Tag Archives: Advertising

Our Quiet Defiance Against The Mighty Virus.

Yes. I baked banana bread during Lockdown.

I don’t particularly know why there is a banana bread craze. Maybe it’s because it’s relatively easy, it gives you something to do with the panic bananas you bought, it’s not fancy and it’s just pretty damn moreish.

I also don’t know why I made roti after about 10 years and various other dishes that had my pressure cooker whistling like an old Bollywood actor. These were dishes that would make most Indian Aunties proud, as they rush to draw up my profile for Shaadi.com (a famous marriage site).

When I think about it, I think making is a way of fighting back.

Just over a week ago, I was asked by Preetesh Sewraj, the new CEO of the Loeries, to write a positive piece about trading in a post-Covid environment. Like any true creative, I procrastinated. But then I went well over the acceptable procrastination period and had to question myself a little deeper.

The truth: It’s hard to be positive in these times. Positivity feels like privilege. It’s also hard when you’re a creative and quite used to feeling so much and wearing your skin inside-out. It’s hard because I think most of us are sitting in the middle of the see-saw, constantly falling towards fear and constantly climbing up to hope.

I’m no analyst so I’m not going to try to predict what the future of business looks like. But I am a creative and I will say that the best examples of creativity come from adversity – from strife in your heart, fear in your boots and restlessness in your soul. It comes from being vulnerable and seeing your weaknesses pour out of you like a leaky gut. It comes from crying your ugly tears and talking to yourself till you reach your core. And when we reach the core of what makes us who we are, we can relate to others through what we make and put out into the world.

This is the time to reflect and to create, despite everything. Creativity becomes our quiet defiance against the mighty virus. It’s what we do. We find resilience through meme-able joys and silly and provocative humour. We expand consciousness through storytelling and juicy slices of expression. And in spite of distance, we reach humanity by saying the unsaid, by uncovering the unseen and by being the most human we have ever been.

Our President, Cyril Ramaphosa, in his 9th of April address said, “We will learn from global experience and the best scientific evidence but we will craft a uniquely South African response.” And there it is. If there’s anything we’ve learnt about South Africa, it’s that we do things our own way. We have our own brand of humour and an arsenal of creativity and ingenuity that is enviable. We were born different and we will find our own unique ways of surviving and thriving. Though everything we know is being challenged right now and though we are scared, I know that the South African spirit is perfectly au fait with being reincarnated over and over again.

Arundhati Roy recently wrote an article called, “The Pandemic is a Portal”. She said, “We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

From our Ndlovu Youth Choir, to Sho Madjozi and Loui London, to Gilli Apter, Coconut Kelz, Loyiso Madinga, Laz Gola, Donovan and Davina Mae, to TikTok legends and Black Twitter, to our young advertising creatives and designers, to Tshepho the Jean Maker, to Kagiso Lediga, to Nelson Makamo and yes – even you, Rasta, to my mom learning to play the guitar all over again at 70, and to you quietly celebrating your banana bread baby…You are the creative soldiers of this country. You will help us all imagine another world. And we’ll be ready to fight for it.

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What would David Ogilvy do?

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Two things happened in the ad industry in the last few months that would have made David Ogilvy cringe in his grave. First, an ad agency was stripped of its honours and shamed for entering fake work into an awards show. Second, after an 8-year long relationship, a certain agency was informed – over email – of the client’s intention to put the business out to pitch.

David Ogilvy was born in 1911. At the time, the advertising souls of this era were still floating around in a cosmic bubble, contemplating making a grand entrance a couple of decades later. So of what importance then, is the opinion of this old-world gentleman?

I believe that in a time when our industry is consumed with the challenges and wonders of the digital age, doing good for humanity and fulfilling our rock-star dreams, we should also be consumed with the fact that while nobody was looking, respect, trust and good old common sense started walking out the door.

As someone from the agency side, I have always feared that the very nature of the agency-client relationship is flawed – a relationship that has set us on unequal footing and built master-slave mentalities and battered-wife syndromes. While no relationship is a one-way street, I worry that ours is more strained than it has ever been. Now would be a good time to summon the spirit of the Father of Advertising. Here are five things Ogilvy said that I would like to share with all clients:

“Be candid, and encourage candor.”

David Ogilvy would want us to stop hiding behind debriefs and emails and start having more honest conversations. Tell us what works for you, what doesn’t and before your eyes start roaming, talk to us and give us the chance to show you that we actually care about your business as much as you do. If it still doesn’t work out, don’t break up with us over email.

“Why keep a dog and bark yourself?”

Ogilvy recommended that clients should not compete with their agencies in the creative area. Trust that most of us went to ad school. Trust us to do creativity, to write copy and to design. No one wants their copy dictated to them. We should ban tracked changes on word documents and scribbling on layouts. Give us your opinion, criticise and interrogate the work but allow us to do what we love doing.

“Don’t haggle with your agency.”

Sometimes ad agencies behave like a kid who has a hundred bucks and finds himself in front of a slot machine. But sometimes we feel like the kid who has to score goals in Bata Toughees. Maybe it’s time to loosen the iron-grip on the purses. Spend the right money at the right time with the right people and you will see the results.

“Clients get the advertising they deserve.”

A great idea is chosen by you. When you are brave you get brave work. No doubt, every great idea travels a scary journey accompanied by a manic, feverish sweat. We should not be afraid of this fever because it subsides once the work survives intact. If you set your standards high, you allow us to improve your bottom line and to do great work for you.

“Loosen their tongues.”

I think that Ogilvy meant that we should drink Tequila. We should also have lunch some time.  Maybe play a round of golf too. We compress time so drastically these days that we forget that relationships are built alongside the work, the briefs and the meetings. Get to know the people that work on your business and let us get to know you so that we might each catch a glimpse of the passion and commitment we share.

As 2013 draws to a close and the last brief gets jammed under the door, I hope that we can wake up in 2014 with a more evolved approach to the agency-client relationship. On both sides, I hope that we can behave with more integrity, build trust again and pat each other on the backs without the simultaneous urge to stab each other. I hope that we can find new meaning in our roles. If the face of advertising has changed and now resembles a bearded, plaid-wearing guy with an enormous heart, doesn’t it make sense that we both rock up to work as partners, rather than as ‘Agency’ and ‘Client’? Let us make 2014 the year that all others are compared to and let us make David Ogilvy, that old bastard, bloody proud.

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