With all the talk of the power of social media in marketing, the two MCs of this year’s Loerie Awards couldn’t be more important.
At the Saturday evening award ceremony held on 17 September in Cape Town, legendary news presenter Riaan Cruywagen took flight like a toupee’d phoenix, his resurrection prophesised by the Loeries’ viral film showing Cruywagen in a suit and tie, sizzling in a jacuzzi with a bevy of bikini clad babes.
Then on Sunday night, the red eyes of the audience were caught in the sweeping red glare of Knight Rider’s KIT, signalling the ascent of that crime fighting, lifesaving, Bavarian pop legend, David Hasselhoff.
Both evenings were short, punchy affairs that everyone appreciated after the marathon sessions of recent years. The focus was on showcasing the winners and presenting the metal, interspersed periodically by the antics of the two icons. Their legends are in our minds, on our tongues and on the Internet. Both have embraced this and as ‘The Hoff’ declared on the Loerie stage: “I am the ultimate example of an integrated campaign.”
They’re the butt of our jokes, the colour of our conversation and the stars of the videos we transfer in the digital playground. Their social media cred is exemplary.
The irony is that there was not much attention given to social media in terms of awards. As Mandy De Waal in her opinion piece, The Ad Dysfunction, for online news source, Daily Maverick, said: “Many of this year’s Loeries don’t matter all that much anymore,” implying that the industry should focus more on the Internet, mobile and social networks to drive marketing.
Adrian Miller, one of the Loerie jury heads, added: “South Africa still has a way to go in the integrated and digital space. We seem to concentrate more on traditional mediums like TV, radio and print.”
But, as most of the South African advertising, media and marketing people agree, traditional media is still the best way to reach the market at home and in the rest of Africa. This doesn’t mean our advertising folk lack the talent to spread their message. As the word ‘social’ implies, the effect of advertising in South Africa goes beyond traditional media. It enters the conversation, be it over the bar counter, around the braai, or on the web. It speaks to the power of South African creativity to communicate, no matter the restrictions.
Probably the finest example of this is the Drive Dry campaign by Fox P2. Loerie winner in TV, Print, Radio,Viral and a few other categories, the campaign plays on the theme of dating. Rough looking convicts are interviewed as they vie for the chance to meet you. It’s controversial because it plays on the stigma of prison rape, but it’s also a new take on the implications of drinking and driving because it doesn’t push the guilt button and rather works on the viewers psyche by implying that, if you get caught, you could end up in prison as a hardened criminal’s bitch.
The campaign has great social cred. It is widely talked about. The impact has been such that it has coined a catch phrase: “Pappa wag vir jou”. Even taxi drivers have been known to put their inebriated customers at ease by declaring: “Pappa’s not gonna get you tonight.”
Local not local enough
For all the industry’s focus on traditional media in South Africa, there was a lack of awarded work that really exemplified our traditions. Some industry folk say part of the reason is a drive to create work that appeals to international award juries. Another reason is that the aspiration of our audiences often tends to be ‘western’. We do, however, see a lot of advertising that plays on typically South African characters, but not much of it seems to be deserving of an award.
There were a few exceptions. Two gold Loeries went to student, Lubabalo Mtati, for his contemporary designs for posters, skateboards and t-shirts. As Mtati says: “My aim was to create awareness, revive pride and provoke thought about the loss of tradition in South Africa.” His work does it in a way that appeals to black youth by reviving indigenous themes in a modern style.
Another exception was Saatchi & Saatchi Cape Town’s campaign for Sasko Flour. They picked up a bronze award for a recipe book that revives iconic African motifs in a contemporary style. The book is wrapped in a contemporised Shwe-Shwe apron, the pocket of which has a conversion table printed upside down so the wearer can read it while she is baking.
A silver was awarded for their calender of which the fabric ‘pages’ can be torn off and used as tea towels at the end of the month. The campaign not only shows an appreciation for the cultural identity of the market but, very importantly, it shows a deep understanding of their needs.
As creative director Sammy-Jane Thom explains: “I think that there is a fine line between Afro-chic and Afro-relevancy. There is a place for ‘African’ style but the motives behind it need to be examined, as that will determine how the local market receives it.”
The last awarded piece in this regard was Spoek Mathambo’s gold winning music video, Control, directed by Michael Cleary and Pieter Hugo. The latter’s influence on contemporary African photography is profound and his work is lauded internationally. It has inspired Beyonce’s latest video, Run the World (Girls). The dance moves are also based on our own Pantsula. Another less popular but incredibly powerful music video that references Hugo’s work directly is Nick Cave and Grinderman’s, Heathen Child.
This points to ‘western’ taste for contemporary African culture and could prove the assumption that international award juries have no taste for it, wrong.
At the D&AD awards this year, the only South African piece awarded a yellow pencil was Sean Metellercamp’s music video for Die Antwoord, Zef Side. The South African rap group has won worldwide acclaim and this video exemplifies their ‘Sefrican white
There are examples in the larger sphere as Neil Blomkamp’s District 9 and Lauren Beukes’ international award winning novel, Zoo City, show. Part of their success, both locally and abroad, is that they ignite the imagination by mixing science fiction – a typically ‘western’ theme – with contemporary South Africa. This highlights the cross-cultural trade in ideas. As Festus Masekwameng, creative director of Joburg agency, Mother Russia, says: “I believe ideas, and therefore cultures, are universal.”
Ideas vs production values
In terms of the standard of winning work at the Loeries, many felt a lack of great ideas but the feeling was that production values were high across all spheres, particularly in the film and radio categories. The power the medium still holds in our market means that our radio is finely crafted and stands up to the best in the world. Net#Work BBDO’s Loerie Radio Grand Prix winner for Mercedes-Benz also picked up the Cannes Lions Grand Prix this year, and the list of radio awards is one of the longest overall.
An aspect of TV commercial production not recognised enough is sound. Cape Town audio powerhouse, We Love Jam, was responsible for the audio on 16 winners across TV, radio and digital. They are known not just for their technical abilities but chiefly for their dedication to the craft of sound design. As We Love Jam’s sound designer, Arnold Vermaak says: “It’s amazing how much work goes into something almost imperceptible.”
That he and sound designer Graham Merrill are both practicing musicians goes a long way to explaining their talent and obsession with sound. I bumped into Vermaak at the Loeries after party. A band was on stage belting out a number. The crowd was screaming, singing, trying to chat above the incredible din. The only calm person in there was Vermaak. As I shouted something at him he just nodded and smiled and when I leaned closer to make my point known I noticed he had sound suppressors in his ears. That’s a pro for you.
Some advertising folk are dedicated to winning awards, others are just dedicated to doing the best job possible and this is most often the winning formula. Whatever drives them, our creative minds and our crafts people deserve recognition and a platform like the Loeries to display their talents.
We’ve got some things to work on but the Loeries is good at highlighting that too, and the selection of MCs will remind the industry about the power of social media. But it’s not far behind; after all, the appearance of the MC on Sunday night had at least half the industry whipping out their phone cameras to share the ‘Hoffness’.
SCREENAFRICA Print Magazine – October 2011 (view here)
By Antone Crone