by MarkLives (@marklives) For 2019, Chicken Licken (@ChickenLickenSA) has been voted the most-admired brand in South Africa by South African ad agency executives.

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. This is our final week of results for 2019.

Most-admired brand

Chicken Licken

Chicken Licken logoThere’s a certain level of responsibility bestowed upon an ad agency when the founder of one of South Africa’s most-iconic homegrown fast-food brands approaches it directly and, without a pitch process, appoints it lead creative agency. This is exactly what happened to Joe Public United, says Xolisa Dyeshana, chief creative officer, with Chicken Licken in mid-2016.

Says Dyeshana, “I think for us, a proudly South African company ourselves, to have this incredible South African brand with such an amazing heritage and… its founder found us and placed that responsibility in our hands, it’s just one of those things that we’ve taken with such humility and such agency around how do we take this brand forward as a brand for South Africans and by South Africans?”

The brand and its agency set itself — and the public — a challenge. Can we, as a nation, reimagine who and what we are? Can the brand change perspectives by telling relevant stories, stories that resonate with the majority of us, while ensuring that the ads are entertaining, inspiring and make a point, whether it’s to ourselves or to the rest of the world?

November 2019

May 2019

November 2018

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November 2016


Although the leadership team at Joe Public is always aware of what has and hasn’t worked before, responsibility is placed on the creatives to come up with something completely new every time, with past learnings helping to guide the bigger campaign from a commercial standpoint. The creative team is also made up of diverse, young, and enthusiastic members who all come from very different backgrounds and, for Dyeshana, this means they’re able to bring ideas that are steeped in what’s happening in South Africa today.

“Essentially, it’s that fine line between what you carry over and what you do to ensure that each execution is completely new. I think that this is what’s kept the communication so fresh for consumers because they’ve never known what to expect,” he says.

For Dyeshana, it’s also all about trust and he will never forget what George Sombonos [Sombonos passed away in 2016 — ed] , the founder of Chicken Licken, said to him: “I will not tell you how to create communication or adverts and you will not tell me how to make chicken.”


It’s this level of trust, says Dyeshana, that compels the agency to be so meticulous in how it manages the brand communication.

“Not only do people respond to the communications and its entertaining nature, they also go out and they purchase the products that we market. That balance continues to be a thing that we constantly watch and make sure that we get right. So far, it’s been a fantastic ride,” he says. “I have to give kudos to the client [which] has given us this responsibility and [which has] trusted us with this responsibility. As an agency, our purpose is growth. We believe in the growth of our people and that that leads to the growth of our clients and… our country. Chicken Licken is the perfect example of how amazingly this ecosystem can and should work.”

— Profile by Sabrina Forbes.

Previously: in 2018, it was Nando’s. In 2017, Coca-Cola tied with Volkswagen. In 2016, it was Nando’s and, in 2015, it was Coca-Cola. In 2014, the first time we polled this category, it was Coca-Cola, too, with FNB close behind Coke.


The runner-up

There is no runner-up for 2019.

Previously: There was no runner-up in 2018 but the contenders were Chicken Licken and KFC. There were also no runners-up in 2017 and 2016. In 2015, the runner-up was Nike. In 2014, the first time we polled this category, FNB was runner-up.

How the poll works

In late October 2019, we invited a panel of handpicked agency executives — in creative and management, and ranging over a wide spectrum from small- and medium-sized to network agencies — to nominate their most-admired companies and company leaders of various types of agencies. This year we conducted only a national poll, doing away with the two regional polls for Johannesburg and Cape Town. 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 and could choose not to apply these in tight races.

Note: Runner-up(s) are only named if they achieved a good nomination tally, relative to the winner’s position. Contenders are named if they stood 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 at 9.15am and 9.06am on 11 February 2020.


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