by MarkLives (@marklives) Wunderman Thompson South Africa (@wunthompson_za) has been voted newsmaker of the year in South Africa for 2019 by the editors of MarkLives; this brand-new and final category doesn’t feature runners-up. The editors weighed new business, leadership moves, industry buzz and overall business strategy in their decision. South African agency executives were able to nominate agencies and agency leaders for the accolade but the final decision was made by the editors.

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. This is our final week of results for 2019.

Newsmaker of the Year

Wunderman Thompson South Africa

Wunderman Thompson logo2019 saw the integration of agencies Wunderman South Africa and J. Walter Thompson (JWT) South Africa into Wunderman Thompson SA, with the new management team announced and new brand collateral rolled out. The new agency has revenue of over R500m and employs more than 500 people.

So successful has the integration been that GCEO Haydn Townsend has been promoted into a global client lead role and will be relocating to London in May 2020. He is being replaced by Miles Murphy, who joins the WPP agency from Publicis Groupe Africa, where he most recently served as chief operating officer.

Market traction

The newly combined agency is also finding traction in the market, picking up business from Absa (creative agency for Retail & Business Banking South Africa), Standard Bank (digital agency) and BMW Group South Africa (BMW and MINI on ATL, digital, social and direct, experiential, content and CRM).

Townsend first united Wunderman, Aqua, Applogix, Base Two and Cerebra into a single agency before taking on JWT and Mirum South Africa (formerly Quirk), integrating them into the new offering.

The new management team consists of Murphy (incoming GCEO), Avron J Berkman (GCFO), Marc Allwright (chief operating officer), Astrid Ascar (chief growth officer), Moagi Modibe (chief strategy officer), Dale Tomlinson (creative chairman) and Unati Moalusi (chief people officer).


Wunderman, JWT, The Hardy Boys and Mirum SA have all moved into a single Johannesburg office in Sandton. The Hardy Boys and Prism Sport + Entertainment are the only group agencies to retain separate identities; the former will be formally known as The Hardy Boys — a Wunderman Thompson company. While the agency group will maintain regional offices in Cape Town and Durban, these will no longer operate as separate units or have their own MDs but instead will report to the national office.

The new integrated agency is being positioned as a “creative transformation agency”, says Townsend and will cover the spectrum of communications, technology, digital, sponsorships and consulting. Each of the five will operate as a unit within the group:

  1. Wunderman Thompson Communications houses the newly integrated advertising agencies, including JWT, The Hardy Boys and Wunderman’s advertising business
  2. Wunderman Thompson Technology has taken over Mirum (formerly Quirk) and houses ecommerce and and experience design solutions,
  3. Wunderman Thompson Digital houses Wunderman’s digital advertising business,
  4. Prism Sport + Entertainment houses Wunderman’s sponsorships business, and
  5. Wunderman Thompson Consulting houses a consulting business looking beyond communication to solve client problems.

Communications is being run by Sue Napier; Consulting by Thamsanqa Moyo; Technology by Christian Mouton; and Digital by Michael Oelschig. Prism Sport + Entertainment is led by Qondisa Ngwenya.


Units will pitch for business on their own or together, as required. The group hopes that, ultimately, clients will work across all its units; when they do, they’ll fall under virtual client-centric business units whose leadership can pull resources from across the group, as needed.

Key group clients include Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Shell, Diageo and Pioneer. The integration means the combined group catapults into a Top 5 slot in terms of agency size, says Townsend, and sees a collection of deep specialists brought together to service multiple client needs.

Previously: This is the first year of this 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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