by MarkLives (@marklives) For 2019, Bomb (@BombCommercial, @O_GrandJo) and Darling Films (@heydarling_tv) have been jointly selected for production excellence in South Africa by South African agency executives. This is a new category.

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. These are the results for 2019 and this week we are running the following categories.

Jointly most-admired for production excellence

Bomb logo Darling Films logo


Darling Films

2019 was action-packed for Bomb, with the production company making clear its commitment to telling authentic South African stories and fostering local talent.

Managing director and executive producer Desiree Markgraaff points to Bomb Productions’ retelling of the story of King Shaka kaSenzangakhona, in collaboration with Mzansi Magic, as an example of this focus. “Developing this series has been both exciting and terrifying,” she says. “[We want] to tell this story with the right gravitas and epic proportions, to get the nuances and depth of the real history, the precolonial truth of the time in which Shaka rose to power and built an empire.” Bomb is hoping to move Shaka Ilembe into production this year.

Isibaya is another “highlight project”, she says. “[We’re] able to tell stories daily on primetime TV that showcase the beauty of culture and language, and work with some of South Africa’s finest actors.” Bomb is proud that Isibaya actor, Nomzamo Mbatha, has been cast in Hollywood’s Coming 2 America.

Bomb also released its own feature film, Back of the Moon, which took Best South African Film at the Durban International Film Festival in 2019.

Further cause for celebration was director Justice Mukheli joining Bomb Commercials, according to Markgraaff. “He is a creative force and we are very excited about developing projects with him,” she says. Other key appointments include writers Wendy Gumede and Nomusa Nkabinde, junior producers Sayitsheni Mdaki and Thabo Boom, post-production producer Tracey Williams and supervising director Zeno Peterson.

In the coming months, the Bomb team will be working on the development of two international series, says Markgraaff, to showcase local talent to the world.

— Profile by Carey Finn.

Hard work (and a lot of it) paid off for Darling Films in 2019, with the production house pushing out a series of hard-hitting campaigns, becoming 51% black-owned, and seeing an estimated minimum of 16% growth in billings.

The year prior was tough to top but co-founders and executive producers, Melina McDonald and Lorraine Smit, are pleased with the way 2019 panned out. “We came off an amazing year, the year before [2018],” says McDonald. “We had won Cannes Gold, we had won the D&AD — and all that with our Joburg Ballet campaign that we did in association with TBWA\Hunt Lascaris, which really was a fantastic highlight. But [we did] some magical work [in 2019].” She points to the television commercials Darling created for MTN, in collaboration with the Springboks, as one example.

Smit also draws attention to the three fashion films the production house did for retailer Edgars as another creative highlight. Each film was made by one of Darling’s female directors, who had to get to work quickly — three different angles were carved out of a single briefing, with one production team to be shared. This was a different, exciting way of working, says Smit.

The work that McDonald and Smit felt most strongly about, however, is the #BlameNoMore anti-rape campaign. “It’s quite a shocker but it’s very hard-hitting,” says Smit.

“We want to put our money where our mouth is,” adds McDonald. “We are a female-owned company, 50% of our director base is female, and we are adamant about being progressive.”

Another effort for social good, says McDonald, was the house’s work for 1st for Women around 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence.

— Profile by Carey Finn.

Previously: None. This is a brand-new category.

How the poll works

In late October 2019, we invited a panel of handpicked agency executives — in creative and management, and ranging over a wide spectrum from small- and medium-sized to network agencies — to nominate their most-admired companies and company leaders of various types of agencies. This year we conducted only a national poll, doing away with the two regional polls for Johannesburg and Cape Town. 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 and could choose not to apply these in tight races.

Note: Runner-up(s) are only named if they achieved a good nomination tally, relative to the winner’s position. Contenders are named if they stood 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


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