by Herman Manson (@marklives) Cape Town’s ad execs have spoken — today we reveal which agency bosses were most admired by their peers in Cape Town during the course of 2018!

Every year since 2012, MarkLives has been polling South Africa’s top ad 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. Next week will be the Joburg results, followed by the national results in two weeks’ time, and then our remaining categories.

The most-admired agency boss in Cape Town

James Barty
Co-founder & chief executive
King James Group CT

Jame Barty 2019James Barty is our most-respected agency boss in Cape Town for the fourth year running. Over the course of the last year, the King James Group CT agency revenue in Cape Town grew by 24%. Staff count is also up.

MarkLives logoHow would you describe your leadership style?
James Barty: Alistair and I have often described ourselves as “benevolent dictators”. However, I am probably more of a consensus-seeking leader but always with a strong perspective.

MarkLives logoWhat’s the best advice you could give new agency entrepreneurs?
JB: Focus on the immediate task at hand. Do not allow yourself to become caught up in ‘building castles in the sky’. And above all — cashflow, cashflow, cashflow!

MarkLives logoWhat’s the best advice on leadership you ever received/ read/ heard?
JB: Real leaders are those [who] recognise that they are in service of something greater than themselves — a vision, a team, a moral code or a culture.


Barty took the top spot in 2017, as well as in 2016 and 2015. In 2014, it was Adrian Hewlett, then CEO of Publicis Machine; in 2013, it was Gavin Levinsohn, ex-MD of Ogilvy Cape Town and, in 2012, our inaugural poll, Claire Cobbledick (then MD of The Jupiter Drawing Room Cape Town), tied with Barty for the top spot.


The runner-up

Wayne Naidoo

Wayne NaidooBeing small, experienced and independent has paid dividends for Cape Town agency, DUKE. Under the guiding hand of founder Wayne Naidoo, the agency uses a small core team of senior execs, flanked by senior freelancers. Apart from winning business and awards, DUKE has also achieved spectacular growth over the last two years: growth in the 2017 financial year stood at 186% and, in 2018, it exceeded 70%.

According to Naidoo, the agency works collaboratively with like-minded specialist agencies while building its product around clients’ needs, rather than retrofitting processes or structures.

“Integrating strategy more closely with creative provide insightful, workable, creative growth solutions for clients that deliver great results,” he says.


In 2017 our joint runners-up were Andrew Brand, 99c MD, and Jason Xenopoulos, then VML South Africa CEO and CCO. In 2016, our runner was Mike Abel, founding partner of M&C Saatchi Abel. There were no runners-up in 2014 or 2015. In 2013, Barty was runner-up; in 2012, it was Gavin Levinsohn, ex-MD of Ogilvy Cape Town.


How the poll works

In November 2018, we invited a panel of 120 agency executives — creative and management, and ranging over a wide spectrum from small- and medium-sized to network agencies — to nominate their most-admired agency and agency leaders regionally (for Johannesburg or Cape Town) and nationally (South Africa). 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 held 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.

See also


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

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