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South African web design couldn't in Cannes

by Arthur Goldstuck

The best of South African interactive advertising has fallen far behind the best in the world…

At the Cannes International Advertising Festival in France last month, not a single South African web site entry or online advert was considered for the Cyber Lions, the award given for online or interactive advertising.

It was clear that the South African advertising industry has fallen dramatically behind current trends in both web design and Internet marketing strategy.

The jury scrutinised 1343 entries from 41 countries, including 22 from South Africa. However, only one South African entry made a large short list of 280, and that entry did not come into contention for an award.

The main honours went to the USA and Denmark, each of which earned a Grand Prix, the premier award at the Cannes Lions. The USA and Brazil each won two Gold Lions, while Canada, Denmark, Japan and Sweden each picked up one Gold. Spain won three Silver Lions, followed by Australia, the USA and Brazil with two silvers each. Germany, Korea and Sweden each earned one silver.

The clear favourite was the Grand Prix-winning Nike Football site from Denmark, one of a large batch of Nike entries from around the world. The South African entry on the shortlist was in fact a local Nike production, but it was not selected for the final awards vote.

The second Grand Prix award, for the BMW “Hire” film campaign, was described as “the most controversial decision in the four-year history of the Cyber Lions”. The campaign consisted of a series of five-to-six minute films that were intended to be downloaded from the Web. While a majority of jury members felt the campaign web site itself was a disappointment, and refused to give it even a gold award, there was consensus on the achievement of the campaign as a whole, both in online and in mainstream advertising.

Cyber Lions jury president George Gallate, CEO of Euro RSCG Interaction, argued: “The innovation that it has introduced may help the International Advertising Festival recategorise its awards in the future.”

Gallate described the 17-member jury, which represented 14 countries, as “the most senior jury I have ever worked with”. This contributed to a remarkable level of consensus on what constituted good online advertising.

Gallate told a press conference on the eve of the awards that the jury was “incredibly heartened by the standards we saw”.

“Some of the work showed great creativity and exceptional guts in this tough economy. We all came out of it thinking we have a spectacular future in this industry.”

He offered no room for excuses from countries that did not score in the awards stakes, pointing out that there was no link between resources and awards.

“In assessing the final list of winners, it was notable that the quality of the work submitted by the networks was not as high as that from the smaller independent shops,” Gallate told the press conference. “This is an important message for the big agencies to take away.”

The key differentiators for the jury were, firstly, great ideas and, secondly, great execution.

The element that came across most often in deciding to give an award was the emotional factor. This points the way to the future of interactive advertising: it is not only technical brilliance that will win on the Web, but the extent to which a site or ad connects with a visitor.

Arthur Goldstuck is managing director of World Wide Worx and editor of The Big Change. He represented South Africa on the Cyber Lions jury after being nominated as a judge by Cinemark, which represents the Cannes Lions in South Africa.

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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