15 December 2015
In a recent brainstorm, one of our copywriters penned the following while exploring conceptual routes for a client campaign: “Is it me, or does it feel like this year has gone January, February, September, Happy New Year…?!”
When he read it out loud, half a dozen heads around the table nodded in support of the line and, perhaps more tellingly, in sympathy with the overall sentiment.
2015 can only be described as a fast year. Of course, it’s customary at this point in time to pause, reflect and wonder where the preceding 50 weeks have gone. But my reflection this time is tinged with a little more than the usual seasonal reminiscing. 2015 really was faster.
This was reflected not just by the marked increase in the speed-to-market and volume of our clients’ briefs, but also, by the need to establish a much more fleet of foot and iterative working response, embracing the simultaneous need to experiment-adapt-perfect-launch-adapt-perfect-launch (and so on), while not sacrificing the longer-term strategic goal or quality of creative thinking. Add to this the (again) simultaneous need of constant new business pitching, and it’s clear that 2015 was faster, not because it seemed that way, but because it was that way. We genuinely delivered more, more quickly and to a higher standard.
So what did we deliver in 2015?
To the thinking first: never before has our thought-leadership been so prolific across so many media platforms. This year, our teams penned 24 strategic pieces across 17 platforms, culminating with two key pieces for Brands & Branding 2015. We also featured prominently at this years’ Marketing Indaba and various tertiary workshops and presentations (including AAA School Of Advertising, University of Johannesburg and Vega Durban.) We also launched our MindMatters sessions, a series of inspirational events for clients and media featuring incisive and provocative thinkers. This year, we welcomed scenario planner Clem Sunter and Jeremy Gardiner from Investec Asset Management, both of whom gave glimpses of what we can all expect over the next 3 to 5 years – our heartfelt thanks to them both.
Second, to our creative leaders: this year we had an impressive array of key people flying our agency’s flag at a broad range of industry events. Nkanyezi Masango, Creative Director of our Cape Town agency, was invited to judge Film at the AD STARS International Award Festival in Busan, Korea. Graham Lang, our Chief Creative Officer, was selected for various prestigious international juries, including One Show on the Cross-platform Jury, New York Festivals Executive Jury, and the Film Jury at the Cannes Festival of Creativity. Werner Marais, Creative Director of our Cape Town agency, was also invited to sit on the New York Festivals 2015 International Grand Jury.
Third, to our creative output: 2015 set an unprecedented record for our agency. Never before in our 40-year plus history, has our creative product been so widely and unanimously acclaimed. A particular highlight at Cannes this year was the award for our first Lion for film – a Silver – as well as our top 2 ranking for South African agencies (up from 3rd in 2014). We also worked closely with our teams in Nairobi, who were awarded a Bronze Lion this year, Kenya’s first ever. The Loeries were equally rewarding with 4 Gold, 3 Silver and 8 Bronze across 11 different categories (plus 5 craft certificates) placing our agency in the top 3 rankings for the country (up from 6th in 2014). We also won our third consecutive Ubuntu Award for Sustainable Marketing at the Loeries.
For the record, these are not the improper boasts of an excessively proud CEO (well, not entirely…). Importantly, what these accolades demonstrate is the courage and foresight of our clients to run with original and break-through ideas (no other ideas get the light of day at an awards show). And while it’s easy to get caught up in the fanfare of it all, our approach has – and always will be – to take this praise with a healthy dose of humility and one constant reminder: awards don’t happen without clients. To you, our clients, who allowed our creative teams to do what they do best, we owe our deepest thanks.
Fourth, to the business of advertising. Our business, like many other advertising businesses, has come under pressure in 2015. It follows that when our clients are under pressure, so too are we. We responded by restructuring our business swiftly, firmly deciding not to blame the economy or the currency or anything else for that matter. We are a resilient bunch and we always bounce back. And even under these challenging circumstances, many of clients – from the likes of Pick n Pay, Investec, Willowton Group, Aspen and Lipton – entrusted us with amplified portfolios and new work streams and we remain indebted to them for the confidence they continue to invest in us each day.
Fifth, to the business of Shopper Marketing. Just over 12 months ago, we set our sights on extending our offer and launching Labstore Retail and Shopper Marketing, a socially led and data driven unit that would allow us to deliver through-the-line solutions for our clients. And that is exactly what our Labstore South Africa team has done, celebrating their first birthday in business this year with a bang, and deservedly so, given the rise in their client stable from 7 to 22. By any standards, growth of this kind can only be described as fast.
While we have enjoyed a whole host of other accomplishments this year – from more WPP training for more people to new systems integration, key operational and IT improvements, greater integration with our Africa network, more locally held strategic and creative sessions with guests from Y&R’s global network, and, importantly a rise in our CSI project work – all of these efforts combined, have helped us maintain the standard and delivery our clients have come to expect from Y&R, and which we intend to maintain over the years to come.
It is fitting, then, to sign off a fast and demanding 2015 with recognition of your agency’s progress, this time not by the advertising industry, but by the financial and business community itself. At the end of November, again for the first time in our agency’s history, Y&R SA’s Cape Town agency was awarded Medium Agency of the Year at the Financial Mail’s AdFocus Awards. It was also the first ever shortlisting for our Johannesburg agency in the Large Agency category. If ever there were a sign of an agency that has constantly strived for better, this was it. This award is a testament to the quality of our management, to the talent and determination of our people and to the trust our clients have placed in us on our rapid journey over these last few years – we are hugely grateful and humbled.
And so, to you and to your families, to our own teams and to their families, this is to thank you all once more and to wish you all a very restful and deserved holiday before we re-engage in the New Year and pick up the pace once more – Happy Holidays!