Ads awards will give marketers fresh impetus
After an absence of 12 years, and a decade of toxic wrangling before that, Kenya has just revived its annual advertising awards. It’s a positive step for anyone who feels that we all deserve better advertising.
Market economies put the consumer first, and that requires brands to understand both their needs and their perceptions. The tool that best addresses consumer perceptions is advertising. And yes, it does work. Anyone who doubts that should examine the contents of their bathroom cabinet.
It works even better when the outbound advertising message is integrated with inbound channels so that consumers can react to the brand: SMS, social media, events and even coupons.
But none of this works if the advertising is dull or looks bad. That is why the world developed advertising awards. So that professionals who know what they are doing are able to hone their skills in a competitive environment. And so that people who think creating advertising is easy are forced to reconsider.
So I was delighted to participate in judging of the 2016 Kenya ad awards. The process was well run, by a team from the Loeries Awards in South Africa. While Kenyans may look askance at this, they will know that sometimes we let things get so out of hand here that only an outsider can sort it out.
So it was sorted out. Judges were protected from undue influence and permitted to get on with their job. This was a big one: over two days we debated nearly 450 entries. A third of them were shortlisted and 66 won prizes.
Two thirds of the awards were won by the agencies of the behemoth Scangroup. So one third were won by other agencies; and more might have won if they had entered. I hope that the restoration of the competition and the work that won will encourage wider participation next year.
Visually the work looked a whole lot better than it did 12 years ago, especially on TV. But the lack of original photography made the print category much less interesting. Using stock photography tends to indicate that you don’t really care about persuading consumers, and any old image will do. It won’t.
The least impressive work was in radio. I wouldn’t blame listeners for tuning out of this crescendo of jibber-jabber.
Overall I’d say that really good ideas were thinner on the ground, which raises concerns about impact. The most impressive ideas were executed in the space where digital meets TV.
I’ll comment on specific categories over the coming weeks, but there is clearly no lack of capability in the Kenyan advertising scene. But the people who pay for advertising need to understand how to make it work better. That’s about supporting really new ideas, not copying your peer group.