by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today, we reveal which ad agency Johannesburg’s ad execs consider the most digitally integrated in the city! This is part of this week’s announcement of the 2017 MarkLives Agency Leaders’ Most Admired Poll results for Johannesburg. Next week will be the national results; last week we revealed the Cape Town results.

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. We ask them who’s got digital integration right and — for the first time — who’s done best on transformation.


The most digitally integrated ad agency in Jozi

FCB Africa logoFCB Africa

“Digital integration is something that we as a group have been focused on for more than a decade but that really hit its stride five years ago when we acquired Hellocomputer, one of the leading digital agencies in the country,” says Brett Morris, FCB Africa GCEO and GCCO and our 2017 most-admired agency boss in Jozi. “It’s due in large part to this partnership that FCB Africa now offers one of the leading, fully integrated solutions on the continent to some of the country’s largest blue chip clients.

“At the centre of our approach is the ability to deliver agnostic strategy, concept and campaign that is able to span all aspects of product and platform. This puts the idea at the centre and, while there is always need for specialisation, there are no siloed domains and it’s built on an integrated mindset. This has to be a ‘mindset’, rather than a structure, as disciplines need to be constantly overlapping and problem-solving, rather than just being part of a structure. We prefer to look at it as an ‘operating system’ that provides the framework for agility and exponential value.”

According to Morris, this mindset is pervasive and covers everything from strategy to concept to production. FCB Africa’s digital integration also includes some practical elements such as a “Never Finished” approach to learning. Training for all employees (not just strategists and creatives) are ongoing; there’s also a production facility that allows it to roll out high-value content at scale while remaining agile. “The more we hone this approach, the more value we have been able to extract from the core creative, and this value is being realised on a daily basis in every campaign we execute,” he says.

Morris highlights the following campaigns as proof of FCB Africa’s digital prowess.

  • #ItCanWait, a PSA for the Western Cape Government’s Safely Home initiative from FCB Cape Town that went viral and ignited social media platforms around the world, with over 30m views on the Daily Mail Online alone, as well as being used by traffic law enforcement agencies in the UK and America.
  • Testi-monials, a campaign from FCB Cape Town and Hellocomputer Cape Town for CANSA.
  • #namethemsavethem from FCB Cape Town for The Amarula Trust, which was rolled out in Amarula’s major international markets. It linked to a web site designed in conjunction with Liquorice Digital Innovation that allowed people to create and name their own virtual elephants, and share those using social media. This attracted over 2m views and each unique user spent over 10 minutes engaging with its content. In the US alone, sales for the brand increased by 138%.
  • The 2016 #AygoParentPitch campaign from FCB Joburg, a Facebook-only campaign that significantly beat the targets the team set itself by delivering 50% more impressions and 988% more clicks. The 2017 Aygo campaign adopted a similar strategy and committed 90% of its budget to digital.



In 2016, 2015 and 2014, it was Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg. No agency was awarded the title in 2013 but Draftfcb (now FCB Africa) took the title in 2012, our inaugural poll.


The runner-up

VML South Africa logo

VML South Africa (formerly NATIVE VML)

Yesterday, Thursday 15 February 2018, MarkLives revealed that the Y&R brand is exiting the South African market as the last office of the agency, in Johannesburg, is being integrated into VML South Africa. This was announced as VML SA charts a new course towards a full-service offering, including a management shakeup at the agency.

While NATIVE VML has built a reputation as a full-service digital agency locally, the market has shifted towards through-the-line agencies and, by collapsing Y&R SA into the group and leaning on the international umbrella brand, VML SA is positioned to take advantage of this trend.

Even before the integration, NATIVE VML had several existing integrated agency relationships, most notably with Absolut Vodka and Chivas Regal.



FCB Africa and Avatar were named contenders in 2016. Publicis Machine and FCB Africa were our contenders in 2015.


How the poll works

Towards the end of 2017, we invited agency executives to nominate their most-admired agency, creative leader and most-admired agency both in their region (Johannesburg or Cape Town) and nationally. We also asked them which agency did the best at digital integration and at transformation (a new question), and which agency they saw as the one to watch in the future. 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 had two votes in the final poll.

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 stand 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.

Previous Jozi results


Herman Manson 2017Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of

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