Creative Commonwealth: New Zealand and South Africa share their insights into creativity across the Commonwealth

With some of the world’s greatest athletes set to descend on Glasgow this month for the Commonwealth Games, what better time to take a look at the creative industries across Commonwealth countries?

With the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony set to take place later today, creatives from seven member nations have revealed to The Drum how their country is a centre for creative marketing excellence and what the creative scene is like where they're based.

On Monday we heard from creatives in Australia and Canada and yesterday those from India, Malaysia and Singapore shared their views.

Today our final contributors Andrew Holt, managing director, Clemenger BBDO Wellington, and JWT South Africa executive digital director, Yoav Tchelet, lift the lid on creativity in their countries.

Andrew Holt, managing director, Clemenger BBDO Wellington

'The Devil's Chair' for insurance firm NZI, created by FCB Auckland

Of the 1,143 Lions awarded at Cannes this year, New Zealand won 25 of them. That’s not quite a quarter of the UK’s total from a population just one-sixteenth its size.

So why does NZ punch so far above its weight creatively? Having worked in both London and Sydney, I can say it’s certainly not because we have better ideas, but there are several unique factors that combine to improve our strike rate.

Firstly, we are a long way from everywhere. Historically this distance was regarded as a tyranny, but today it affords us greater creative freedom. Being far from head or even regional offices frees both agencies and clients to experiment knowing they can, quite literally, limit their exposure if things go wrong.

Conversely, if you really want to be noticed from down here, your work has to stand out. That means Kiwis obsess over doing ‘world-class’ work to a degree that would be considered redundant in most countries. But it’s this obsession, coupled with the freedom to fail, that creates a favourable environment for doing great work.

Secondly, there aren’t many of us. As we all know, doing great work is one thing, but selling it is another. By necessity both our local and multinational client structures are relatively flat, so we get to hear ‘no’ earlier. This might sound counter-intuitive, but if our ideas die, it’s a swift and deliberate act rather than them being collateral damage due to a protracted process or complex hierarchy. This means we have enough time to go again… and again…

Thirdly, whether it is the distance from the rest of the world or the lack of people, there is something in the New Zealand psyche that values creativity, resilience and innovation – the ‘No 8 wire mentality’, as they call it Down Under. In adland, this means that agencies need to be adaptive and resilient, while clients have learned to respect innovation. Both believe that a more creative answer is a better answer.

So, opportunity, simplicity and a shared belief in the value of creativity. We don’t have a monopoly on any of these, but they do help explain why we are more likely to put a pub on a boat (for Speight’s beer exports), build a restaurant up a tree (the Yellow Treehouse restaurant, half-way up a giant redwood, for Yellow Pages) - see above - or teach a dog to drive (so the SPCA could prove you can teach an old rescue dog new tricks).

Of the networks, you can’t really go past our sister shop, Colenso BBDO, for consistency, or FCB Auckland for an audacious step-up creatively in recent years. Indie-wise, local shop Barnes Catmur currently punch well above their weight.

Yoav Tchelet, executive digital director, JWT South Africa

'The Street Store' for Haven Night Shelter, created by M&C Saatchi Abel Cape Town

South Africa is a very liberated society – we don’t take ourselves that seriously, we laugh at ourselves and have always had a pioneering spirit, a make-do attitude in creating realities.

Blend that with a lot of first world elements in our economy and the fact we are operating in a developing market, and fuel it with our geography, which allows for real African solutions, and you see that we have to connect the dots where there are no dots. So being maverick is in our DNA – being creative and thinking outside the box to find solutions is part of our culture.

We have world-class clients who drive us to produce best-in-class work. Together as client and agency, we strive to deliver a premium product regardless of the environment, and neither of us will compromise on quality. We also have great partners with whom to collaborate and execute ideas, such as Velocity Films or Egg Films for instance; and great activations agencies such as Sonic State. I

nternational firms come to South Africa because we offer such good production quality. But there is also a real value proposition at play here, with the rand to US dollar exchange rate, so companies like to use South African directors and support. A lot of South African creative work plays up against the social tensions within our society – and there are many, given the diverse community of people living here. However, because we are able to generate a lot of light out of those social tensions, it makes for great work that our consumers can really feel a part of.

Local brands, such as Lucky Star – the iconic South African canned fish brand – are always relevant and create memorable advertising in the market. And global brands, such as VW, have always done great work here – they understand the fabric of South African society and generate creative ideas that are driven by local insights.

I also must mention technology: cable theft is rife in this country, so mobile is becoming more and more useful. Very often people think new technology is cutting edge, the answer to everything. But we find that ‘access-teching’ is actually giving us the scalability we need. Yes, that maverick thinking again, but that’s because many South Africans don’t have brand new technology at their fingertips.

And this is how Smirnoff 1818 broke through with its mobile 1818 Clubhouse initiative – it leveraged technology that anyone, with any mobile phone could use, to engage with the website, which offers football news, interviews and competitions.

The big thing right now is bandwidth – consumers have to buy data, which gives them communication abilities. Data is thus becoming a new currency, and I see huge potential for brands and technology if they can harness this.

For consistency of creative performance, my three top agencies in South Africa would be Ogilvy Cape Town, King James and FoxP2. We are immensely proud of Ogilvy winning the Radio Grand Prix at Cannes in 2014 for its trio of ads for a Lucozade campaign – it is a first in South Africa and that’s amazing. But then, as a market, we always have punched far above our weight.

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