Advertising, Creativity

Nigerian advertising at the global stage – not all awards are born equal.

Recently, a few Nigerian advertising agencies won ‘big’ at the African Cristal Festival in Marrakech, Morocco. Nigeria’s Noah’s Ark won ‘Agency of The Year’. X3M Ideas, DDB Lagos and Insight Publicis all had a decent showing too. There have been a lot of congratulations and reportage across the media.

There have also been questions about the prestige and worth of the African Cristal Festival. Some folks have therefore asked me to shed light on this matter, and on the subject of Nigerian advertising at the global stage.

My first thought was to tell the requesters to kiss something of mine which is not an animal of the horse family with a braying call. They are not going to drag me into industry disputations and revilement. Besides, the only people who can throw light on anything in this country are the DISCOs. And those guys use generators too.

But I was entreated to share my opinion because it was the moral obligation of a ‘thought leader.’

Thought leader! I can’t even marshal my own thoughts sometimes!

So, here we are. Feel free to toss this opinion on the ash heap.

Also for the records, this piece is not about the value/credibility or otherwise of advertising awards in general. That is a topic for another post. 


Let’s start with something called the Gunn Report, now known as the Gunn 100.

The Gunn 100 is advertising’s league table. It is a global index for creative excellence. It tracks the performance of campaigns, brands and agencies around the world to establish an annual worldwide table. It is done in collaboration with Kings College London.

Needless to say the Gunn 100 is very very respected. If you made the Gunn ‘Agency of the Year,’ you have the right to summon the village masquerades and dance troupe to sing your praise.

The Gunn 100 comes up with this league table by combining the winners’ lists from all the most important advertising award contests in the world.

Some of these award contests are global (like Cannes, D&AD or One Show). Some are regional (like The Loeries and Spike – Asia-Pacific’s top advertising awards). And others are national (like New Zealand’s Axis Award). For the 2018 report, it looked at more than 40 of the world’s top award shows.

Now each competition tracked is weighted based on how rigorous and prestigious the competition is. The weight is derived from a survey of senior creatives at major advertising agency networks.

‘Rigorous’ means how difficult it is to win the award. For instance, a D&AD Pencil is generally adjudged to be more difficult to win than a Cannes Lion, and a Lion more difficult to win than say a One Show or a Spike. ‘Prestige’ deals with the overall perception of quality and reputation.

I reached out to WARC – owners of the Gunn 100 – on the list of the advertising award shows included in its ranking. I wanted to find out if the African Cristal Festival was one of them. But I was informed the award shows tracked are never disclosed, so as not to prejudice shows not included (very reasonable).

I also reached out to the African Cristal Festival to know if the award is tracked by the Gunn 100. When I hear from them, I’ll update this post.

However, The Loeries does claim on its website to be one of the award shows tracked by the Gunn 100. That is obviously a big deal.

There have been accusations that The Loeries is pro-Republic of South Africa. I have heard of cases where judges sleep or play with their phones when entries from Nigeria are in play.

Yea, dreary work tend to make people do that. 

To shake off this toga of being seen as an ‘award for South African agencies,’  The Loeries now invite creative folks from other parts of Africa to judge works, for ‘Region excluding South Africa.’ 

It’s faux inclusion. It is like the BET Music Awards. They give Wizkid an award at an event no one attends and not broadcast to the American audience. (“Who the hell is Wizkid again? Some guy in Big Bang Theory?”)

So maybe that’s why Nigerian agencies are now flocking to the African Cristal Festival. It is perhaps seen as a more representative and inclusive award show. 

However, the truth is that The Loeries is more difficult to win than a Cristal. South African agencies subscribe to a higher standard the rest of Africa struggle to meet. It says something about the standards of The Loeries that only Noah’s Ark, DDB Lagos and 7even Interactive have won a Loeries. (The 7even Interactive bronze doesn’t count because it is self-funded work. 😉) *

Yes, I know that award shows have their own foibles. I know bias, partisanship and scam entries are difficult to eliminate. But it is complete tosh to say Nigerian agencies don’t win at the global stage because oyinbo judges can’t understand our concepts. That’s absolute claptrap and codswallop.

These same ‘oyinbo people’ understand and award entries from India, Peru, Tunisia, Kenya and Lebanon but can’t understand entries from Nigeria? What, we write our ads in Morse code? How about we get busy and elevate the quality of our idea and execution.

Cannes Lion Bronze winner 2015 – Creative YR Kenya

Cannes Lion Bronze winner 2017 – Creative YR Kenya

“The Most Eligible Bachelor”: Cannes Lion Bronze winner – Ogilvy Africa Nairobi. 

It does not help the cause for rigour when the African Cristal Festival allow entries where advertiser (client) and agency are the same entity. Noah’s Ark and X3M Ideas won three and two medals respectively for work where they were both the client and the agency.

I also reached out to the Festival to ask how its ‘Agency of the Year’ award was determined since Noah’s Ark – this year’s winner – didn’t win a single Grand Prix. If I do hear back from the organisation, I’ll update this post.

Again, I know that different award bodies have different rules governing entries. But some rules are better than the other. If the goal is to encourage creative excellence and challenge African agencies to greater creativity and craft, then more stringent rules must apply.

But awards are not the most important thing for an advertising agency. The culture is. And the client is. Agencies must beware what I call the leprechaun trap – obsession with the gold in itself and not for what it can do.

After all, what good is a graven image if it can’t deliver.


NB: I have been informed by persons in Nigeria that the African Cristal Festival has all information on shortlist and winners wrong on its website. That Noah’s Ark indeed did win 2 Grand Prix and didn’t win any awards for self-promo work.

So much for the Festival’s rigour and repute. The African Cristal Festival remains the final authority on its event and records. We must assume the information on its website regarding the shortlist and winners is accurate until otherwise stated (If its lists of winners and shortlists are still wrong 10 days after the event, it says a lot about the awards, doesn’t it? )

*Paragraph on Nigerian Loeries win edited to reflect new information. 


5 thoughts on “Nigerian advertising at the global stage – not all awards are born equal.

  1. Chief Nomad says:

    “It says something about the standards of The Loeries that no Nigerian agency has ever won one.” Would you be kind enough to shed more light on this, because I could have sworn that 7even Interactive paraded a bird last year?!

    • Hey Chief. Well, technically, I suppose I was inaccurate in saying no Nigerian agency has ever won a Loeries. 7 Interactive did win a bronze last year for its ‘Frixion Vodka’ work. But it was a self-funded work. That in my books doesn’t count! 😉

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