by Herman Manson (@marklives) Today we reveal, as part of our annual Agency Leaders poll, which Johannesburg agency fellow ad execs feel is the “one to watch” in 2019 — the agency from which they expect great things in the year ahead!

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. Last week we revealed the Cape Town results, and the national results come next week, and our remaining categories the week after.

The one to watch in Jozi!

The Odd Number staff pic. Source:

The Odd Number

It’s not the first time The Odd Number has been chosen by Joburg peers as the Jozi agency most expect to do great things in the year to come — in 2016, the agency tied with R\VERBED for the One to Watch in Jozi for 2017. Additionally, it took the national title in 2017 as the One to Watch in South Africa in 2018, as well as being Joint 2017 Most Admired Ad Agency in Jozi. Chief creative officer and co-founder Sibusiso “Sbu” Sitole, who’s also featured several times in our poll results over the last few years, received in invitation to judge The One Show Awards in 2019.

This independent, black-owned agency has been busy and has experienced a 129% compounded growth rate since its inception in 2015. New client wins in 2018 included Adcock Ingram, Nedbank, Assupol, AB InBev, Cricket SA and Viu, with other 2018 achievements being its four Bronze Loeries and one Gold Pendoring; the acquisition of an equity stake in digital agency, Hoorah; and the January 2019 appointment of ex-Ogilvy creative, Terry McKenna, as the agency’s newest ECD.

The biggest challenge The Odd Number faced in 2018 was accusations of copyright infringement by MMS (MMS Communications is the multidoor operation agency of Publicis Group) and McDonald’s that caused the agency to lose the Wimpy account. Xola Nouse, CEO and co-founder, says the matter was resolved as of December 2018, releasing the following joint statement: “McDonald’s and The Odd Number are pleased to share the news that they have agreed to put their recent dispute, surrounding a television advert the agency produced for Wimpy, behind them. The Odd Number regret[s] the unfortunate sequence of events leading up to the dispute and McDonald’s recognise[s] no harm was intended.”

Work that stood out during the course of 2018 was the Brand SA Freedom Day campaign and the launch of the Cricket SA T20 Mzansi Super League.

Looking to 2019, Nouse and Sitole believe the agency is well-geared to continue on its growth path, both creatively and commercially, and aim to further invest in their clients’ success, as well as their own.

— Profile by Sabrina Forbes.

Previously: R\VERBED was the One to Watch for 2018; R\VERBED and The Odd Number tied for 2017; Promise for 2016; and no agency was named for 2015. Quirk took the honours in 2014.



There is no runner-up One to Watch for 2019. The Make Beautiful Agency was runner-up for 2018, and Avatar for 2017. King James II (now King James Group Jhb) was our runner-up for 2016 and there were no runners-up named for 2015 and 2014.


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

Updated on 15 February 2019.


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

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