by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today we reveal which agency South Africa’s ad execs consider the most digitally integrated in the country.

Every year since 2012, MarkLives has been polling South Africa’s top 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. First we announced the 2016 regional results from Cape Town, and last week we announced the 2016 regional results from Johannesburg. This week is dedicated to national results.

2016 Regional polls recap

  • Cape Town: Last week, we announced Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town. VML and Y&R Africa Group and King James Group were the joint runners up.
  • Johannesburg: Here the vote went to Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg, with AVATAR and FCB Africa named joint runners-up.

The most digitally integrated ad agency in South Africa

Native VML Cape Town. Source: VML website.

VML and Y&R Africa Group

That the VML and Y&R Africa Group managed to beat strong integrated contenders such as Ogilvy & Mather South Africa and AVATAR indicates the level of excitement in the market at seeing how VML and Y&R’s integration strategy succeeds. It’s early days yet — too early for group CEO, Jason Xenopoulos, to really discuss the integration process — but, he says, the partnership between Y&R, Labstore and NATIVE VML is off to a fantastic start.

“In a few short months, we have won two major accounts as an integrated team: Edgars and Amstel,” he says. “Both were highly contested pitches against some of the country’s leading agencies… but Y&R’s awesome creative leadership capabilities and the group’s uniquely integrated offering won through.

VML and Y&R Africa Group is not a single agency: Y&R, Labstore, and NATIVE VML continue to operate as separate, individual agencies servicing their own clients, but the group structure allows it to provide an integrated service to clients who want it. “The teams are working well together and we have started to streamline the systems and processes required to operate in a truly integrated ways,” continues Xenopoulos.

“The biggest barrier at the moment is geography. The intention is to bring Y&R, Labstore, and NATIVE VML physically closer by co-locating the Joburg teams in one office park, but there are some basic logistical issues [such as existing leases] that need to be overcome first. The closer alignment between the agencies now means that Y&R is able to provide digital services to all its clients [in the same way that it’s has been able to provide shopper marketing expertise to existing clients through its partnership with Labstore]. Similarly, NATIVE VML can now provide clients with a truly integrated, through-the-line service, confident that it has all the backup necessary in terms of classical advertising and brand building.”


In 2015 Ogilvy & Mather South Africa took this title. In 2014, 2013 and 2012, it was Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town.


The runner-up


AVATAR logoOnly one vote separated AVATAR from the VML and Y&R Africa Group. AVATAR was launched by Zibusiso Mkhwanazi and Veli Ngubane in 2012. In January 2017, it was announced that Mkhwanazi and Ngubane had acquired a significant minority stake in M&C Saatchi’s South African agency network. This has allowed M&C Saatchi PLC to acquire a 20% stake in AVATAR from Avatar Investment Holdings.

AVATAR is more than a digital agency, explains Mkhwanazi, and it is more than a traditional agency. “We are an integrated agency with digital at the core, led by mass consumer insights. We are in a fortunate position that we were born as an integrated agency with digital at the core from day one, when the agency was formed in 2012. Communication, process and education between departments, offices and people is key so that the left hand and the right hand know what the other is doing. This ensures that our AvaStars in various digital and traditional departments work under a single strategy and idea, and are pulling in one direction.”


In 2014, Publicis Machine and FCB South Africa tied as runners-up. In 2012, it was Draftfcb South Africa (now FCB Africa).


The contenders

Ogilvy & Mather logo King James Group logoOgilvy & Mather South Africa and King James Group (tied)


In 2015, Publicis Machine, FCB Africa and King James Group were all named as contenders.


How the poll works

Towards the end of 2016, South Africa’s agency leaders were invited to nominate their most-admired agency in SA, the most-admired creative leader in SA and the most-admired agency boss in SA. We also asked them which agency did the best at digital integration and which agency they saw as the one to watch in the future. Nobody could nominate his or her own agency or staff members. All the nominations were then tallied up for the final result. The editors of MarkLives had a single vote in the poll. The most admired agency of the year is disqualified from the One to Watch category; votes cast in its favour in this category is discarded.

Note: Runner-up(s) will only be 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.

See previous poll results for South Africa:


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

Sign up now for the MarkLives email newsletter every Monday and Thursday, now including headlines from the company newsroom service!


Published by Herman Manson is edited by Herman Manson. Follow us on Twitter -

Online CPD Courses Psychology Online CPD Courses Marketing analytics software Marketing analytics software for small business Business management software Business accounting software Gearbox repair company Makeup artist