Roundup: Loeries, The Digital Edge Live, DMMA Publisher Conference & Rocking the Daisies

This time of year is always busy for us digital folk. It’s not quite over with the Bookmarks still coming (on Nov 14) but the three big events in my schedule are now over and I have some time to catch my breath and talk about what happened. For the record if anyone wants to run a digital event in the first half of the year you have a lot more calendar space to choose from.

This blog entry is perhaps the closest thing to an actual “web log” that I have ever written, so there you have it. First time for everything.

The Loeries

As I wrote before Creative Week in September, the Loeries are an ever more important part of the landscape. Particularly for digital agencies whose work is now showing up all over the place, and not just in the digital categories.

This year there were a number of “firsts” in the awards. It was the first year we appointed an International Digital Jury Chair – Debbie Vandeven from VML in Kansas City. It was the first year digital was at the culmination of Saturday night’s show. And it was the first year that a digital agency (my own, Native VML) won two coveted prizes in the Integrated Award category.

The Loeries are a tough award show. Less than 15% of entrants win anything, and only 3% win Gold. That means lots of people walk away grumpy about not having won, or only having won Bronze. And it is also a popular misconception that there is a winner in every category. False. Many, many categories have no winners, either because there were no entries or because none of them met the minimum standard.

Judging is a complex process and the Loeries has the unenviable task of trying to get highly competitive agencies to give each other credit for good work. From everything I’ve heard the digital judging was fairly political again – something I need to work hard at over the next year to improve. We do ourselves a disservice as an industry by letting personal allegiances trump honest evaluation of the work.

The big winners in digital – as for the past few years – were Ogilvy Cape Town. Under the clear creative leadership of Chris Gotz and the digital leadership of Nic Wittenberg, the agency has produced exceptional work across the media spectrum. Digital was no exception with them winning three Golds (out of the 4 awarded). The other went to little agency Ikineo for a concept shop project for Loom. This was executed by one of my ex-staff, the incredible Rigard Kruger, who has since departed for Berlin to play with first world markets.

Overall the awards produced no single campaign that swept the boards. The Engen Fire Blanket turned up a fair amount, as did the above mentioned VW Street Quest.

The DMMA and Brand Council of SA (BCSA) held our first joint Loeries afterparty on Saturday night at 169 on Long. Slightly surreal with dismembered Bill Murray heads scattered around the place, we think we have started a signature event that will happen at every Loeries from now.

A lot of subsequent noise around MetropolitanRepublic and the Loeries has ensued in recent weeks. Suffice to say: the Board took a bold move which I wholly support.

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The Digital Edge Live

Rarely in ones life do you get to be a part of something perfect. Even writing that sounds hyperbolic but, as those who know me will attest, I’m not easily impressed. And so when I say the Digital Edge went off perfectly you should know I mean it.

This event is part of a labour of love that I helped found about five years ago. Starting as a weekly podcast show hosted by myself and the “voice” Saul Kropman, we concocted various spin offs and brand extensions – one of which was a live show. The Digital Edge Live ran for the first time in 2010 at the Pavillion at the Waterfront in Cape Town. Perhaps its most memorable element was the live band GoodLuck who destroyed eardrums with a stadium-sized rig.

This time around we packed out the Vodacom Dome in Midrand – and when I say packed I mean we sold over 1000 tickets and something like 1200 people showed up. The team working on this were the best of the best – an incredible events company, TS&A; the Native crew who marketed, sold out and made the show happen; and our awesome line-up of speakers, including the inimitable Harper Reed and Jeremy Maggs, who chaired the debates.

When I say perfect I mean: not a speech was out of place; not a point fell flat; not a mic failed, not a musical track was played out of sequence. Even our live sketch team – a crazy exercise in adrenalin production – worked better than I could ever have imagined, and received endless praise.

All told we got over 6500 tweets at the event (sorry about that) and the kind of gushing praise heaped on rockstars and winners of Idols.

We’ll be back.

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DMMA 1st Annual Publisher Conference

Not content with putting on one show in a month the week after Digital Edge was the DMMA’s first Annual Publishing Conference – a chance to think smarter about online publishing in South Africa. At two well-attended events in Joburg and Cape Town, driven by the DMMA’s Head of Publishing Tim Spira, we had the chance to hear from a wide diversity of speakers on where the online publishing industry is at, and where its going. Particular highlights for me were Melissa van Zyl from M&C Saatchi Abel on comparing digital spend to traditional; and Loren Braithwaite-Kabosha from the SACF who put up some really gory slides about SA’s telecoms pricing relative to the rest of the world.

Publishing is a tricky business. Some people make money from it but many don’t – the result of years of underpricing inventory, giving away content and unimaginative business models. I believe that the DMMA has an obligation to keep raising these questions, putting heads together, and building a united front to grow the SA industry. Too much money is either not being spent on digital, or is flowing offshore to make American businesses wealthier. I’m not sure, as Matt Buckland was suggesting at the conference, that we can put in place protectionism for the online publishing industry. But we can work together and make ourselves stronger.

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Rocking the Daisies

Lastly, and leastly, I capped off this crazy month by going to Rocking the Daises near Darling in the Cape. We avoided the hell of camping in the freezing cold, teenager-infested swampland and stayed in a B&B in Darling which made us feel both old and rich. The festival was packed, overrun by brand marketing, and sporadically fabulous. My highlight was the Fever Trail Ensemble, a small electronic outfit that played to a bewildered crowd on Saturday. More than Alt-J – great but bored with their own material and the icy winds – and every other local act, these guys are creating the future of music in front of our eyes. Spectacular.

It’s going to take a lot to convince me to go back to this festival. I could dig deeper into the “I’m too old” cart but actually I would’ve been equally irritated by this kind of thing when I was 20. Too crowded, too cold, too in awe of itself. The kind of perpetually drunk and drugged young person, stumbling over their friends and themselves, is as unappealing a prospect as its possible to imagine.

Still with my recent perspective of TDE Live I can only stare in awe at the ability of the organisers to pull something of this scale off without people dying – or worse.

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Whew. With a few weeks gap I am now fully rested and excited for The Bookmarks. Bring it on.

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