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Opinion: Grist for the marketing mill

Time for a long hard look at The Loerie Awards

The only possible justification for an event such as the annual Loerie Awards is that it gives the people who work in advertising agencies an opportunity to escape the daily grind of watching creativity stifled by commercial interests.
Being in advertising is like Andy Warhol being forced to paint by committee. It is often a frustrating business in which creative people are harassed by control-freak clients or bosses who regularly sacrifice great ideas on the altar of expediency.

Having worked in an ad agency for many years, I can sympathise with those who just want to go away for a Loeries weekend and party up a storm.

No benefits

Other than that, The Loerie Awards have no benefits whatsoever.

Award-winning advertising is not chosen on the basis of efficiency or effectiveness but purely and simply on the gut-feel of peers. It is like choosing a car of the year because it just looks as though it can go fast and be a useful tool in helping pimply young Lotharios to pick up women. Without any consideration given to the fact that it was grossly underpowered and completely failed all known safety rating tests.

Statistically, 20% of all advertising not only fails but also actually damages the brand it is supposed to be promoting.

Massive wastage

In South African terms that is in the region of R4 billion a year. Completely wasted.

One of South Africa's most decorated marketers, Colin Adcock, banned any involvement in advertising awards when he was managing director of Lindsay Smithers - at the time one of South Africa's biggest agencies. He did so quite simply because he firmly believed that there was far too much temptation to produce award-winning ads in an effort to gain more clients or look good on individual CV's, rather than produce advertising to sell products.

That such a high percentage of failure in the adverting is directly related to the quest for awards is, in my opinion, a no-brainer.

The thing, of course, is that the business of advertising awards has become just that - a business. The Cannes Lions Awards is a massive money-spinner for the organisers, as are most other global advertising showcases.

Bun fights

In SA, right now, The Loerie Awards organisers are embroiled in a completely unnecessary bun-fight, having refused accreditation to a journalist who happened to annoy them a couple of years ago. The Loerie organisers are an arrogant bunch who want their bread buttered on both sides. They want the media to help them tell the world how wonderful they are but they also want it done entirely on their terms. They want sunshine journalism.

Frankly, the way they are behaving right now is pretty much in keeping with the ANC's iniquitous Protection of Information Bill and media appeals tribunal idea. Because of their childish attitude, Bizcommunity.com in 2010 withdrew its media partnership with The Loerie Awards. And quite rightly too.

Efforts to engage with the advertising industry just after that came to nothing. The ad industry just could not be bothered.

It is time, I feel for the advertising industry to reconsider its position. To decide what is and what is not important to them. Times are tough right now. They will get a lot tougher.

Banning ads

Government wants to ban alcohol and junk food advertising.

No wonder, because politicians see the banning of advertising as something politically correct and without even the most remote chance of losing votes. In fact, it will gain them voters.

The general public has no opinion on the advertising industry other than whether they like or dislike an advertisement.

Were the government to ban all advertising tomorrow, indications are that 90% of the South African population would not give a damn. The consumer views the advertising industry as some kind if trivial pursuit - a perception that is strengthened when stupid advertising is produced and ends up being banned.

No sign of action

Politicians will continue to target the ad industry because it is safe to so do.

It is time, in my opinion, that the ad industry gets it priorities right and starts spending at least as much time on improving its public image as it does in self-adulation.

For almost 30 years now, I have been told that the ad industry is about to embark on a campaign to improve its image.

Absolutely nothing has happened.

I don't expect anything to happen.

The ad industry is nothing more than a band playing on the deck of the Titanic and partying up a storm while just around the corner an iceberg of consumer apathy and political interference is waiting. Waiting.

Time to wake up, people.

For more:For More list updated at 9.48am on 6 September 2012.
    
 

About Chris Moerdyk: @chrismoerdyk

Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is executive chairman of Bizcommunity. He used to be head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.
One man one vote one time
Whoohaah Chris

As usual you tell it like it is!

This going to stir the proverbial hornets nest! David Ogilvy did say, it isn't creative unless it sells. We are going to hear arguments that support the premise that award winning ads sell, and the counter to that.

I woud love to hear from experienced marketers and brand managers whether they really honestly believe that award winning work sells their products.

Many agencies have set themselves up on the back of being award winning. I see so many adds for new creatives demanding award winners only need apply. The industry has become obsessed with awards and that is your very point.

I have had a long career in the industry producing work that has sold a lot of my clients products. Yes, I have won awards in the process, but my first endeavour has always been to sell on behalf of my clients.

I look forward with great interest, to the oncoming arguments!
Posted on 28 Aug 2012 14:01
Grant Shippey
I would love to see a correlation between "award winning work" and actual objectives met. Perhaps some larger brands, with a portfolio of campaigns, should do the exercise.

Or even put more simply. Award Winning campaign, Sales up or Sales down (relatively of course).
Posted on 28 Aug 2012 14:34
Scott Scott
Here we going regarding the link between award-winning work and ROI

http://www.canneslions.com/creativebravery/
Posted on 28 Aug 2012 14:53
Andrea Desfarges
As a PR Director at an Ad agency, I've seen how client's view awards as a sign of what you can do for them. They have no idea what the Loeries are or how they work - and they don't care. They just want an idication that their money is being well spent. Most of them don't understand marketing themselves. Tired of the C word. Creative.
Posted on 28 Aug 2012 15:05
Couch Zambane
I'd like to put a word in for consumers and advertising industry outsiders - the so-called "general public"...

We may not have an intimate understanding of the industry, but we definitely have views beyond ad likes and dislikes. Advertisers are just failing to value our opinions and engage us in a conversation. When last did an advertising award seriously incorporate the opinions of its intended consumers? We are not as passive and apathetic as you think. Don't forget who pays your bills.

You're right. The advertising industry should catch a wake up!
Posted on 28 Aug 2012 15:31
Anton Crone
Hi Chris,

Good to read your opinion piece, but it does not put a very good argument forward.

Advertising is not the only industry that enters award shows. Certainly within the arts and media field they are very common, and one can argue positively that they improve the standard of work immensely and thereby engage audiences. Look at the Academy Awards and many other respected film awards, then the Pulitzers, Man Booker Prize and so on. Where would this work be without them?

Likewise, the value of an advertising award show is to improve the standard of work to engage audiences. By and large, the big ad award shows do that. Imagine the level of advertising WITHOUT them. It would be abysmal. Far, far worse than the standard we see today.

You say in your opening statement: "The only possible justification for an event such as the annual Loerie Awards is that it gives the people who work in advertising agencies an opportunity to escape the daily grind of watching creativity stifled by commercial interests."

If it were not for the Loeries, there would be far, far fewer creative people in the industry because creativity wouldn't be stifled - it would hardly exist. Again, imagine the standard of local advertising then.

The Loeries is far from perfect. What that awards show and agencies can do to improve the level advertising would require a separate opinion piece. But having no other benefits than escaping the daily grind and partying up a storm? far from the truth.
Posted on 28 Aug 2012 16:20
Simone Puterman
Actually, I saw the Musica "Flo Browser" in Musica at The Zone@Rosebank. I just can't remember when exactly I saw it but I think it was after last year's ad award season.
Posted on 29 Aug 2012 15:44
Leon Jacobs
Chris,

I couldn't work out whether your attack was on the value of creativity in communication or whether it was simply just a rant on the perceived imperfections of the Loeries?

Anyone who has travelled around the world can tell you that South Africa, consistently, has produced better advertising than most other countries. To produce something that is entertaining is a token of respect to the person whose daily life you are interrupting. To make it memorable, is a responsibility to your client. I would argue that if the Loeries did not exist, South Africa would not have an ad industry of quality.

Sure, it has plenty of imperfections. Ego is an awful byproduct of the creative industry. But not having a benchmark of creativity will completely drain the media of interestingness.

Others, like Charl Thom, have powerfully argued and demonstrated the link between creativity and ROI. I will point out two final observations:

Last year, when our agency won a gold lion for film at Cannes, it opened up a flood of interested agency professionals who wanted to come and work with us. Not just creatives, great account people and planners who saw our work, liked it, and wanted to be part of that. And you can only have a great agency if you can attract great people.

Finally, every year, around the world, screenings of the Cannes finalists and winners attract queues of everyday people, willing to pay money to watch an hour and a half's worth of advertising.

That is something worth thinking about.
Posted on 1 Sep 2012 07:29
Darren Mckay
What a load of kak. I wonder how many people have even taken notice of the price of 125g of cottage cheese in what is deemed to be the most effective advertising from Checkers or PnP? Now, I wonder (in percentages, chris) how many people have counted the number of times Floyd changed his outfit in that really awesome Santam ad? I will put my money on the latter. Purely because people want to be rescued from their daily grind. They want to count floyds outfits, they want to snigger at Nando's flamable humour, It's continously striving for the highest level of creativity that allows most good creatives to help brands see avenues and gaps where most brand manager cannot. Most brand managers do a fantastic annual report but have no clue on how to create a magical interpretation of their brief. Award shows keep the creative juices flowing. Without them Chris, I'm afraid we'll all end up like you. Very sad indeed. Long live the "pat on the back" for great creative thinking.
Posted on 17 Sep 2012 18:01
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