The 1960’s marked the ‘creative revolution’ for advertising in the western world. It was a golden era where great advances were made in the advertising field.
Aggrey & Clifford (left to right). Terence Chambati (General Manager Uganda), Ryan Gosling (General Manager Tanzania), Rashid Tenga founder and Chairman, Oliver Mutere (General Manager Kenya) and who could forget Godzilla the rooster.
Many young creatives moved away from traditional forms of communication and innovated with new mediums and styles of advertising, finding a unique and authentic voice in the process. All of this was a by-product of increased prosperity post World War II, a booming youth segment, increased access to consumer goods and the socio-political freedom at the time.
In contrast, Africa was still busy fighting for its freedom and liberating its people from decades of oppression. Africa’s great creative minds were being used for noble pursuits, such as leading people to freedom and equality. As a result, Africa’s advertising industry is still very much in its infancy and formative years. Now, some may raise an eyebrow at this statement and ask if this is true given the fact that Africa has many world-class advertising agencies with a rich history. This is absolutely correct, and it shows in the creative work that is being produced by African agencies and the Internationally recognized awards they proudly display on their walls. However, the actual question should not be whether Africa is creative, but rather if Africa should expect a period of accelerated creativity in advertising which can be likened to the golden era of the 1960’s? In our opinion, the answer is quite simply yes, and this is because of three key factors.
The first is that while amazing work is produced in Africa, too often brands adapt, rather than create. We see some of the strongest brands in the world, trying to launch integrated campaigns across multiple markets and when it comes to Africa they simply adapt the visuals to local talent and directly translate copy into vernacular. This often results in creative which does not resonate with the consumer and communication which is irrelevant. This approach by global brands is one of the biggest factors which delayed agencies finding a truly African narrative for brands on the continent. However, this is slowly changing, and clients are starting to realize that work created in local markets gives greater relevance and cut through for their brands.
Secondly, despite the perception of most, Africa is progressing at a rate never experienced before. South Africa is still the gateway to Africa and regarded by many, as the jewel in Africa’s crown. This is partially due to the fact that South Africa has one foot in the developed world and the other in the developing. This makes the market easier to understand and establish a brand within. The reality, however, is that South Africa’s growth is slowing and other African countries will be the continents growth drivers in the future. Countries such Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania, have massive populations and have been hard at work building infrastructure and growing key business segments. This means the middle class in these markets has exploded and people on the street have more disposable income than ever before. This growing middle class also has access to more consumer goods from around the world and is experiencing increased social freedom. All of this means that advertising is big business in Africa and a lot of resources and energy is being invested into providing services which allow brands to stand out in these key markets. With this competition, agencies are being forced to think outside of the box and be innovative in their approach to advertising.
Thirdly, like all ad men, we are students of human behaviour and trends. One trend which can no longer be ignored is that Africa is increasingly influencing global trends rather than global trends influencing Africa. Take for instance the African designs you see on the runways of Paris and Milan, or how the entertainment industry created a superhero called Black Panther, who is proudly African. These are just a few examples, but it’s clear that Africa is a creative inspiration at the moment and many trends are emerging from the continent.
The exact catalyst that will spark the African creative revolution is unknown. It could come from global clients changing from creative adaptation to origination. Or perhaps Africa experiencing conditions which have been a precursor for accelerated creativity in the advertising industry in America. Or maybe it could be from agencies finding their own unique African narrative and styles for their creativity as they are forced to innovate because of increased competition. I suppose in a way this subject could be likened to the age-old question of which came first; the chicken or the egg? No one really knows. All we know is the writing is on the wall and we have seen the early signs first hand. In the words of one of the greats, “A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he’ll never crow. I have seen the light and I’m crowing.” Muhammad Ali.
Ultimately, it will be the clients that have the vision to partner with strong local agencies and courage to trust these agencies to push the creative envelope, that will reap the richest rewards of the African creative revolution. At Aggrey & Clifford we are privileged to work with many brands such as these already, but we are always looking for another pioneering company. If you are one of them, give us a call or are you chicken?
Written by Ryan Goslin