Fine Feathers Fly at the Loeries

Chris GotzArticle originally found in the Sunday Times – Words by Chris Gotz

The ad industry hit the headlines for the wrong reasons this week and, at times, it looked like a particularly fast moving episode of Generations.

It all started a few weeks ago, when SA’s ad people got dressed up (or dressed down, if you were really, like, cool) to celebrate the annual Loerie Awards. Ad agency Metropolitan Republic did rather well, winning the Grand Prix for mega client MTN. Their campaign, ‘Project Uganda’, was an inspired idea that gave Ugandan schoolchildren access to much needed books via virtual libraries displayed in newspaper ads. Using their mobile phones they were able to download the books via USSD technology. “Genius” pronounced the judges in several Loeries’ categories. It was one of the most popular ideas of the festival, and I sang its praises in these pages two weeks ago.

But the agency barely had time to display the trophies in their minimalist foyer when they received a call from Loerie Awards CEO Andrew Human requesting they return them. It seems the agency hadn’t actually completed the project. Nor had they run the press ads in the Ugandan newspapers. Nor had any Ugandan schoolchildren accessed much-needed books. Further speculation by geeks in the media revealed the technology behind the idea wasn’t really possible.

The Loeries issued a press release on the awards’ recall and the agency, Metropolitan Republic, issued a release accepting responsibility for the transgression. They blamed the slip, although it was more of a swan dive into an empty pool than a mere slip, on over-zealous junior staffers who failed to clear the entry with senior execs. While that seemed vaguely plausible, the agency had been entering the work into various awards shows since March, and seven months seems a long time for senior people to be blissfully unaware of what was a fairly high profile and innovative piece of work.

Cue much huffing and puffing and tweeting and sub-tweeting and, finally, an unseemly scuffle between Human and senior execs from Metropolitan Republic on a Sunday morning radio show. The row rumbles on, fuelled by speculation and much rubbernecking on the part of the rest of the industry.

The issues kicked up by this unfortunate bun fight are many, but none is more relevant than the role of gongs and trophies in the ad industry. There is a constant barrage of criticism directed at ad people about the awards culture, much of it negative. It may be the case, as with Metropolitan Republic (and this is by no means exclusive to them), that agencies will sometimes push too hard to win awards. When the tail furiously begins to wag the dog, with agencies producing work specifically to chase awards, rather than the commercial success of their clients, then the strangeness sets in – sometimes they run work that has not been approved by clients, sometimes they create elaborate television campaigns for small bookshops.

Awards shows police this fairly strictly. Media plans for the campaigns entered are often requested, some ask for letters from clients accompanying all the work entered. The Loeries have a long list of rules and regulations so, by the time the judges see the work, they are accepting on good faith that what they are judging is real. They are looking largely at the quality of the idea, not asking questions about why the Ugandan schoolchildren appear to be sitting in classrooms in South Africa, or why some of the books in the print ads appear to have little use for Ugandan primary schoolchildren : “A history of Kwaito”; “How to play the guitar”; “Elementary principles of calculus”. Or indeed, as some keen hacks discovered, why some of the books displayed did not exist at all.

All of this should not be allowed to diminish the value and real purpose of rewarding and recognising the very best work in our industry. Cannes Lions, the papa bear of ad award shows, has become increasingly important. This year 5,000 of the 12,000 delegates were clients with blue chip giants like Coke, Google and Unilever sponsoring seminars and workshops. Ultimately the winning work is what everyone is there to see and the juries try to find the pieces that push the industry forward, that explore new tricks springing forth from old dogs.

New categories like Mobile, PR, Viral Film and Branded Content and Entertainment show just how rapidly the world of communications, media and marketing is changing and the awards shows are the best places to see the work that really reflects that change. The work that wins big, the Grand Prix winners, are held up as the important torchbearers of things to come, the glorious outliers on the edge of what is possible.

It’s no coincidence that the agencies which regularly collect awards for their work are often the same ones most sought after by clients around the world. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. A study carried out by the U.K.’s Institute of Practitioners in Advertising claims to prove a direct link between creativity and effectiveness. The IPA examined 213 case studies over a period of eight years, including campaigns by Cadbury, Volkswagen, Budweiser, Honda, Audi and Orange, and calculated that creatively awarded campaigns were 11 times more effective than those without jury accolades – whether you’re a large corporation or a small independent retailer, that’s an extremely powerful multiplier.

So the Loeries should continue to be a valuable beacon of excellence for South African marketers and agencies, although Andrew Human has already hinted at more vigilant and stringent entry requirements, because creativity in advertising, as celebrated by award shows all over the world, will continue to be the single most powerful thing any business can use to transform its bottom line.

Tell the guys in procurement to put that in their briar pipes and smoke

A look at the 2013 Loerie Awards

Article originally found in the Sunday Times – Words by Chris Gotz

Chris_Gotz2A newspaper ad that turned into a library; a calendar that became a fire retardant blanket and a tweeting badger – these were just some of the winning ideas on show at the 35th Annual Loerie Awards, staged last weekend.

Over 5000 marketing and advertising people, in various interesting interpretations of black tie and formal dress, converged on the Cape Town International Convention Centre for South Africa’s premier creative awards show.

The Loeries have grown up considerably over the years. The glorified Vegas-style debauchery of yesteryear, while not completely absent, has been replaced by a very slick series of events celebrating a far greater range of disciplines than mainstream advertising and now stretching right across the continent. Beyond the awards ceremonies, the Festival of Creativity has gathered real momentum with seminars, an Expo, student showcases and some other, more spontaneous events, usually inspired by caramel vodka and herbal infusions.

When it came to the two nights of awards, the seismic shifts brought on by the digital revolution and a rapidly changing consumer and media environment were well in evidence, but it remains clear to everyone that, in spite of the contemporary complexity, a single good idea executed well still can transform a sales curve in an instant.

On the first evening, devoted mostly to print and digital, the “Everywhere Library” for MTN by Metropolitan Republic was awarded a Gold Loerie. The full page prints ads were a clever intersection of old and new, as a newspaper ad in Uganda promoted access to books on mobile phones via USSD technology. The big prize of the night, the Grand Prix for Outdoor, came from Draftfcb in Cape Town for Engen with a, literally, life-saving idea: a calendar printed on a fire retardant blanket which shack dwellers, the biggest users of Engen’s paraffin products, could usefully hang up for an emergency.

In the digital category, where South Africa has for some years lumbered along behind the rest of the world, there was some really strong work. A tweeting badger won Loeries for Draftfcb and their client, the Johannesburg Zoo. It was a really smart, fun idea: the animal’s enclosure (we can’t call it a cage anymore) was rigged to fire off tweets as the badger moved around. Volkswagen’s Street Quest work from Ogilvy Cape Town was also a big winner and it picked up the other Grand Prix on the night, in the digital category. This online game encouraged players to find and pin VW’s inside Google Streetview – a digital treasure hunt that rewarded players with a chance to play the game live on the streets of Cape Town for mega prizes. International Judge Debbie Vandeven described it as an “iconic” piece of work.

The Sunday night awards were all about TV and Radio. The evening was hosted by John Vlismas and Dineo Moeketsi, who moved things along at a fair clip. Vlismas in particular read the notoriously tough crowd pretty well and hurled a torrent of mildly abusive banter in their direction. It was well received, apart from an especially below-the-belt Reeva Steenkamp joke which drew one of the biggest collective gasps of the year.

Radio continues to be South Africa’s strongest medium creatively. International Judge Geoffrey Hantson underlined this when he said it was the best radio work he had ever heard, making special mention of our writing and production skills. That’s good news because radio remains one of the most cost-effective ways to reach millions of people in SA. Independent agency FoxP2 collected the Grand Prix for their long-running campaign for life insurer – it’s difficult to write fun, sassy ads about death, but they managed it. Mercedes-Benz also collected Gold Loeries for their radio work, once again reminding everyone why their agency, Network BBDO, is considered the best in the world in the medium (which is pretty extraordinary if you think about it.)

Television is still where marketers are placing nearly 60% of their bets. It probably wasn’t a vintage year for South African television advertising, a continuing trend of recent times caused by a combination of dwindling budgets, global brand dictates and lacklustre ideas – but the signs were there, in amongst a series of funny, well-written winners, that we’re finding our groove again.

The Ster Kinekor “Intersection” from FoxP2 (who had a very good night all in all) won gold for taking viewers on a thrilling ride as four out-of-control trucks hurtled towards a crossroads, only to stop before the thrilling climax with a message to watch the finale on the big screen to get the full effect.

The other Gold winners were enfant terrible musicians Die Antwoord for their video “Fatty Boom Boom” which features the mauling of a Lady Gagga lookalike by a rogue urban lion, among other curiosities. It’s quite brilliant, although somewhat disturbing. 

The final Grand Prix of the weekend went to Metropolitan Republic for their “Everywhere Library” (mentioned earlier) piece for MTN in Uganda. It picked up on a trend that is rippling through the ad world globally at the moment – investing heavily in ideas that do something for the common good as well as the bottom line. While this outbreak of goodwill might largely be attributed to a smart business strategy, it’s still a good thing for our industry and society in general.

At the end of it all, the winners gulped down their tequila and those that didn’t win, well, they gulped down tequila too, while the industry cool kids bobbed their painstakingly crafted hair frantically to international DJ’s.

LoerieThe industry big hitters, clients and agency bosses alike, probably concluded that the 2013 Loeries reflected a good year for the South African creative industry. Not a great year, but a good one nonetheless. While that may please some, the oft repeated maxim of many Creative Directors in the business bears repeating: good is the enemy of great. Better luck next year everyone.

Chris Gotz is Executive Creative Director at Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town, Chairperson of the Creative Circle and a member of the Loeries Committee.

Judgement day. A few alternative Loeries predictions.


Our very own Chris Gotz (@MrChristiffa ) makes some astute predictions for this years Loerie Awards.

Judges, referees and people who are supposed to decide things have done a fairly shoddy job recently.

First there was the Napoleonic halfwit referee who sent off Bismarck Du Plessis in the big game at Eden Park. Then, the very next day, we had the judge in the Alvarez – Mayweather fight that scored it even, despite Floyd “Money” Mayweather giving the Mexican a 12-round lesson in snotklap.

The expensively assembled Loeries judges better have their shit together this week, so as not to follow suit. I must admit it’s not looking good. One of the Jury Chairs is a Belgian, which is a bit too close to French for my liking. Then there’s an Aussie in the mix. Last year the Australian judge went drinking at a dodgy pub halfway through judging. Whether that was prompted by the quality of the work I do not know. Better lock up the liquor, Mr Human, and bolt the doors. Of course there will be a handsome, all-knowing, witty, acerbic and, as far as possible, sober contingent of local judges present. So we can only hope.

It has become fairly customary to gather some industry folk together on the eve of the Loeries and get them to do a few predictions. Well, that’s happening elsewhere on the lame side of the interweb. Right now, I am going to take a few flyers and make some predictions of my own. Of course I’m a judge too, so I am about as compromised as a good idea in a Milward Brown focus group. Nevertheless, here goes.

1. The weather will be as unpredictable as an Aussie Loeries judge after the pubs open. It’s been raining at a 65 degree angle for about 3 weeks in Cape Town, even the fish are pissed off. Bring your trunks, but leave the suntan lotion at home.

hashtags-052. A few people, probably junior copywriters, will attempt to go directly from the Velocity Party to the Saturday awards ceremony. This is imprudent to say the least. They will be easy to spot; red eyed, wearing trunks and smelling strongly of caramel vodka and Steers Chips (which they would have eaten on the way to the ceremony in a vain attempt to “sober up”).

3. Your ECD will stay in a better hotel than you. This will be thinly disguised as an unpleasantness and remarks like “I have to stay with the clients” will be made as they lie back in their Olympic sized tubs draining their minibars.

4. A jumped up blogger pretending to be a journalist will fail to get an invitation to a cocktail party. He will proceed to squawk loudly about press freedom. Having made such a huge fuss about not being invited, he will spend the better part of the next year writing about how awards “aren’t important”.

5. The women will dress up and the men, largely, will dress down. Thus the strange and wondrous sight of beautifully turned out, attractive ladies in little black dresses accompanied by men wearing G-Star denim who look like they have just got out of bed.

Shimmy6. The after party at the Shimmy Beach Club will be brilliant. This will be a change from last year where 5000 people wandered around the vast venue asking each other where the “actual” party was. No-one found it.

7. There will be the traditional “march of the monologues” in the Radio Category. Jenny Glover and Brent Singers will win. The people that tried to pretend to be Jenny Glover and Brent Singers will not.

8. The words “fuck, Cape Town is expensive” will be said about 15027 times.

9. The Outsurance ad, the one where thousands of people go running through the city with banners celebrating their refunds and lower premiums, will not win.

10. A few Loerie winners, emboldened by hip flasks of Jameson’s, will attempt to grab the mike and make short acceptance speeches. They will suffer the indignity of getting halfway through a garbled message of thanks to their buddy Vernon – who actually did the ad but is now in Dubai – while being pulled sideways by security people.

11. Reiner Behrens will wear a bowtie. Pepe Marais will wear a waistcoat. Rob McLennan will wear black. A few senior clients and Graham Warsop will actually observe the dress code and wear black tie. People will regard this as “weird”. Keith Rose won’t be there but will win anyway.

12. People from Joburg will remark how “well run” Cape Town is. They may also mention how much “safer” they feel. This is despite the fact that the city is full of firearm-bearing tik-smoking gangsters driving Honda Civics powered by Cessna engines. Cape Town beyond the Mountain is basically one long Die Antwoord video.

13. If you win on the night you will be subject to a frenzy of side-hugging, high-fiving, fist-bumping. After that you will be about as popular as a diary entry marked “Research feedback session”.

14. The CEO of an agency that doesn’t win anything will make a statement about how awards aren’t important to them (despite the extended celebrations when they won previously).

15. An Afrikaans student designer with a slightly weird name like Nicodemus Le Roux will win a Student Gold for a calendar which will be the singularly most beautiful thing any of us see all weekend.

16. All of us will go home happy, inspired and determined to do better next year. When we get back to our respective studios we will be confronted by the 4th revert on the “Christmas Radio” Job Bag (which will request a “stronger call to action”). This will not depress us, because we get to do what we do, which is make lovely films and compose music and write stories and tell jokes and work with clever, funny people and laugh at goat videos. And that, we should all agree, is probably the best way you could possibly ever make a living.

Creative Circle: May Results


The Creative Circle is an independent organisation that each month lists and reanks South Africa’s best advertising work. This month we managed to walk away with 1st in Print for Volkswagen Blue Motion, 1st in Film for Stimorol Mega Mystery Face off, and 2nd in Experiential for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. See our work + the full results below. Congratulations to all concerned.

Print: 1st // Volkswagen Bluemotion Label

Film: 1st // Kraft Foods / Stimorol Mega Mystery “Face Off”

Experiential: 2nd // Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles/Crafter “Yellow Pages”


1. Volkswagen/Blue Motion Label” Ogilvy CT

2. Travel Counsellors “Dubai/Frankfurt/Mumbai/Amsterdam” Y&R SA

3. Joburg Zoo/Day Tours Andean Condor/Polar Bear/

Silverback Gorilla” Y&R SA


1. DNA Project “Crime Scenes” FoxP2

2. Mercedes-Benz/BlueEFFICIENCY “Green Emissions” Net#Work BBDO

3. MuthaFM “Stair Guy/Smile Guy/Brace Face” Draftfcb CT


1. Kraft Foods/Stimorol Mega Mystery “Face Off” Ogilvy CT

2. Nandos “Diversity” Black River FC

3. Drive Alive/Road Safety “Drive Alive 3D” TBWA Hunt Lascaris


1. MWeb/Cloud Storage “Awesome Ex/Rock Star / Roller Coaster FoxP2

2. Cover “Steve” FoxP2

3. Flight Centre/Student Flights “French” TBWA Hunt Lascaris


1. McDonalds/Kids Birthday Parties “Inflatable Lounge” DDB SA

2. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles/Crafter “Yellow Pages” Ogilvy CT

3 Vodacom/Mobile Apps “K53” Draftfcb Jhb