Despite Noah’s Ark’s trophy haul, Nigeria fared badly at Cristals

The African Cristal Festival 2017 that was held in Marrakech, Morocco just over a week ago has been a memorable outing for Noah’s Ark, which frankly is Nigeria’s agency of the moment. The agency which was founded less than 10 years ago clearly outperformed its Nigerian counterparts both at the continental and especially at the regional levels of the award. At the continental level Noah’s Ark carted home eight trophies, while DDB Lagos, X3M Ideas, SO&U and Leo Burnett got one award each.

Noah’s Ark continued its medal haul in the regional level where it almost cleaned out the table with 10 awards, leaving the other Nigerian agencies to share the remaining six. In total Noah’s Ark got 18 Cristals, while DDB Lagos and X3M Ideas got three apiece, Leo Burnett got two and SO&U, one.

This exceptional performance by the agency is a big improvement on its performance at last year’s Cristal where it won five medals. It is also a major step in the right direction of the agency’s ambition for international recognition. Recall that Lanre Adisa’s agency also shone at the Loeries of 2016, winning three medals.

But one thing that was clear from this year’s Cristal was the growing varied expertise among Nigerian agencies, especially in the story telling aspect. More and more Nigerian agencies are now mastering the art of using creative story-telling approach to project clients’ brands and this expertise was recognised at Cristal with no less than three awards.

But while Noah’s Ark’s achievement is considered huge in Nigeria, Nigeria’s general performance actually pales in significance when put side by side with agencies from other major African countries like Kenya, Egypt and South Africa,  despite that Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy, with an abundance of creative talents. From the analysis of the medals table, it is glaring that the agencies from Kenya, Egypt, Morocco and South Africa are the most dominant and leading lights on the continent, leaving Nigerian agencies far behind.

Unarguably, the African Cristals are the premier awards programme for the pan-African marketing and communications community, and recognises the best creative work across the continent. It is perhaps the AFCON of the advertising industry.

While Nigerian agencies failed to land even a single Grand Prix, the Nairobi-headquartered Ogilvy Africa carted home seven out of a possible 12 Grand Prix awards, including the Festival Grand Prix, the Leadership Grand Prix, the Media Grand Prix, Digital Grand Prix and the Mobile Grand Prix. The agency also bagged 21 Gold, eight silver and three bronze awards, to emerge top of the table in the continental showcase. South Africa agencies won, at least, three Grand Prix.

Analysts have said the lack of necessary reforms in Nigeria’s advertising industry is partly to blame for the inability of agencies to compete globally. An agency’s CEO, who didn’t want to be named, explained that the Kenyans and South Africans have made their industries more attractive to big investments from global agencies because foreign agencies are permitted to buy up majority shares in local outfits. This has ensured they are more vibrant and globally competitive.

He also said that with foreign investment barrier still set at a mere 25 per cent by APCON, for fear of foreign dominance, it will be difficult to achieve the level of vibrancy and competitiveness attained by these other countries.

Regrettably, Nigeria’s weaknesses were even more pronounced in the digital category, where 57 entries were shortlisted, and none came from Nigeria. Nigerian agencies also failed to make any winning entry in the mobile category where six cristal were awarded. only Kenyans and South African agencies won medals in the mobile category.

Ganiyu Olowu, a brand analyst, told MARKETING EDGE that this was a clear indication that talk has not been converted to action in terms of investing in the development of capabilities in the digital space. “This, perhaps, explains why Nigerian multinations still prefer to work with foreign digital agencies at the expense of Nigerian outfits”, he said.

South Africa’s Liquorice, a DigitasLBi company and digital agency, won nine awards at the Cristals. The agency’s varied expertise was awarded accolades across multiple categories, including website, integrated campaign, viral film, mobile and digital innovation.

Liquorice’s Dinner on Demand campaign for Knorr, South Africa’s first recipe chat bot, won two silver awards for both digital innovation and within the food and drink digital category. The campaign is yet another award winning element of Liquorice’s groundbreaking Whatsfordinner? programme that the agency has been running for nine years across Africa for Unilever’s largest food brand, Knorr.

The agency also picked up silver Cristals for OMO Fast Kids and Unilever’s Perfect Sishebo iFlava, while scooping bronze Cristals for SA Home Loans House Rules, Hellmann’s #RockYourBurger and the Nederburg wine website.

Oguilvy Afrca’s dominance was bouyed by a chain of creative works that wowed the industry, the biggest, perhaps, being “The Most Eligible Bachelor”, a global campaign to raise funds for the conservation of the Northern White rhino species. The campaign won 30 awards during the festival that rewards the best advertising campaigns created and broadcasted over the African continent, on any media. The Northern White rhino is critically endangered, with only three of its kind left in the world, living at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Another multiple award winning entry was “Madaraka Day”, a campaign for Airtel networks, which won seven awards including three Gold, while King Condoms won two silver awards.

BBDO Cape Town also scooped an impressive haul at the African Cristals. The agency was awarded the coveted Grand Cristal, which is best of show in Promo & Direct, for the launch of Dunkin’ Donuts as well as three Cristal awards (Gold) and three Sapphire awards (Silver) for the Dunkin’ Donuts campaign and a provocative press freedom campaign for media house, Times Media.

Unfortunately, the loopholes that have been created by a lack of proper reforms may not be corrected any time soon. The APCON council that has the statutory power to do that has since been sacked and no replacement made for close to two years. All effort by concerned practitioners to get the government to understand the gains of having a council in place seems to have yielded no result, so far. So, while the industry seems to be at a crossroad with regards to what the future holds, the Kenyans , Egyptians and South Africans are forging ahead with purpose and creating more opportunities for investment and growth.



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