My* Top 5 Ad Agencies To Lookout For in 2019

*My: Any top anything list will always be subjective and will always be met with; “But what about such and such, in this case, many may ask, “but what about this agency or that agency”. Therefore, the operative word being, ‘My’. ‘My’ already qualifies it as subjective, but as Mzwaai had requested, I do provide reasons as to why I think the top five (5) ad agencies are worthing looking out for in 2019.

Communication is still imperative

Ad agencies may be floundering at keeping at their relevance, but what is still and will always be relevant is communication. Communication is still imperative. I have spoken a lot about the relevance of ad agencies, but in the grand scheme of things, at the heart of agencies, is the essence of being human, i.e.: we are a species of communication, and that’s what ad agencies do; they help brands communicate and connect better to people. This is how we get things done. Whenever there’s a breakdown in communication, this ripples into the different aspects of our lives. Lack of communication results in broken homes, relationships and careers. Through communication, it is how we managed to survive up to this far.

If you think about it, our obsession with social media and smartphones, no matter how you look at it, is really an obsession with communication. We are not addicted to smartphones and social media, we are addicted to connecting to others and the world. This is what ad agencies do best, they know how to communicate creatively. The challenge that ad agencies is their inability to communicate and connect in the midst of the digital transformation. Their inability to be agile and nimble, moving away from “this is how we’ve always done things”. But that’s another story.

For the purpose of this piece, In no particular order, here is a list of MY top 5 agencies* to lookout for. These are agencies I predict to be spoken about more in 2019. I expect some genuine* award winning work.

*Genuine meaning, work that is not proactive but actual briefed in work from clients.

My top 5 agencies to lookout for in 2019

Top 5 in terms of expected creative output, in the form of ads or communication efforts*. In no particular order:

1. Net#work BBDO

With work like, the ‘E-Class #MannequinChallenge’

the ‘Return to Chapman’s Peak’, which is a great piece of work from the agency,

anything is possible. With Net#work BBDO acquiring Ford, 2019 promises to be an amazing year for creativity at the agency. I certainly look forward to it. Apart from all the creativity the agency has displayed over the years, I think the industry is in for some more creative excellence. Watch this space. And knowing Brad, I know that he’s going to push for creativity that will even help the Idols sponsorship to the next level. 

2. BlackRiver FC

With multiple account wins in 2018, I foresee a lot of great work in 2019, from all the acquired accounts. An agency that went quiet creatively, but now with the MD (Trevor) and Creative Lead (Thibs) at the helm, k’sazobalit. With their current Metropolitan work (‘After Tears’, TVC) which gives us a refreshed and less morbid look at life after death (of course driven by insight and understanding of the behaviour post a funeral), provides us with a glimpse into what the agency can do. I expect to see great work in 2019. No pressure.


If you had attended the launch of the South African Strategy Association in October, you would have gained insight into how the agency has altered its hiring process and model. Karabo Denalane, TBWA CEO, spoke of how they hire not for one has done (experience), but rather for what one is capable of doing. Based on this new approach of hiring and how intellectually diverse human resource can potentially be, I’m already excited and expecting to see a world of creative wonder. No pressure.

The reason I look forward to seeing what TBWA does next year is, if you hire differently, then the output should definitely be different. I’m just excited at the fact that the agency has broken the mould of ‘what to look for when bringing in new talent’. So really, no pressure. 

4. SixFingaz Media, MakeBeatiful, 34°

All I can say is, #Ayeye. Collectively and individually, the three agencies will be spoken about. I shall say no more. Winning what I consider to probably not be the biggest account, but certainly the most important. With where we are as a country, the state of our politics and where we are as people of different races, cultures and creed, I don’t think any other agency or group of agencies has such a huge load on their shoulders. 

Many advertising people will always exclaim, ‘We are not saving lives’. Well, with the work that landed SixFingas and Make Beautiful, they are not saving lives, but are tasked with saving a country. This is one of those instances where one should realise that advertising and marketing is not just about consumerism, it’s about influencing lives and imparting a favour behaviour change. (Next year, 2019, I will publish a thought piece on what I think the role of advertising is on the broader society – this article will be based on Castle Lager’s recent social experiment for Reconciliation Day, based on their brand campaign, #ImMoreThanThat)

The guys are working on what I consider the best brief in advertising right now. In advertising and brand marketing, brands are always fighting for peoples attention, but in 2019, no other work is probably worth paying attention to than the 2019 Elections.

PS: When you vote next year, vote with your mind, heart and soul this time around. Make it a really considered choice on your part.

5. I can’t mention by name

No, that’s not a name of an agency, I actually can’t mention the fifth agency by name, but… yesses! These guys are like the music producer who produces great artists and hit songs but never hear about them. Silently working in the background, ‘making the things that make the pots to be found’.

These guys are not your normal ad agency make, they ROI differently, which is why they are making clients notice them. I’ll be keeping my eye on them. Once this agency is ready to be named, I’ll edit this post or post a new piece and tag this one.

Some clients that have started to question the value of ad agencies have sought the services of these guys. One client has literally changed the way the ad structure works, where a lead creative agency is employed. This time around, lead creative agencies are taking lead from these guys, and they don’t even consider themselves an agency, let alone an advertising one. So in fact, I’m not how they’d feel since I’ve (not) named them with creative agencies.

Here is the amazing and incredible thing about this company, you may not see their ads, not many people will see the ads or communication efforts from a mass media point of view, but guess what, clients will see results. How crazy is that? This why they’ve attracted clients they have.

PS: ‘I can’t mention by name’ would actually make for a dope company name.

Hope that you enjoyed reading this. Please share with your network, amongst your circles.