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Ahead of the start of next week’s Loeries creative festival, inaugural research on gender representation in advertising across Africa has revealed major disparities. Overall speaking time is dominated by men (61%), versus 30% for women. Men also enjoy 57% of onscreen time, compared with 43% for women.

"If we want to eliminate harmful stereotypes in our industry, we need to stop thinking it is someone else’s job. Creating long-term and meaningful change requires collective action," says Elizma Nolte, head of marketing at Facebook Africa, who conducted the study.

Speaking to the FM ahead of the Cape Town event, Loeries CEO Preetesh Sewraj says that despite the challenges of the pandemic, brands that were entered in the awards programme showed it was a business imperative to continue communicating with consumers. "Agencies had to create this communication while having to deal with work-from-home challenges and the inability to utilise existing systems and processes," he says. "The volume of brand communication has remained high, which shows there is a keen understanding in the industry that it is important to maintain brand love even where access to these brands is limited."

Sewraj says innovation remains a core part of the Loeries judging criteria and brands and agencies developed innovative ways of connecting with consumers.

A key indicator of media performance this year is which entry categories have stood out. Says Sewraj: "Integrated communication [across multiple media platforms] showed a significant spike, and digital is a strong growth category."

The overall health of the ad industry is often measured by the number of entries in the 43-year-old competition. Sewraj says: "With the pandemic still affecting society, the expectation was that we would see a significant decline. We were pleasantly surprised to see the number entries were closely aligned to those of 2019."

Sewraj believes advertising awards still play a major role in procuring new business. "The Loeries is a powerful tool across Africa and the Middle East to help unlock greater business for agencies. The work we do may be termed as an award but, in truth, it is research. It gives brands a view of which agencies are creating the most innovative campaigns, and it helps agencies understand their place in the creative landscape."

Sewraj remains bullish about the short-term future of advertising. "The consumer is truly at the heart of the advertising industry, and great advertising is designed to influence a consumer’s purchasing decision.

"As consumers, we need to continue investing in products and services that improve our lives. This leads to a hunger for information to ensure we are making the best decisions for when and where we spend our money. Advertising is not a luxury but an absolute necessity for any brand that seeks to protect their business position or even to cannibalise those of their competitors. This cannot be achieved without creative excellence," Sewraj says.

"Business cycles have been a constant throughout history, but the brands that truly embrace creativity, regardless of the business environment, are the ones that continue to thrive. Brands that are smart enough to invest in their communication will not only win with consumers but develop strong agency partnerships, giving them the competitive edge that is required to tackle competitor activity."

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