Matt Scheckner. Picture: SUPPLIED
Matt Scheckner. Picture: SUPPLIED

Though the Loeries creative week is well entrenched in the SA advertising calendar, it might do well to look over its shoulder, as an established American competitor is sniffing around.

The Advertising Week festival, which started in New York in 2004, is looking to stage an event here next year.

Founder Matt Scheckner has been in SA testing the waters and meeting a number of key industry stakeholders. He’s been planning the project for the past two years.

Though the bedrock of the Loeries has always been its respected awards programme, it has gained currency in recent years with a seminar and conference programme that includes high-profile international speakers.

That’s exactly what Scheckner is looking to replicate, with a view to taking the "the African story of innovation and use of technology" to a wider continental market and the rest of the world.

Advertising Week has grown rapidly over the past 10 years, with spin- off events in London, Tokyo and Mexico City.

Two of Scheckner’s key points of departure are to find unusual and creative venues, as he eschews traditional convention centres; and making the event more accessible to a general audience outside the brand and advertising echo chamber.

Scheckner has been scouting for locations in SA, and wherever he chooses to land it’s likely there will be a sense of theatre. His company is responsible for the famous Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest that is held every year on July 4 on Coney Island in New York. It draws a global audience and has a dedicated live show on a major US sports network.

Scheckner is also the founder of the boutique agency Stillwell Partners. He is another advertising leader to express concern about the fragmented nature of the business and the way brands are struggling to connect with consumers in an "evolving business ecosystem" and an increasingly "small-screen world".

But he cautions that brands cannot yet go for a digital-only approach, as confusion over strategy reigns the world over.

He notes that while mass-market platforms like television have a crucial role to play when it comes to sports events, more dualistic thinking needs to be adopted, as he predicts increased high-quality live-streaming in coming months. The question, he says, is how brands will insert themselves in the trend and capitalise on it.

Though phrases like "branded content" are consuming brand managers’ minds, Scheckner tells the Financial Mail one shouldn’t be blindsided by new labels.

Tactical brand association with media platforms has been around almost since the advent of television and he advises brands to observe the dictum "everything old becomes new again".

Scheckner believes brands should sit up and take notice of the perceived influence of the millennial consumer. Many among the millennials have some disposable income but, more importantly, they are less loyal or wedded to brands than the baby-boomer generation. Millennials have a greater propensity to be influenced, he says.

He also offers some salutary advice to big network agencies. He says that though many are still producing "phenomenal work", they can often be outboxed and outsmarted by smaller, more nimble operations that have fewer staff members and lower overheads and understand how to utilise the freelance workforce trained in a digital-first environment.

"They can ramp up and ramp down using people who don’t want to be wedded to a corporate culture," he says.