by MarkLives (@marklives) For 2019, The Mediashop (@MediaShopZA) has been voted as most-admired media agency in South Africa, with PHD Media South Africa (@phdsouthafrica) and TMI Collective (@tmicollective) [formerly The Media Image (TMI] as joint runners-up, by South African agency executives. This is the second year of this new category.
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. These are the results for 2019 and this week we are running the following categories.
The most-admired media agency
Adopting an intelligence-led strategy in response to the national economic downturn, The MediaShop began its evolution into an integrated marketing and communications agency in 2019, and plans to continue this in 2020. The goal is to be able to offer business solutions beyond media, informed by data and behavioural economics, says Kgaugelo Maphai, The MediaShop Johannesburg MD.
The changes The MediaShop is making have been well-received by clients so far, he says. Reporting gross billings of over R5bn last year, with growth of just over 9% from 2018, the agency counts Nedbank, Famous Brands, MultiChoice, Shoprite/Checkers and Tiger Brands among the key names in its stable.
As part of the shift, The MediaShop in late 2018 established what is described as a human intelligence consultancy, Tirisano Consulting. Tirisano is behind some of the agency’s internal change management processes, and is expected to play a bigger role this year. Additionally, The MediaShop has worked with Innate Motion to deepen its understanding of the people it serves.
“This is the foundation and investment we have made as a business to ensure that we differentiate ourselves, and that we are able to deliver even better results together with our clients in 2020 and beyond,” says Maphai. “Our vision is to be pioneers in revolutionary communication solutions for brands to connect with consumers — we can only achieve this by being in touch with consumers in this diverse society of ours.”
While positive about the long-term economic future of South Africa, he acknowledges the challenges the agency currently faces. “With budgets being constrained, some brands are taking [few] risks and sticking to tried-and-tested methods, and therefore limiting the amount of innovation required to break through the clutter,” he says. “We are not seeing as much creativity as a result, which is unfortunate, because this is when we need it most.”
The agency, which employs over 100 people across the country, will be looking to grow by attracting both new clients and talent in the coming months.
— Profile by Carey Finn.
Previously: Our inaugural most-admired media agency for 2018 was also The MediaShop.
The joint runners-up
PHD Media South Africa
|Familiar faces in this category, PHD navigated expansion both online and in the office in 2019, reporting revenue growth of 27% to boot. After adding Unilever to its client stable the year prior, PHD established a presence on the ground in Durban in February 2019, welcoming 26 new staff members. Further hires over the year pushed the agency’s total headcount to 100.
The people are a primary focus, says Anne Dearnaley, PHD group MD, as a collaborative culture is key to everything PHD does. “Without the great staff that we have, we would not be where we are today,” she says. “It is the constant delivery of great work that keeps our connections to our clients strong, some of whom have been with us ever since we opened Page Three Media in Cape Town 10 years ago.”
Digital growth was another important development for PHD last year, with the launch of an ecommerce offering plus the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) technology for personalised targeting on social media. Dearnaley says that AI is an exciting area for the business, and one it plans to grow. Key among PHD’s digital clients are Pernod in Africa and Shoprite Africa.
Going forward, the agency will be concentrating on diversified services that deliver ROI for clients, she says. “We have done a number of game-changing econometric studies for our clients, and this drives better and more-meaningful insights that enable greater connections with people, more- targeted strategies and routes to market.” In a fragile, cautious market, with consumers under significant pressure, ROI is key, she says. “Our ability to deliver in this space and advise clients how to optimise spend and exactly what channels and programmes are delivering ROI for them is invaluable.”
— Profile by Carey Finn.
|Reporting significant growth in revenue, 21% growth in staff and repositioning of the company brand were three highlights of 2019 for The Media Image. Now employing 45 people and known as TMI Collective (TMI), the agency is focused on developing its people and business both locally and internationally in 2020.
“TMI’s way of standing out is to not phase ourselves with what others are doing in the industry but instead focus on the business partners we are servicing and the teams that make it all happen,” says Lauren Foster, TMI MD. “Our people drive our success; [it’s through] having great people who have developed great partnerships with our clients.”
The agency, which works with Rain, Pam Golding Properties, Virgin Active, Nashua, Woolworths, Motus, Imperial Auto and Bidvest, among other clients, has expanded its footprint into Gauteng, as well as internationally in the US and UK over the past year.
Opportunities still abound, despite the national economic situation being turbulent, marketing budgets being under pressure and skills often being limited, says Foster. “There is a great deal of focus around access to free and fast internet from local service providers, NGOs, and from Google with the launch of Google Station, which is providing free and fast internet to areas around South Africa. These initiatives are going to change how media can help its clients speak to customers more and more in a personalised way.”
— Profile by Carey Finn.
Previously: Our inaugural runner-up for 2018 was PHD.
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.