Roadside billboards are used for out-of-home advertising. Picture: THE TIMES
Roadside billboards are used for out-of-home advertising. Picture: THE TIMES

South African agencies are managing to find interesting ways to do a lot with very little. That’s the opinion of Pete Khoury, Creative Circle chair and chief creative officer at TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris, who says: “As a country, we have won awards at practically every major competition globally, and our ideas and craft have always been world class. In certain media, such as radio, we might even be regarded as world leaders.”

The Creative Circle recently released its final rankings for 2017 for both individual agencies and groups. This year, together with the usual top performers, the rankings showed some new players, which is a good sign of growth and competition in the industry. The rankings themselves provide a good benchmark and guidance on where the industry is at, and are proof that South African agencies continue to punch above their weight when benchmarked against their global counterparts.

Rankings are important – not only do they give recognition to local agencies, they also provide a benchmark in terms of the standard of work being produced by the industry and reflect the top consistent performers of every year. The 2017 ranking includes results from Cannes, D&AD, Loeries, One Show and the Creative Circle Annual Awards.

South African agencies, Khoury points out, consistently rank among the top 10 agencies in the majority of the global awards shows they enter. He adds that accolades and recognition are regularly given to local agencies across the board – regardless of age or size of agency.

The industry is making strides towards becoming more transformed in terms of talent, skills set and cultural background, as well as a diverse workforce. “This is something we have been working towards for decades, and while the rest of the world is slowly starting to deal with diversity in their own way, we’re beginning to create mature work that is reflective of the bold, true and distinctive cultural tapestry that we find around us.”

Perhaps one area where SA is lagging is in terms of technology and social interactive platforms, areas where China and the US dominate. “We use their tech, software and methods, but they do need our raw materials. Until we export our bespoke offerings or services, we will be largely reactive in what we do, because we have to follow whatever their agenda for their platform is,” says Khoury. 

The big take-out

South African agencies are consistently commended for their work at an international level, with the 2017 rankings providing a good benchmark on industry performance.

Closer to home, he says to expect a lot of positive movement coming from smaller, independent companies. Not only are they winning awards for great work, but they’re getting more and more business.

This is all taking place in a fickle environment where agencies are constantly working out what’s in, what’s out, what’s cool and what’s not; which changes daily, says Khoury. That said, he believes that as much as things change, they also stay the same. To this end, regardless of the budget or technology, the work with the biggest ideas will be the campaigns to occupy the headlines and gain significant commercial advantage for their brands. “Powerful ideas and great storytelling will always stand the test of time,” he says.