How Nigerian Agencies Can Win More At Cannes Lions, Loeries
By Joshua Ajayi
In recent times, the Nigerian creative advertising sub sector of the IMC industry has witnessed an immense growth which is reflected on agencies performance in international creative advertising showcases like the Loeries, African Cristals, New York Advertising Festival, among others as well as various mentions in the global advertising ‘bible’-Lurzer’s Archive.
At the Cannes Festival of creativity-the much acclaimed global stage for rewarding creative excellence, Nigeria has not fared badly either. Although Nigeria is yet to record any win there, analysts say it is just a matter of time before it gets there. Noah’s Ark Communication and Insight Publicis have both been recipients of the prestigious Press Lions National Diploma awards. While Noah’s Ark got its two Press Lions National Diploma awards in the CRAFT/illustration category for its ‘Sassy Woman’ and ‘Angry Man’ job both created for the Indomie 210 grams brand entered in 2013, Insight’s National Diploma came from the agency’s press campaign for Enterprise Bank’s “Sleeping Pound” in the Banking, Investment and Insurance category, entered for in 2014.
More recently too, Lanre Adisa, Managing Director and Chief Creative Officer of Noah’s Ark Communications Limited became the first Nigerian to make the list of Juries for the Cannes Lions Festival. He was made a member of the Brand Experience and Activation shortlist jury for the 2018 edition of the prestigious Cannes Lions Festival working with 413 other jury members from around the world that prepared the shortlist for the main festival that held in Cannes, France in June last year.
The trajectory of the subsector in past has been an upward and forward movement. However, feelers from some stakeholders in the industry indicate that the playing field on some of the international stages are ‘steep’ and unfavourable to Nigerian agencies. The argument is that Nigerian agencies cannot do well in some international creative awards arenas like the Loeries awards held in Durban, South Africa because of the peculiarity of the market there and the orientation of many members of the jury who are mostly non Nigerians.
This argument was thrown to Loeries Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Human when Loeries hosted admen in Lagos recently. In his reaction, Human said lowering the standard to accommodate entry for any agency is akin to playing tennis with the net down. He added that as awards get more competitive, agencies should challenge themselves to do even better. Noah’s Ark, 7even Interactive, UpInTheSky and O2 academy were previous winners at the Loeries. No Nigerian agency however, has won gold or grandprix there before.
Debunking the assumption held by many that the Loeries is a mainly South African affair, Sinmisola Hughes, Creative Director at Leo Burnet Nigeria and the only female Creative Director among notable creative agencies said contrarily to popular belief, the Loeries is not a South African Affair. Sinmisola who was part of the jury at the 2018 edition of the awards said, “Before going to judge at the Loeries, my initial perception was that it was mostly South African affair which is not true.
“Speaking on the category I judged, digital and interactive, I can say we had a good mix of judges from all over Africa. There are quite a few South Africans though, if you consider the fact the country is also much nuanced. For me, it is not just about where the person is from. It is the quality of what the person brings to the table. Taking top creative that people respect across all the top agencies, and putting them on the jury is much more important than just filling in quotas. The Loeries is a good blend of male and female creative as well as representation from other markets.”
Human explained further that the composition of the jury is done in proportion to the volume of work coming from each region. “What we do is proportional representation. The more entries from a region, the more its representation in the jury. At present, 20 percent of works we have with us is from other regions outside South Africa. If we get to the point where 60% of the works is coming out from the rest of the region, then 60 percent of the jury will be from that region.”
Recall Nigeria had three representatives on the Loeries jury last year when the festival was held. Interesting, a good number of the works that have won at the Loeries are not from the South African market and some are not even in English. As Human further noted, “It is usually great work that win Grand Prix. Dubai won one for a work done in Arabic, so it’s not about language or country, Kenya won gold, last two years. So, the way the judging process is structured is to allow the best of works to come out and the judges are briefed specifically that we are not looking for work that is global, but regional works that the judges will ask if they are good for their local markets.”
Sinmisola who is also an award winning creative director stated that special consideration is given to works outside South Africa. “Consideration is always given for works outside of South Africa. There is always a remote judging that happens beforehand, when you take the works out, all works that is not South African still get brought back in for everybody to take a look at and to discuss once again. It gives work that is non South African a little bit of an advantage.”
Having judged at the Loeries, Sinmisola advised that what Nigerian agencies can target doing is to up their ante like the South Africans who have recorded wins at the Cannes Lions Festival. “What I have observed is that the Loeries strives for more inclusiveness by having Nigerians, Kenyans, people from Botswana, Isreal, Lebanon, among its judges. The South Africans have gone a lot further. We have seen South African works actually win at Cannes and if Cannes is what we are aiming for and the Loeries is a bit different, what we are saying is that the work has improved-quality and works. So we must also improve our crafts and the quality of our works.”
What Agencies Must Do To Win More Internationally
“If you never try,” says the lyrics of a song, “then you will never know.” There are agencies that will not put in for an award when its scope goes beyond the local market. That is why more awards make it to the Lagos Advertising and Ideas Festival than to continental showcases or to the Cannes. The logic as explained before, is because many feel the Nigerian market is not one that is readily understood from those outside.
However, when one considers the number of previous winners and their countries at the Cannes, this argument is easily discarded. The Brazilians have had a wonderful showing at Cannes because they have been able to project their local contents globally in a manner that resonates. Same can be said for works from other parts of the world that transcended boundaries, language religion and culture to win coveted awards at the Cannes. Interestingly, analysts believe that if some of the works that enter for LAIF enter for international awards, they may perform credibly well.
One of the problems identified to be militating against many Nigerian agencies at international awards is the poor packaging of entries. Human actually compares entering for awards with preparing for a marathon. “The packaging of awards has always been a problem from many of the entries we have received. If you want to run, say a marathon, you cannot just wake up today run without training. You may not do quite badly but you can certainly not expect to beat those who have been training.
“That is why I say it is a pitch. Agencies must equate entering for awards with pitching for a business. A lot of agencies entering for the first time think all they just need do is send in their piece. What happens is that the judges pick it, see very little information about it and reach quick decisions. The agencies in South Africa, Kenya and Dubai sit as a team to see how judges are going to look at their works. They actually put a strategy into entering works and come up with the best way to going to present to the judges. This is important because very good works get poor representation because they were not presented properly. If they had entered differently, they would have done better,” he said.
Buttressing Human’s view, Sinmisola said, “Sometimes, you will find that budgets are created just for case study videos to be sent to judges whereas in Nigeria, we scramble just to put things together to send whereas it’s a more conscious efforts to really present the projects we are entering as a holistic campaign, an entertainment piece on its own.
“There was one piece of work from Nigeria that was in my category from one agency. Because I am from Nigeria, I was asked to throw more light on it because the idea appeared quite good but the problem was in the way it was presented. It was a bit complicated. By the time I broke down the idea, they confirmed it was great. If they were going to award the piece of work, it will be based on the idea. But we were not awarding based on ideas but on looks and delivery.”
Another way Nigerian agencies can win also is to show how a particular campaign or ad helped the client win in the marketplace or how impactful it is on the society. As Sinmisola notes, “Another thing the South Africans do is based on research etc. the impact a campaign adds to the success of the campaign. Sometimes, they delay to enter so that they can get statistical results of the campaign. Sometimes, they focus on the work itself, not on the impact. By the time they do a case study, they start with the result. They talk of impressions, units of product sold, number of people reached and whatever the case may be.
By the time you start analysing, you realise that they are also telling you how well the campaign did for the client. It is a huge advantage. So, it is not just about the work itself. Is it a purpose driven campaign aimed at impacting the society? How well did it impact the society? Is it a feel good campaign? We are increasingly seeing the pattern that is not about feel good works anymore. The works must also have some kind of human purpose,” she concluded.
In the next couple of weeks, it will be time again for agencies in this sub sector to compete against their peers outside the shores of this country. Stakeholders can only keep their fingers crossed as they hope for more wins in the international arena and as we look forward to Nigeria’s first ever major win at the Loeries in South Africa. ffff