Tony Koenderman gets inducted into the Loeries Hall of Fame.

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Our very own Tony Koenderman was inducted into the Loeries Hall of Fame at the Loeries festival last weekend. Here he talks about how he got into the industry, what the industry was like when he started and the role of award shows in advertising.

“I got into the ad biz by accident. In 1980 I was appointed editor of a monthly magazine called Management, which carried an unexpectedly successful supplement on advertising.  As a result, the survey was repeated in my first year on the job.

It was a  massive success. Television had started up in 1976, and went commercial in 1978, setting off a five-year boom in advertising greater than ever experienced before. For five straight years, annual adspend grew at more than 20% a year. That meant that the ad industry doubled in size in three years, I was swept up in the heady mood, and soon became a specialist writer on advertising and marketing.

It was a field which was seriously under-rated by business men and women. The business ethic was still that of a mining camp, but eventually the gold would run out and the economy would shift from primary to secondary production (industrial manufacturing) and tertiary (white collar) activity.

We didn’t realise it at the time, but the process of industrialisation had already begun.  Gold output peaked at 700 tons in 1974 and was never to breach those heady heights again. The share of the economy held by mining fell to half that of manufacturing during the Seventies. A more sophisticated economy required more sophisticated services, such as advertising.

I loved the ad biz because it would be so important in future economies, but it still had to be recognised for this by corporate bosses. It was also a uniquely enjoyable business, full of fun, irreverence and energy. I liked the people too. I often asked whether I would end up like so many journalists – jaded, bored and cynical about the business that provided their livelihood. I never did, but don’t ask me how or why.

Value of awards

In every performance industry, rewards are important. They crave more than financial reward, but also the acknowledgement of their peers. It’s no good fighting it. That’s the way they are. But what’s important is that standards are maintained, so the awards mean something. That’s where competition between awards platforms is important. If AdReview and AdFocus did not have competition, they would eventually slip into irrelevance through neglect.

Awards help maintain standards, they signal the presence or absence of talent and they help marketers make decisions.

The modern history of advertising in South Africa began in 1978-80, with the introduction of television. Very rapidly, South Africa became one of the young lions of the global industry. Its golden era was in the late Eighties and early Nineties. Twice in the space of less than 10 years, a South African agency was named International Agency of the Year by Advertising Age.

Sadly, it no longer deserves such acclaim. It has failed to keep pace with the impact of technological change. It has lost much of its talent through emigration. It is not courageous in proposing ideas to clients. Regulatory pressures from government are also squeezing the life out of the industry.

Our challenge is to bring back the gees.”


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