe that chemistry can be created, which is why we use anthropology,” said Warren Moss, founder and CEO of specialist (B2B) marketing agency, Demographica. “If you understand another person’s context and culture, you’re able to connect with them easier.”


Gareth McPherson and Publicis Machine logo

#12. Letting creativity lead — new MD, goals for Publicis Machine (now Machine)

In a move to strengthen the positioning of Publicis Machine (recently rebranded as Machine once more) as a creatively led agency, former group ECD Gareth McPherson replaced Neal Farrell as MD. McPherson also took on the role of chief creative officer, and planned to use a design-led approach to drive the agency forward.


TBWA logo, Grid Worldwide logo and Openco logo

#13. Grid Worldwide swallowed Openco

TBWA\South Africa merged agencies Grid Worldwide and Openco after buying out remaining the minority shareholders in the latter. The combined agency will operate under the Grid Worldwide brand and have a team of around 70 people.

See also


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

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