by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today, we reveal which ad agency is the most digitally integrated 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 digitally integrated ad agency in South Africa

VML South Africa logo

VML South Africa (formerly NATIVE VML)

For the second year running, albeit with a new name, this agency takes the title. NATIVE VML last week announced its rebranding to VML South Africa, following the integration of Y&R South Africa into the group. While NATIVE VML had built a reputation as a full-service digital agency locally, the market has shifted towards through-the-line agencies; the rebrand and agency integration tilts it towards a full-service agency. Even before the integration, NATIVE VML had several existing integrated agency relationships, most notably with Absolut Vodka and Chivas Regal.

“Our 2018 focus will drive integration as a core theme with our existing clients,” says Kevin Lourens, VML SA chief growth officer. “We will do this by delivering integrated services that talk to the entire customer journey. We will use our media skills to accurately address the targeted audiences across every relevant channel. We will use our strategic-creative services to develop content and campaigns to connect with those audiences. And we will connect this creative communications offering into the overall customer journey to make sure that every interaction that customers have with the brand creates more equity. Finally, we will use data to measure the entire journey, making it smarter and more effective.”


In 2016, it was VML and Y&R Africa Group. In 2015, Ogilvy & Mather South Africa took this title. In 2014, 2013 and 2012, it was Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town.


The runner-up

Ogilvy logo

Ogilvy & Mather South Africa

In 2017, Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town set about a major internal restructuring process that has done away with its previous siloed approach and merged creative studios and account teams across its various specialist agencies and departments, including PR and digital. “What I have personally always loved about our best campaigns was the fact that they were difficult to define by discipline or category,” says MD Luca Gallarelli of the restructuring. “We fundamentally believed that our future would lie in a structure that deployed this kind of thinking across more, more often, faster, and with greater ease for agency staff and clients alike.”


In 2016 it was Avatar. In 2014, Publicis Machine and FCB South Africa tied as runners-up. In 2012, it was Draftfcb South Africa (now FCB Africa). King James Group and Ogilvy & Mather were named contenders in 2016. In 2015, Publicis Machine, FCB Africa and King James Group were all named as contenders.


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

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