Industry doyenne Ann Nurock wins 2023 AdFocus Lifetime Achievement Award
More than 10 years after she established the African arm of Relationship Audits it works with 25 companies in South Africa and worldwide, resulting in interactions with more than 80 advertising agencies
The AdFocus Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded to a person who has had a profoundly positive impact on the industry. This year’s recipient is Ann Nurock, without question one of the most passionate proponents of the advertising industry in South Africa.
Nurock is the Africa partner of Relationship Audits, a global consultancy that measures and optimises strategic business relationships, with its primary focus on client-agency relationships. Its proprietary Radar tool is used by corporates and agencies to help them get the most out of their important strategic relationships by providing them with an in-depth understanding of these relationships in order to optimise their potential.
Before establishing Relationship Audits, Nurock spent more than 25 years in the communications industry, primarily with Grey Advertising, moving up the ranks till she was appointed MD of Grey SA in 2000 and CEO and head of the Africa region in 2003.
Under her leadership the agency doubled its size in three years. In 2007 it was ranked one of the top-performing new business and creative agencies in the Grey Global network and one of the top three in SA. Nurock was recognised that year as one of the three most influential women in the communications industry and she received the FinWeek Long-Term Achievement Award.
When an opportunity arose for an international secondment, Nurock jumped at it, and in 2008 relocated to Toronto to take up the position of president and CEO of Grey Canada.
However, her time there ended up being the low point of her career, she admits with hindsight. “I didn’t understand the Canadians and they didn’t understand me,” she says.
Her dedication and generosity make her a true giver to the industryGarreth van Vuuren
But, as tough as the experience was, she doesn’t regret it. “It taught me humility and made me a better person. I went from being a big fish in a small pond to a very small fish in an enormous sea — and there are lessons in that. And while I continue to consider my stint in Canada as a career failure, what came out of it was life changing.”
She established the African arm of Relationship Audits on her return to South Africa. More than a decade later, the business is very successful and works with 25 local and global companies, resulting in interactions with more than 80 advertising agencies, enabling more effective client-agency relationships.
Rapt Creative, the recipient of the 2022 AdFocus Small Agency of the Year Award and a finalist in this same category in 2023, is one of the many agencies Nurock has worked with in recent years. CEO Garreth van Vuuren says Nurock is a true powerhouse in the advertising industry.
“I’ve had the privilege of being mentored by Ann and it has been an absolute game changer for me. As an agency Rapt has also had an amazing relationship with her. Her expertise and guidance have helped us identify and tackle crucial issues through the use of the Radar survey, which has been instrumental in highlighting areas where we can improve and implement effective strategies to overcome challenges.”
What sets Nurock apart is her selfless nature, he adds. “Ann genuinely cares about the industry and is always willing to share her knowledge and support us. Her dedication and generosity make her a true giver to the industry.”
Nurock says it gives her immense satisfaction to give back to an industry that served her so well for so many years. “I’m passionate about advertising and marketing and through Radar I’m able to help businesses and their agencies have better relationships.”
Regarding client-agency relationships, she says what some clients seem to have forgotten is that if they want great work, they need to inspire their agency and give them ambition. Every agency aspires to create great work; if they’re inspired they will go beyond the call of duty to deliver beyond expectations.
“Clients want their agency to challenge them — but they can only do that if they understand the business and are able to speak the same language as clients. Agencies need to talk about the same objectives and metrics the business is discussing in order to give their clients the tools to sell ideas to the C-suite.”
She says it all boils down to trust: when agencies genuinely understand the client’s business and the challenges it faces and are able to address those challenges through strategically sound creativity, an environment of trust is created.
The big take-out: “Agencies need to talk about the same objectives and metrics that the business is discussing in order to give their clients the tools to sell ideas to the C-suite.” — Ann Nurock, 2023 winner of the FM Lifetime Achievement Award
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