Advertising industry: The South African Cannes Lions that roared

Advertising industry: The South African Cannes Lions that roared

South Africa may have bagged just a clutch of awards at this year’s pre-eminent awards show for marketers, but it’s a case of quality, not quantity.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

South African agencies landed a number of Cannes Lions at this year’s awards shows across a number of categories, highlighting the sector’s prowess on the world stage – and what can be done with comparably smallanyana budgets.

More than 29,000 entries were submitted from across the globe to the year’s pre-eminent celebration of advertising creativity.

As in previous years, the winners, which were announced during last week, emanated from agencies with big budgets in Europe, North America and Brazil, making South Africa’s clutch of Lions impressive.

TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris was South Africa’s biggest winner at both Cannes Lions 2020 and 2021, recognised for powerful work in a range of categories.

Grey South Africa Johannesburg won two bronzes, for Direct Use of Mobile and in the Digital Craft, Technology, Native and Built-in Features category for its Savanna Cider #DecoloniseAutocorrect campaign.

The campaign has won internationally elsewhere too: One Show merits for Utility, Innovation and Transformation; a silver Digital Clio award; a bronze Loerie; and was a D&AD Impact finalist.

Joe Public United won a bronze Design Lion in the category Brand Building for its “Pride of Africa” campaign.

Ogilvy Johannesburg scooped a bronze Creative Effectiveness Lion for its Huggies “The World’s First Baby Marathon” campaign in the category Consumer Durables, while Ogilvy Cape Town won a silver Print and Publishing Lion in the category Not-for-profit/Charity/Government for “The Rape Page”, a campaign it drove for Rape Crisis.

Promise Agency Johannesburg won two Media Lions: gold in the category Use of Real-time Data and silver in the Food and Drink category for its “Cold Tracker” Castle Lite campaign.

Simone Rossum, Joe Public’s executive creative director, said it was “incredibly humbling to be in the mix”.

Entries in the Brand Building category have trended towards work that is purposeful, by either solving a societal issue or highlighting an environmental problem.

The “Pride of Africa” campaign, driven by Joburg Pride, is aimed at highlighting discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community on the continent.

“While we might celebrate a certain degree of freedom for members of the community in SA, Africa as a whole is extremely discriminate and in several countries being gay is illegal,” Rossum explained.

Joburg Pride wanted to take up the fight to represent all members of the community across the continent.

“It’s an incredibly brave client, a maverick in terms of having a vision to become the Pride of Africa. It’s an authentic piece, coming from the heart on a topical issue.”

Nic Kostouros, Promise Agency’s integrative creative director, said Castle Lite had invested a lot of money in its “extra cold” beer product development. The problem the agency had to solve was that, although the advertising had to be about “cold”, the provision of cold beer in many African markets has become increasingly challenging.

Research into why customers were not getting cold beer revealed the price of electricity as the biggest reason: outlet owners in those regions are resourceful, but beer-selling regions were switching fridges off.

From a communications position, it didn’t matter what was said to customers if they could not get a cold product.

“We realised the B2C [business-to-customer] thing wasn’t going to work. We had to come up with an interesting B2B [business-to-business] solution to a business problem, by making a cold fridge a business decision.”

Promise developed a “cold tracker”, which trades cold fridge space for advertising space, mostly in Tanzania. Real-time data are pulled on to the cold tracker platform powered by Google Maps and distributed via a leaderboard on to billboards, which tell customers where to find cold beers.

“It’s a win-win,” Kostouros said. “And we used existing tech, which is already found in all the big fast food chains, to track stock.”

Another alcohol brand, Savanna, also scored at the Lions. Fran Luckin, the chief creative officer at Grey, said its ongoing Savanna “We See SA” campaign was inspired by how autocorrect changes meaning and they wanted to have fun with it while providing a solution for customers.

“Our digital creative director at the time, Francois du Preez, discovered a hack that if you save a word in your contact files, autocorrect doesn’t change it.”

So Grey created a contact file of Afrikaans, Sesotho, isiZulu, Xitsonga, isiXhosa and Shangaan words that autocorrect usually changes. It shared that on a Savanna mobi site.

“We’re giving the community something useful. It is user-generated so there’s no limit to how many words you can have in a contact file. It uses tech built into the phone.”

Ogilvy Cape Town and the Rape Crisis Trust won a Silver Lion in the Print: Not-for-Profit category for their “The Rape Page”, raising awareness about rape and as a resource for survivors.

Through its partnership with Rape Crisis, it identified areas in Cape Town with the highest rape statistics, designed a double-page print ad and placed it in the centrefold of the Athlone News newspaper. Local radio stations and celebrities were brought on board to help build awareness.

TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris won five Lions for its “Blame No More” rape victim campaign, which is a call for change from Hype Magazine and the Tears Foundation.

“It was designed to help change the narrative on victim blaming and rape culture as it shines a light on the moral and logical absurdity of accusing someone of their own rape,” chief creative officer Pete Khoury says.

Success would be measured in how far and wide the conversation spread.

“#BlameNoMore stimulated dialogue and debate in places it had never previously done before… Within the hip-hop industry, which is often accused of perpetuating gender-based violence through stereotyping of women, Hype has been able to position itself as a force for positive change.”

As a creative company, TBWA devotes time, resources and energy into such projects every year, using the power of storytelling not just to build brands and sell products, but also to bring awareness to issues that can have a positive impact.

Its five Lions were won in “robust” and interesting categories: a Gold Lion in the Entertainment category for branded content, which blurs the lines between advertising and entertainment.

“Here work needs to demonstrate that it’s unskippable, cuts through and connects consumers in a new way,” Khoury said. “We won two Silver Lions in the Film Craft category for direction and for casting. If you have seen the film, you will know why.

It also won a bronze Lion in Film, the hardest category to win anything in because you are going up against the world’s biggest and most powerful brands that bring money and celebrities to the table.

“It just shows that if you have a powerful, simple idea that is executed beautifully, your work can still cut through.”

The award Khoury is most proud of is the bronze Glass Lion, which recognises work that addresses issues of gender equality or prejudice through the conscious representation of gender in advertising.

TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris also received three shortlists for a campaign for Nissan, titled “SHWI”. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.


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