When Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman in 1974, Foreman was acknowledged as one of the hardest hitters the world had ever seen. Unusually for him, Ali was the underdog. But, rather than letting this get to him and making the error of going toe-to-toe with the future grill master, he embraced his situation and goaded Foreman into wearing himself out before delivering the killer blow to the exhausted giant.
Now, in a way South Africa's situation at the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is scant different to that of Ali. For years, we have been lauded as creative powerhouses in categories such as Print, Outdoor and Radio. A tradition which we again upheld proudly this year, showing that you don't need dollars, crazy animation or monstrously overpriced photographers to win - we play to our strengths with unique and interesting executions and great ideas.
Newcomers have emerged
However, as happened to Ali, newcomers have emerged; except rather than a hulking heavyweight, our challengers appear in the form of new categories: Digital, Direct, Promo, Mobile etc etc.
But, unlike the great man himself, and indeed unlike ourselves in the traditional categories, we have yet to work out that we cannot take on the big guns at their own game. We cannot "out-digital" the US, or "out-tech" the Scandinavians. Our realistic budget and technology issues prohibit it. Finished and klaar. Yet, inexplicably we continue to try.
Simple, really: play to our strengths, not our weaknesses.
We've got great ideas
Foreman was strong, Ali was fast and tough. So, he kept moving and wore him down. The rest of the world may have super tech, but we've got great ideas - and it's merely a case of wrapping them in a better way.
The Black Label "Be the Coach" campaign was a brilliant example of this.
They had a brilliant idea, letting people decide the teams which would take the field for SA's biggest derby. However, the clincher was the simplicity of the entry mechanic: buy a beer and SMS a number. They could have done it a million and one complicated, expensive and ultimately fruitless ways, but instead they chose to let the idea itself shine.
Which brings me to my second point, another Cannes-learning: if it doesn't touch people, they don't give a $%@*. Nobody, not your client, creative director, awards judge and least of all consumer, is going to go "Wow, look how well the coding is on this website," if the idea is boring.
Touch people in the same way
Just because it's new media, doesn't mean it shouldn't touch people in the same way as traditional media does. Example, what do people like hearing about the most? Themselves. So, how do you do this in an interesting way? Build a social media museum, all about them - The Museum of Me - now obviously the production is brilliant, but it tells a story that people want to know.
Now that I've waffled on endlessly on my thoughts on Cannes and the way forward, check out www.canneslions.com and see what you think for yourself. But more importantly, learn from it.
We've got a market of millions of active mobile users, a platform such as Mxit, hungry minds and much, much more - but how do we tell them stories that touch them? How do we embrace our situation and turn these into advantages? Think smart and preferably don't get pummelled for 8 rounds in the process.
After all, who doesn't love an underdog - just ask Chad le Clos...
Born at FoxP2, raised at 140 BBDO (www.140bbdo.com; @140bbdo), copywriter Michael Pearson believes that people and ideas are our creative currency and always strive to help improve both. Follow @mikepearson85 on Twitter and email him at .
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