by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today we reveal, as part of our annual Agency Leaders poll, which pitch consultant agency execs are most likely to recommend to a client.

MarkLives logoEvery 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. The first week we ran our Cape Town results, the second week our Joburg results, and last week our South African results. This week, we run our remaining categories.

The most-recommended pitch consultant in South Africa


Yardstick logoTwenty-year-old marketing management consulting company, Yardstick, has taken back the title for Most Admired Pitch Consultant for 2018. New client wins such as Alton, Coronation, Edward Snell, Pepkor, Pioneer Foods, Standard Bank, and McCain Foods, among others, helped to secure the double-digit year-on-year revenue growth the consultancy experienced last year. This growth rate is expected again in 2019 and beyond, according to Johan van der Westhuizen, managing director.

Van der Westhuizen recalls significant achievements in 2018 being assisting some of South Africa’s largest blue-chip companies to strategically review and restructure their portfolio of agency accounts, while facilitating the pitch process of some of the country’s most sought-after accounts. Adding to these achievements, he says, was the bottom-line value the pitch consultancy’s ongoing commercial and assurance services have generated for its clients, as well as the growth of its proprietary client evaluation and performance incentive programme, Y-CARE.

“We are extremely proud of the shareholder value that we have created for our clients and the new standards of excellence that we have set in the marketing and communications industry,” says Van der Westhuizen. According to him, challenges facing the consultancy (and the industry at large), will continue from what was experienced in 2018 well into 2019. These include flat client budgets and rising costs; inexperienced agencies and clients; the consolidation in agency rosters, resulting in fewer but much larger accounts; and the impact of this on smaller agencies and new entrants. In addition, 2019 trends that should be taken into account include shorter planning horizons and agency contracts, the growth of client investment in digital and social platforms, the fragmentation of audiences, complex agency/business models and practices, a larger focus on data and automation, and ever-increasing measurability and accountability for all parties.

— Profile by Sabrina Forbes.

Previously: In 2017, it was IAS. In 2016, 2015 and 2014, it was Yardstick every time.


The runner-up

Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS)

IAS Independent Agency Search and Selection Company logo“2018 [was] a huge growth year for the IAS as the number of pitches that we continue to do… effectively doubled, as well as the nature of the work that we do,” says Johanna McDowell, IAS managing director. “With more than 73% of all agency appointments decided via a pitch process (source: agencyScope 2017), it is no wonder that pitching plays such a big role in the industry.

“This is also reflected in the number of agency management exercises we [did last] year, including our well-known Honeymoon Helper process for early days of the client/agency relationship, as well as the more-established TLC study which seeks to uncover the relationship ‘nuggets’ that can easily undermine the success of an ongoing relationship between an agency and a brand,” she says.

“The IAS business speed-dating programme was introduced earlier in 2018. This programme was aimed at pairing senior marketing and procurement professionals and black-owned agencies, in an effort to offer marketing and procurement executives the opportunity to meet 100% black-owned communication agencies.

“The relationship between the IAS and SCOPEN [became] closer, with both businesses being direct partners in each other business. This new development will see the IAS being SCOPEN Africa’s on-the-ground partner, and gives us far more focus and the ability to follow local trends throughout the year.”

Previously: In 2017, Yardstick was the runner-up. Before that, in 2016, 2015 and 2014, it was IAS.


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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