[Video] Behind the Loeries Social Media Storm & Allegations of adjusted scores
Jessica Hubbard, Deputy Editor; 24 August 2015
Over the past several days, a firestorm has erupted around the recent Loeries Awards held in Durban. The firestarter, so to speak, has been Chris Gotz, the outgoing CCO of Ogilvy & Mather South Africa. No stranger to controversy, Gotz has essentially accused the Loeries Board of being dishonest and corrupting the spirit of the Loeries judging rules. He expressed disbelief, for example, at how one agency, Geometry Global Dubai, could have legitimately won in every category it entered.
Andrew Human, CEO of the Loeries, dismissed these accusations in a radio interview with Ashraf Garda, host of the SAFM Media Show, saying that Gotz is simply making inflammatory statements in characteristic ‘shoot-from-the hip’ fashion with ‘no supporting evidence.’
Human added that the Loeries has a formal process through which queries can be properly addressed, and noted that ‘one person’s rant on social media certainly does not put us on the back foot.’
“We work through a structure, and the decisions of the Loeries are the decisions of the industry,” stated Human.
Should Loeries Ditch the Middle East?
In another hard-hitting tweet, Gotz also criticised the fact that the Loeries is including the Middle East.
In response to this view, the Loeries issued a press release that featured comments from Creative Circle Chairman Justin Gomes and Pepe Marais, Chief Creative Officer and Founding Partner of Joe Public United.
“The Loeries, a not for profit company with a board made up of representatives from across the industry, has been celebrating work from across Africa & the Middle East for a number of years,” the release stated. “While IMPACT BBDO Dubai did particularly well this year, this is not the first time the Middle East has been richly rewarded at the Loeries. In 2007 a Grand Prix was awarded, and last year two Gold Loeries were awarded to Dubai.”
According to the Loeries Board, local companies are ‘increasingly turning to Africa as well as the Middle East as new growth markets, and marketing communications are increasingly being tailor-made for a local audience.’
The Loeries Board also noted that ‘brands are looking for partners working across the region and the Loeries is ideally positioned as the best measure of the work being produced from South Africa and across Africa all the way to the Middle East.’
A Money-Making Scheme?
Yet Gotz maintains that the Loeries should focus on local creative talent, and questions the motivations behind celebrating work ‘from countries nearly 18 000 km away’.
“They [Loeries] seem to think we live in a country where everyone is on an equal footing, where young creative people born without advantage must now compete against battalions of overpaid expats in the unregulated Wild West of Dubai and Doha,” Gotz stated in a Facebook post. “And they seem to think this makes all the sense in the world. They can’t understand why everyone is getting so worked up. They do not see the value in developing an exclusively homegrown awards show with South African work. Even though they made their careers in a Loerie Awards that did just that.”
Gotz added that he had chatted to ‘a few friends in Dubai,’ who pointed out that the Loeries were ‘aggressively marketed’ there this year.
“…so it seems there was a huge drive to increase entries from that region,” Gotz wrote. “I wonder what that cost? And I wonder how that money, which is the money of a non-profit remember, could not have been spent developing and nurturing young creative talent in South Africa, encouraging them to be good enough to enter Loeries. I guess that’s up to the industry to decide now. But the closer you look at this, the more stinky it gets.”
And this is presumably an example of the stinkiness Gotz is referring to: The notion that the Loeries should be singularly focused on South African and African creativity is supported by many in the local industry, including creative directors Leon Jacobs and Jenny Glover. Glover made the following comments to this effect:
The opposing view, and one purportedly held by the Loeries Board and committee members, is that competition from the Middle East is good for the local industry – and if local agencies didn’t feature strongly in the Awards this year, they only have themselves to blame.
The Loeries Media Innovation Jury Chair, Virginia Hollis, echoed this sentiment in an interview with Adlip.
“I think it’s really important that we actually compete with the world,” says Hollis. “We do it at Cannes, we do it everywhere else in the world, why the hell not at Loeries?”
She acknowledged that the industry has been put into the EMEA category by marketers, and ‘we don’t like it, we really don’t want to be in the EMEA situation – because we don’t believe that marketers fully understand that Africa is very different even to the Middle East.’
“However, we are in that category… So how do you turn around now and say we’re just going to exclude the Middle East? And say to global clients that we can’t actually rate your work against the Middle East…are we not good enough?”
Yet Hollis is quick to state that in fact, as an industry, ‘we are good enough.’
“I think we’re exceptionally talented in this country. And if we didn’t do well this year, well, maybe it’s our own fault,” she says. “Maybe it’s not a fault of the Middle East. And when I look at the entries we had in the Media category – and I had nine panel members who will support what I’m saying now – they will tell you that the EMEA entries were better than SA…much better.”
Hollis maintains that it would be ‘seriously remiss of the industry’ to exclude the Middle East from the Loeries.
“That’s actually really sad if they make that decision,” she says. “I think that the Middle East [agencies] have got a lot to teach us – and we’ve got a lot to teach them. So why shouldn’t we be open about it? Why shouldn’t we allow other people in?”