No Cannes do

South African visits to the winners’ podium at the Cannes advertising festival were rare events this year, writes Tony Koenderman, as our ad industry suffered one of its worst years in nearly two decades. Points earned on the AdReview system (see Creative Tables) were down 45% on 2014, which in turn was a third lower than the glorious showing of 2013. Our point-count has more than halved in two years.

Only 15 South African agencies won anything, compared with 42 South African winners in 2009, a peak year.

The AdReview system awards points on the basis of how difficult it is to win an award. This creates a level playing field on which you can compare the awards in different competitions. So a Gold at Cannes, the world’s top advertising festival, is valued at twice as much as a Gold at the Loeries, South Africa’s top festival.

The results of competitions such as Cannes provide a good indicator of the economic health of the industry, as agencies cut back on entries in years when business is depressed and, consequently, commissions less work from its agencies.

In bad times, clients not only reduce their production costs and run existing campaigns for longer, but they are also more cautious about how much work they put into media. The number of agencies that entered the Cannes competition also indicates something about the industry’s health.

The inter-agency competition also yielded some interesting results. TBWA Hunt Lascaris was back on top after several years playing second fiddle to Ogilvy Johannesburg or Ogilvy Cape Town, the perennial front-runners.

Y&R moved up a couple of places, coming third in a low-scoring year, but there’s not much to write home about when only two Lions, a silver and bronze, are enough to earn you third spot.

So what’s going wrong in SA Adland, once considered one of the rising powerhouses of world advertising creativity?

It’s a subject we will explore in more detail in coming issues of AdReview, but here are two contenders: the emigration of skills and a failure to come to terms with the digital age. A couple of years ago you could lament our digital backwardness, but make up lost ground in traditional media. Now everything is digital. If you don’t integrate digital into every campaign, you lose everywhere.


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