Two icons meet on stage Photo: Gallo
Exhilarating, exhausting and, most of all, enlightening. I’ve just returned from a two week road trip and social media campaign, travelling down to Cape Town for the Loerie Awards. (You can read all about the campaign here.) It was unbelievably hard work and worth every Red Bull-fueled moment hunched over my MacBook Pro screeching at my soul-destroyingly slow 3G connection. (I’m sending MTN my therapy bills. I reckon they owe me)
I’ve worked in the ad industry for over a decade and followed the Loerie Awards for much longer but this is the first time I’ve got to see them from the other side: where you catch a glimpse of the enormous amount of work that goes into everything. This year, the overwhelming view I picked up online and offline, anecdotally and officially, was that this was the best Loeries ever. It was “serious, professional, creative & well supported,” Odette van der Haar, CEO of the Association for Communication and Advertising, told me when I asked her for comment. “It was a world-class event.” It struck me then that the Loeries is a remarkably lean organisation that gets an even more remarkable amount done.
So here are 10 reasons why South Africa would be a much better place if more things were run like the Loerie Awards:
1. The Loerie Awards bring in up to R100-million to the Cape economy, according to a study by Professor Kamilla Swart -– and it’s run by just five people: CEO Andrew Human and four young women who coordinate sponsors, suppliers, judges, partners, government, tertiary institutions, high schools, entrants and delegates. Compare that to the R100-million plus the National Youth Festival cost the taxpayer.
2. It’s premised on the understanding that what guarantees South Africa’s ability to perform as an economy is ultimately not natural gas or gold, it’s the quality of our ideas. Without creativity, we cannot compete. Creativity makes the world a better place to live in. We need more of it.
3. Meritocracy rules. The Loeries awards creative excellence, judged according to international standards. One of the three Grand Prix winners, a radio campaign for Mercedes-Benz, also won a Grand Prix at Cannes this year. As Rob McLennan, executive creative director of Network BBDO pointed out, the creative team responsible is the best radio team in the world.
4. It’s about much more than the festival weekend; the Loeries is also the culmination of Cape Town’s Creative Week. There’s the Loeries travelling exhibition, an annual of award-winning work, an impossibly cool magazine (I cracked the pages of last year’s October issue) and, perhaps most importantly of all, the Creative Future Scholarship, won this year by Ayesha Daniels from Gardens Commercial in the Western Cape. Future talent is nurtured, and not just in the dedicated advertising schools: Lubabalo Mtati from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University won two student golds (you can see images of his work here). He is set for a stellar career in the industry: he can name his price now.
5. The Loeries gets things done. They processed several thousand delegates over the festival weekend using their own brand new ticketing system, without hassles. Because they’re such a lean organisation, they rely strongly on partnering both with the private sector as well as government to make things happen. Organisations like ididthatad.co.za, a website which showcases the work of freelance creative professionals, did a superb job of leveraging and supporting the Loeries on a shoestring budget.
6. The Loeries fosters competition, whether it’s in the quality of brand communication or the ability of a venue to offer what the festival requires. This year, three cities – Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth – and two venues, KwaZulu-Natal and Sun City -– are competing for the right to host the Loeries for the next three years.
7. The Loeries don’t do boring. The awards ceremonies on both nights were slick and entertaining. Riaan Cruywagen and David Hasselhoff were brilliant choices as MCs; both combined the job of getting the awards announced with tongue-in-cheek humour and genuine star quality. I don’t think Riaan Cruywagen has quite yet recovered from the adulation he got on that stage.
8. Make no mistake, the parties were good. But here’s the thing: despite the stats cited by this tongue-in-cheek billboard, nobody was arrested. I can’t comment on the number of people who slept with client service but from what I could see there were no fights or vomiting. (Yes, I was hit on shamelessly by a much younger man at the MTV party but my inner cougar would have been disappointed if I hadn’t. I’ve seen worse behaviour at The Baron up the road on a Thursday night.)
9. Could any event but the Loeries get The Hoff and Patricia de Lille to appear together and stage and then sit together at the same media conference? I got to ask both of them what it was like to be a pop culture icon (albeit it in very different spheres). You seldom get opportunities like that. I’ll be dining out on that one for months, possibly years.
10. And finally, only the Loeries gives certain people a Rock Star Pass. It’s very hard to get one, but if you do, you flash it at security people and the world is your oyster. It took me three days before I eventually had the heart to cut mine off; I wish I had a Rock Star Pass to everything in life.
All in all, this year’s Loeries festival was a great showcase for South Africa’s marketing and communication industries. We’ve been up there with the best in the world ever since South Africa lost its pariah status in 1990, and we’re still pretty damned good. “In a nutshell,” Odette told me, “the ACA is very proud of the Loerie awards and I am very proud to be a member of the most amazing profession in the world!”
After seeing what we’re capable of, so am I.