Anton Crone reflects on the recent Loerie Awards which took place at the Cape Town
International Convention Centre.

PSquare works with pirates. That’s what I recall in the haze of hangover. To remember
anything else from the recent Loerie Awards in Cape Town, I will have to dig deep.
The awards were impactful but the parties were doubly so and I can’t seem to find
anything bad to say about anybody except that everybody behaved badly. But let me
dig a little deeper, past the dance floor flashbacks and the heady scent of Gold
(Malawian) and presto, there it comes wafting up through the haze: the whiff of really
bad behaviour. I’ll let it fester. In the meantime, let me tell you about pirates.

The Loeries pre-award seminar had a great line-up of speakers, including the
dreadlocked Tim Horwood who expounded on the way media works in West Africa.

Based in Nigeria, Horwood heads up creative and production for the likes of VH1 and
MTV Base in Africa. In this capacity he deals with many of Africa’s top musicians.

Pirated CDs are the means by which a great deal of music reaches West African
audiences. Pirates have incredibly vast networks and Horwood explained how the
popular Nigerian hip-hop duo, PSquare, actually works with these bad boys, selling
copies of their work to them first. This way the pirates get the very latest music,
meaning they can sell at a premium and PSquare benefits from the pirate’s far
reaching and speedy distribution channels. In essence the pirates have become
merchants and their trade is legitimised.

Breaking old rules

Only in Africa, as they say, but PSquare’s way of dealing with media touches on a
reality that affects marketing worldwide: breaking old rules. We saw examples of this
during the seminar. Geoffrey Hantson of Belgian Agency, Duval Guillame Modem,
showed us their online viral work which included the Press for Action for TNT
Television. When someone presses a button in the middle of a town square it brings
the square to life with dramatic TV style dramas, including a mock gun battle, played
out in front of pedestrians. It recorded over 47 million views on YouTube.

German Agency, Jung Von Matt, took Hamburg’s Philharmonic Orchestra onto the
streets and into people’s hands. Using customised motion tracking on live video feeds
of city streets, internet users could select cars, ships, landmarks and people, assign
them audio roles of classical instruments and enjoy a spontaneous symphony as the
“instruments’ moved about and interacted with others.

Some of the awarded South African work at the Loeries broke old rules. For their
longtime automotive client, VW, Ogilvy created Volkswagen Street Quest. Using
Google Street View as the platform, they challenged users to “pin’ the VWs they found
on Street View, thereby highlighting the dominance of VW on our roads. They
recorded over 400 000 pins.

Another Ogilvy campaign, Carling Black Label Cup Be The Coach gave rival Kaiser
Chiefs and Orlando Pirates football fans the chance to select players before a match
and even make live substitutions through their cell phones during the match. They
recorded over 10.5 million votes.

Seeing this type of work from a South African agency was inspiring. It stood out
above the work from traditional media and sits among the best of international work.
It does so by breaking the old rules. But what are the boundaries for rule breaking?

Everywhere Library

Besides winning a Grand Prix, MetropolitanRepublic’s campaign for MTN Uganda,
Everywhere Library, picked up the coveted Ubuntu award which recognises the positive
influence brands have on the social and physical environment. The campaign claims to
have eliminated the need to build and maintain expensive libraries in Uganda through
the use of simple technology. This is an enormous claim that is not backed up with
any proof.

Apparently most schools in Uganda can’t afford the books students need, so every
week, for four weeks, they printed and inserted the relevant library books in some of
Uganda’s largest newspapers. To access a book, the students had to punch the USSD
code on the spine of the book into their phone and this helped students read up on
the information they needed. But if one studies the titles of the books one must
question the curriculum they are using. Trip Advisor and Guide to 50 Best Restaurants
are strange subjects for any school syllabus. Gumboot Dancing, Maskandi, Kwaito and
South African Braai are distinctly South African, but it appears there are no subjects
relating to Ugandan culture.

Statements such as “Eliminating the need to build and maintain expensive libraries’,
“No place in the world has students more hungry for education than Uganda’, and
“Students did most of their reading and researching off their phones’, are not
substantiated. The whole script comes across as exaggeration, puffery to impress
judges, a common trait in case studies for award entries and something our creative
industry has to seriously reconsider. And, when it comes to something as important
as education in Africa, exaggeration for the sake of winning a prize should not be
tolerated. It makes a mockery of awards like Ubuntu, creates a false sense of the
reality in Africa and brings our own values as an industry into question.

If Ugandan scholars know a bit about South Africa from their readings on Kwaito,
Maskandi, South African Braai and Gumboot Dancing, they might know where the term
“Ubuntu’ originated. They might know what it truly means. The question is, do we?

* The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Screen Africa.


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