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Cannes Lions Special Section

Steph Van Niekerk: Balancing logic and reason with magic and intuition

Steph van Niekerk, creative director at Grey, spoke with us and shared her thoughts and learnings relating to this week's Cannes Lions.
Supplied. Steph Van Niekerk, creative director at Grey shares her thoughts and learnings relating to this week’s Cannes Lions
Supplied. Steph Van Niekerk, creative director at Grey shares her thoughts and learnings relating to this week’s Cannes Lions

Savanna Cider has already received its first two short listings for its vaccination drive campaign, Jab Jab in the Excellence in Radio and Audio: Script and Culture and Context category and Local Brand category. Stay tuned for more updates on Cannes Lions shortlists.

You have worked in traditional and digital agencies. You have said you believe in integrated platform-agnostic storytelling. Can you unpack that in more detail for us and give us some examples?

About 10 years ago I made a leap of faith from a traditional ATL role at Ogilvy to heading up the McDonald’s account at Quirk, a purely digital agency. Although it felt like being thrown into the deep end with rocks in my pocket at the time, the move forced me to get to learn all things digital – quickly.

I am very grateful for that as I’ve been able to take those skills back to traditional agencies where I specialised in integrated work. Times have changed since then though – being an integrated creative is no longer a choice as everything we do ultimately lives online and on social.

But although the landscape has changed, the idea is still everything. I’m lucky enough to have learned from the best on both fronts. Examples include: Shave to Remember, #HuggiesBabyMarathon, #DecoloniseAutocorrect – these are all campaigns that integrated traditional ATL elements with social and tech.

You got six distinctions in matric and also did advanced mathematics. How has being a maths genius assisted you in your creative career? How do people think of creativity today, has the perception of the starving artist changed?

Whoa, easy tiger! I’m far from a maths genius. I did do well in maths and science, though and I guess creativity is just another form of problem-solving really. I do believe it’s all about having the ability to balance logic and reason with magic and intuition.

When it comes to creativity today, I think it's all up to the artist. I think the internet and social media make it possible to reach a much wider audience than ever before and there are many people who have leveraged that to monetise their craft and turn it into a viable, sustainable career.

What is needed to win at Cannes and what are your expectations of the work at Cannes?

To win you need Innovation and impact. You’ll never win if the work is not original and if it doesn’t move people in some way.

What to expect... to be honest, I don’t know what a post-pandemic Cannes looks like, but I do think it is going to be special as people are finally being let out of their cages, aka Teams calls.

What do you dislike about Cannes? (For example, the heat, getting there, not enough time to see and do everything, etc)

Like everything in this industry, Cannes is a game of highs and lows. The worst part of Cannes is probably that moment when you’re desperately scanning the shortlists and realising your work didn’t make it through. Fingers crossed some things do convert!

About Danette Breitenbach

Danette Breitenbach is a marketing & media editor at Previously she freelanced in the marketing and media sector, including for Bizcommunity. She was editor and publisher of AdVantage, the publication that served the marketing, media and advertising industry in southern Africa. She has worked extensively in print media, mainly B2B. She has a Masters in Financial Journalism from Wits.

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