by Herman Manson (@marklives) The annual poll by the MarkLives team amongst South Africa’s leading agency executives has already revealed which agencies, agency leaders and creatives are most admired by regional peers. This set today’s results rather nicely: which city will play host to the most-admired agency an ad execs in the country? Will it be Johannesburg with Joe Public or Cape Town with Ogilvy Cape Town?


It was virtually a clean sweep for Ogilvy Cape Town in the mother city. The agency took top honours as the most-admired agency in Cape Town (as voted for by its peers in Cape Town); Chris Gotz emerged  as the city’s most-admired creative director; and its former MD, Gavin Levinsohn, was named as the most-admired agency exec in the city.

The agency was also voted the best at integrated thinking by agency bosses. Machine emerged as the ‘One to watch’ — the one agency rival execs are keeping a close eye on.

In Johannesburg, Joe Public managed a similar feat, taking honours as the most admired-agency in the city and its chief creative officer Pepe Marais taking most-admired creative director and its MD Gareth Leck the most-admired Jozi agency boss. Quirk emerged as the agency to watch.

In terms of executives voting, the numbers stood 52% vs 45% in favour of Johannesburg (3% of execs did not reside in either city and voted only in the national poll). Nobody could nominate his or her own agency or staff. All the nominations were then tallied up to see whom adland’s highest decision makers most admire*. You may view the 2012 results here.

Most-admired agency

Most admired: Ogilvy Cape Town.
Joe Public
Runner-up: Joe Public.

Most admired: Ogilvy Cape Town
Runner-up: Joe Public
Joint second runners-up: FoxP2, King James

The most-admired South African ad agency in 2013 was Ogilvy Cape Town. The agency drew 41% of all nominations, followed by Joe Public with 22% of nominations, and King James and FoxP2 with 18.5% each.

Ogilvy Cape Town picked up various pieces of integrated  business over the past year, including Flying Fish Flavoured Beer — SAB, WeChat — Naspers, News24, Careers24, RubyBox — Media24, DirectAxis and PSI (USAID-funded condom launch for Salama condoms into Tanzania). It also leads the Creative Leaderboard compiled by journalist Tony Koenderman. Revenue grew by 89% and staff grew by 42% in 2013.

Runner-up Joe Public was the most-admired agency in Johannesburg in our regional poll. Recent accounts wins include Tempest Car Hire, as well as Steers. Joint second runners-up FoxP2 and King James are both Cape Town agencies making waves in the Johannesburg scene through backing start-up agencies in that city.

Most-admired creative director

Chris Gotz
Most admired: Chris Gotz, chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather South Africa.
Justin Gomes
Runner-up: Justin Gomes, ECD at FoxP2.

Most admired: Chris Gotz, chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather South Africa
Runner-up: Justin Gomes, executive creative director at FoxP2

The most-admired creative director in South Africa is Chris Gotz, chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather South Africa. Gotz helped propel Ogilvy Cape Town to the lead of Tony Koenderman’s Creative Leaderboard through work on numerous brands including Carling Black Label, VW and Cape Town.

Justin Gomes is ECD at FoxP2. Under his creative leadership, the agency maintains a strong position on Tony Koenderman’s Creative Leaderboard. Last year, his radio campaign won a Grand Prix at the 2013 Loerie Awards.

Most-admired agency boss

Gavin Levinsohn
Most admired: Gavin Levinsohn, ex-MD, Ogilvy Cape Town.
Gareth Leck
Runner-up: Gareth Leck, CEO, Joe Public.

Most admired: Gavin Levinsohn, ex-MD, Ogilvy Cape Town
Runner-up: Gareth Leck, CEO, Joe Public

In 2013, Gavin Levinsohn was the most-admired agency leader in the country as judged by his peers. The former MD of Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town recently left the agency to join the Moon Communications Group in Australia as its CEO.

Andrew Brand, MD at 99cents, believes Levinsohn ushered in a new era for Ogilvy Cape Town. “They are arguably the best agency in South Africa right now and they have managed to integrate off- and online better than most agencies,” he says.

Levinsohn started his career at The Jupiter Drawing Room Cape Town as a junior account executive and worked his way up to become client service director. In 2006, he became MD and co-founder of agency singh&sons, before joining Ogilvy Cape Town in late 2008.

Gareth Leck leads Joe Public, the hottest agency in Johannesburg, and one of the hottest agencies nationally.

Levinsohn drew 29% of the total number of eligible nominations, while Leck drew 24% in a close poll. John Dixon from Draftfcb (and now on his way to BrandsRock) drew 19% of the nominations.

Most integrated

Most integrated: Ogilvy Cape Town.

Ogilvy Cape Town was the only one to pull more than a single nomination. It is the undisputed leader in this category as judged by its peers.

One to watch

Machine Agency
One to watch: Machine.

Machine, which positions itself as a BTL agency with real digital savvy, was judged the agency to watch by SA’s agency leaders.

This year, it added Nandos (Digital), Miller (MGD), Pick n Pay Smartshopper, Nampak Lifestyle, Happy Me and Adidas to its client roster. Its ability to transition from its digital roots has given major execs pause for thought, making it less clear that it’s the traditional agency set that will swallow up the digital, as against the promise of industry-wide renewal wrought by agencies born digital .

Says the co-founder of Avatar, Veli Ngubane, regarding the agency: “Machine is part of the new group of agencies that represent the future of our industry by understanding the role of technology in communication as an integral part of delivering integrated messages. Machine is born out of digital thinking and this agency represents the new age of owner-managed South African entrepreneurial start up advertising agencies.”

Felix Kessel, co-founder of agency OwenKessel agrees, saying he likes the way Machine MD Adrian Hewlett thinks and approaches his business.

“He started digital with some good digital media and social media savvy, and he’s expanded well into an idea-oriented agency that works across media,” says Kessel. “His is one of the few that has effectively made that transition. The growing awards roster is proof. He’s one to watch.”

*Only agencies or agency staff who received more than a single nomination were included when we worked out voting percentages.

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