Ogilvy Johannesburg reigned supreme at the 2018 FM AdFocus Awards. It won both the Overall Agency of the Year in 2018 and the Large Agency of the Year award, while executive creative director (ECD) Mariana O’Kelly was named the AdFocus Industry Leader of the year.
It’s no surprise that Ogilvy Johannesburg took the top awards at AdFocus – the agency has had a particularly impressive year, with all areas of the business performing extremely well, significant success at local and international award shows as well as revenue growth. On an individual level, O’Kelly was also rated as one of the world’s top 12 ECDs in Gunn Report’s global agency review, with the agency’s Pete Case making the top 10 list of chief creative officers.
Other big winners included FCB Johannesburg, which won the Partnership of the Year award for its relationship with Toyota. “One of the key elements this award looks for is whether the partnership is an enduring one that produces great work and how innovative that work is,” comments Johanna McDowell, founder and chief executive of Independent Agency Search & Selection and partner at Scopen Africa, the sponsors of this award. “Toyota and FCB have had a long relationship that could have become stale, and yet the partnership has managed to create a level of freshness and innovation within the campaigns that have clearly delivered the desired results.”
King James scooped the Medium Agency of the Year award. King James is no stranger to the AdFocus Awards, having won five times over the past 10 years. It’s been a year of positive performance for the company over all – revenue has grown both organically and from new account wins. The agency has bagged a number of creative awards and has a Level 1 B-BBEE rating. The agency’s founders have been individually acknowledged this year: Alistair King was inducted into the Creative Circle Hall of Fame, while James Barty was made a member of the Loeries awards board as well as chairman of the Association for Communication & Advertising.
Collective ID has risen like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes – fighting its way back after the disastrous fate of Ireland/Davenport (its previous name) – under the leadership of Brenda Khumalo and Qingqile Mdlulwa. The agency won 2018’s Small Agency of the Year award. As a majority black-owned agency, Collective ID is vocal about its commitment to the transformation of SA’s ad industry, making it unsurprising that the agency also won the Transformation award this year. Khumalo looks forward to 2019, saying that the agency is seeking clients who also live by the credo of transformation and diversity.
The Specialist Agency of the Year award once again went to Grid Worldwide – it has won this award seven times in the 12 years in which it has been in existence. Grid Worldwide has won multiple awards for its prowess in the branding and design space. It was also a watershed year for founder Nathan Reddy, who was inducted into the Loeries Hall of Fame earlier this year – a significant achievement, as he is not only the youngest person to have achieved this accolade, but also the only designer to have done so.
The Dentsu Aegis Network won the African Impact Award, recognition of the global agency’s winning strategy of setting up operations. According to the Dentsu Group, this is imperative if the work is to be culturally relevant and demonstrate the continent’s diversity. 
TMI Media was the independent media agency of the year for the second year running. This year TMI Media celebrated immense growth of 666% between May last year and April 2018.
Vizeum won network agency of the year. Part of Dentsu Aegis, the agency’s annual billings were significantly increased over the judging period, and a number of new accounts were acquired, including Telkom and ABI, making it the obvious winner in a closely competitive race. 
Ludi Koekemoer was the deserving winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to writing a host of marketing and advertising textbooks, Koekemoer has a remarkable 40 years in the industry as a marketing and advertising industry expert as well as a teacher in more recent years.  “Throughout my career I have continued to focus on the power of facts to support my strategies and proposals. I’ve always maintained that someone without facts to support their beliefs is just another person with an opinion,” he says.
This year’s New Broom Award, presented to up-and-coming shape-shifters and innovators, was won by Karabo Poppy Moletsane. Since graduating from the Open Window School of Visual Communication, her work as a graphic designer, illustrator and street artist has won her international acclaim – and she’s managed this without an affiliation to any agency. Moletsane’s remarkable work is inspired, she reveals, by everyday SA culture.
Red & Yellow student Felicity Davies took the Student of the Year Award, along with a cash prize of R35,000. Hailing from England, Davies came to SA originally to work for an organisation fighting human trafficking, and discovered a talent for design in the process. Rated by her lecturers as strategically driven, with a knack for target-market definition, Davies is proactive about finding better ways to do things.
Jeremy Maggs, AdFocus editor, revealed that the judging process was extensive. “This year’s winners are representative of the best-performing agencies in 2018. The judges were highly interrogative of business performance in a particularly tough operating environment where brands have become much more demanding in terms of performance and the ability to understand unique needs in an increasingly fragmented market. Winning agencies this year are the ones that have shown resilience, high strategic ability and creative excellence.”
AdFocus jury chair Phumi Mashigo said: “In advertising we are used to competing, and have become very good at entering awards or putting our best foot forward for judges. In this exceptionally tight economy the level of creativity displayed by the entrants when showcasing their wares made for very robust judging sessions and the winners are a real testament to the fact that where creativity leads, profits follow.” 
Mashigo noted her pleasure at the change in the profiles of the judges, with new people representing different agencies. “I’m delighted with the finalists of the shape shifter award because it’s an indication of where this business of ours is going. I am also extremely happy with the Lifetime Achievement award, because I still believe that the best way to keep our business sustainable is by grooming young people and equipping them with the knowledge of how things used to work so that they can redefine how they should work. Good foundations hold up very high skyscrapers.”
The MediaShop sponsored the wi-fi on the evening of the awards, held last night in Johannesburg.
The 2018 Financial Mail AdFocus Award winners are:
Lifetime Achiever Award:  Prof. Ludi Koekemoer
Shapeshifter Award:  Karabo Poppy Moletsane
Industry Leader of the Year:  Mariana O’Kelly
Agency of the Year:  Ogilvy Johannesburg
Small Advertising Agency of the Year:  Collective ID
Medium Advertising Agency of the Year:  King James Group
Large Advertising Agency of the Year:  Ogilvy Johannesburg
Specialist Agency of the Year:  Grid Worldwide
Partnership of the Year (sponsored by IAS/Scopen):  FCB Joburg / Toyota
Transformation Award:  Collective ID
Independent Media Agency of the Year:  TMI Media
Network Media Agency of the Year:  Vizeum
African Impact Award:  Dentsu Aegis Network
Student of the Year:  Felicity Davies
Financial Mail Creative Challenge:  M&C Saatchi Abel
The Financial Mail AdFocus Magazine is SA’s largest brand communication review, and will be distributed with the Financial Mail on 29 November 2018.