by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today, we reveal which ad agency is the most admired in South Africa! This is part of this week’s announcement of the 2017 MarkLives Agency Leaders’ Most Admired Poll results for South Africa. Over the past two weeks, we have announced the regional results from Cape Town and Joburg.

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-admired ad agency in South Africa

King James Group logoKing James Group

Independent agency group, King James, continues to be South Africa’s most-admired agency for the second year in a row.

Year-on-year revenue growth stood at 19% during 2017 as Allan Gray returned to the fold. After winning the retail business for the launch of Tyme Digital by Commonwealth Bank SA in South Africa, King James was awarded the full account after six months on the account; it will now be responsible for all elements of launching the brand into the local market in 2018.

“As we near our 20th birthday, our agency has continued to achieve creative success in the delivery of truly channel-neutral integrated work that draws on all of the respective specialist disciplines housed within the King James Group,” says group MD James Barty, our joint runner-up most-admired ad agency boss in South Africa for 2017 and our most-admired agency boss in Cape Town for 2017. “This success was evidenced through the recognition received for Sanlam’s One Rand Family, Sanlam’s Conspicuous Savers and New Balance’s iComrades at One Show, the Loeries and the Bookmarks.”


King James Group won in 2016 and Joe Public United took top honours in 2015. From 2012, up to and including 2014, Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town was the top-rated agency in SA for three years running.


The runners-up (tied)

Ogilvy logo

Joe Public United

Ogilvy & Mather South Africa

Joe Public United

2017 was an excellent year for Ogilvy & Mather South Africa on pretty much every measure, including revenue growth, agency structure, people, creative performance and industry recognition, says Luca Gallarelli, Ogilvy Cape Town MD. “On the new business front, we were able to compete for and convert both Investec [and] a portion of Tiger brands late last year. Both were awarded on the back of our revised operating model expanded up by our Next Chapter vision for how we’re configuring ourselves as both individual offices and group.

The agency was also successful at landing assignments and brands through its specialist disciplines covering both PR and influence, and digital, including some digital transformation and innovation projects.

“Creatively, we enjoyed what could only be termed stellar,” he continues. “Probably our best year ever. It started in fine style with a yet another Cannes Grand Prix Radio win. This is the third Grand Prix achieved and, interestingly, the only three ever achieved in this category by Ogilvy globally. Mariana O’Kelly was recently acknowledged by Ogilvy Worldwide as one of the leading executive creative directors in the network and appointed to the Ogilvy Creative Council, assuming one of just 12 positions. A tremendous accolade for one of our creative leaders.”

Joe Public United regains its position as one of SA’s most-admired agencies after falling out of the top three during our 2016 poll. It is also one of our joint most-admired ad agencies in Jozi for 2017.

Last year, it won South African Breweries’ Castle Milk Stout account in addition to Redd’s and Brutal Fruit.

It also won business from Adcock Ingram, British American Tobacco and Cell-C.Staff numbers grew by 40% (December 2017 compared to December 2016) and revenue grew by 37% for the period Jan–Dec 2017 (compared to Jan–Dec 2016).


In 2016, FCB Africa was the runner-up and, in 2015, it was King James Group. In 2014, results replicated 2013 exactly — with Joe Public Group as runner-up and joint second runners-up being FoxP2 and King James. In 2012, our inaugural poll, the runner-up was King James Group.


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 South African results


Herman Manson 2017Herman 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