Digitas Liquorice was the big winner at this year’s Smarties Awards, scooping nine in total. The Smarties are the world’s only global mobile marketing awards, honouring innovation and creativity, and measuring the impact and success mobile has on business.

Gorilla and Yonder Media also performed well, with the latter scooping the prestigious Best in Show award for KFC’s customer relationship management (CRM) Rewards campaign which showed brilliant execution through its rich, multi-engagement transaction handling, reward points and walleting gamification platform, says Sarah Utermark, SA country director of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA). The campaign, a mobile-first, mobile-only implementation, made effective use of USSD as an entry mechanism and paired it with rewards and prizes that were also mobile driven. “This is a shining example of how to leverage mobile to successfully drive business results,” says Utermark.

KFC was awarded in five categories (lead generation, location based, relationship building/CRM and social impact) which resulted in the Best in Show achievement.

KFC’s social impact for its “Add Hope” work has been significant. During the seven years it has been the campaign for the feeding scheme initiative, the brand has raised R387-million. It partnered with over 137 feeding institutions across SA, reaching over 120,000 children daily. The campaign was executed by Mark1.

The Agency of the Year Award went to Gorilla, in recognition of its socially impactful work and the fact that it has consistently delivered at the highest standard for Unilever.

AdColony won the Publisher of the Year Award for its role in addressing critical issues of viewability and brand safety. Both affect the efficacy of campaigns as brands can be promoted on publishers’ sites that are irrelevant, or even alongside content that promotes terror and violence. In the case of viewability, a brand’s efforts may also not be seen at all, despite paying for these impressions. 

This year’s winning campaigns, said the judges, were forward-thinking, innovative and quality initiatives that support people’s basic needs or delivered notable business impact.

“The Smarties look for work that goes beyond the creative and delivers tangible results for brands and organisations,” says Utermark. “Mobile plays a critical role in enabling this. The engagement and penetration rates of mobile users demonstrate a need to encourage growth from brands and agencies to ensure mobile is brought into the creative strategy conversation at a much earlier stage of any campaign planning.”

The standard of mobile advertising and marketing is generally good in SA, she says, largely due to the knowledge sharing and better exchange structures that are now in place between agencies and corporates – these enable teams globally to connect and share insights. “We’re seeing more specialist media owners and tech enablers spending a great deal of time, even sitting within the organisations of traditional media agencies and large corporates, to ensure that expertise is shared and filtered through the ranks far quicker than ever before, allowing marketers to make the decisions necessary to execute effective campaigns.”

The big take-out

Campaigns that are winning in the mobile industry are those that have a social and business impact; together with being insightful, innovative and creative.

SA, she adds, compares well globally. “Last year, the MMA Business Impact Index results showed four of the five top digital agencies in the EMEA [Europe, Middle East and Africa] region were from SA. We have some fantastic talent emerging through a number of ‘future skills’ initiative programmes crafted by agencies, collages and online universities.”

The challenge for SA, however, is to create career opportunities and organisational structures that ensure talent remains in the country.

The industry’s use of mobile technology, particularly in the financial sector, she says, is excellent. “Overall, we’ve seen great CRM/loyalty platforms and a few good examples of how bots are now being integrated into the customer journey,” says Utermark, adding that bots allow for meaningful, repeat engagement when used correctly.

“We’re beginning to see more brilliant, quality initiatives that support basic human needs and rights that are socially impactful, such as education and nutrition. There was an increasing number of entries this year that made a significant difference in people’s lives in SA,” she says, adding that KFC and Unilever, in particular, are brands that really focus on their values in terms of what is at the forefront of their campaign message to their consumers.

The challenge in mobile marketing is that SA remains siloed in the approach to the use of mobile, she points out, explaining that the interaction between the various types of media means there is often a struggle to keep the customer engaged across different channels. “We definitely need to focus on more effectively integrating above-the-line and mobile/digital media,” she says.

The full list of winners is below: