Loeries Award: Controversy As Industry Stakeholders Question Entry, Judging Rules


Loeries Award

FOR service brands in the marketing communications sector and even consumers that seek to assert market leadership, awards matter. They reflect a brand’s strategic and creative excellence, which forms a brand’s competitive advantage. But for an award event to serve its purpose, it will have to keep up with the times, be credible and create a level playing field for all competitors.

Making its debut in 1978 in Johannesburg, the annual Loeries Awards is South Africa’s most prestigious creative festival, attracting the biggest media attention than any other event in that country. So many Nigerian agencies have made several entries for Loeries Awards but only few have reached the winning stage. As a platform for recognising creative excellence in brand communication, the Loeries has become controversial in recent times. The 2015 edition of the festival was fraught with controversies, ranging from voting irregularities to clear contravention of the rules guiding the judging process.

The allegations first surfaced online when Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy & Mather, Chris Gotz, alleged voting irregularities and a breach of the Loeries rules.
“I think the SA ad industry should demand to see the final round of Loeries scores, before they were interfered with. Just saying”, Gotz tweeted via his Twitter handle on August 15. Other stakeholders took to Twitter to express their disappointment at what they described as a big shame.

Part of Gotz’s complaint centred on the inclusion of entries from agencies from the Middle East. In a response to some of tweets from his followers, Gotz stated further that “we should be celebrating African creativity. Does it benefit our clients, our industry to feature work from another continent?” he questioned.

This was followed by a written complaint sent to the official representative body of South Africa’s communications profession, Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA), which also accused Loeries CEO, Andrew Human of inappropriate involvement in the judging process.

The ACA issued a joint statement with the Creative Circle refuting accusations of irregular judging activity. The inquiry concluded that all entry and judging rules and procedures had been followed and that Human had acted entirely above board in his briefing of the judges and had not influenced any judge or jury chairperson on how to vote. Furthermore, the statement added that he had not exerted any influence over the decisions to award statues to entries.

However, the statement read that the entry rules have allowed for entries to be submitted by agencies from the rest of Africa and the Middle East since 2006.
“And for the complainants to now suggest that this is a new rule which prejudices South African agencies is not only false but disingenuous, since he was aware of the rule when he judged Loeries entries. The award of statues to non-South African agencies is provided so that deserving work can be awarded over and above those awards made to local agencies.”

Nonetheless, Chairman of the ACA, Mike Gendel, has called for an apology from Gotz, saying his behaviour was inappropriate and damaging to the advertising profession.

This is not the first time such related issue is happening. Loeries had, for many years, had fractured relationship with journalists.
Besides, the withdrawal of all awards won by Metropolitan Republic in 2013 by Loeries was one of the biggest scandals to hit the South African advertising industry. The agency was found to have contravened entry regulations by entering a campaign for MTN (Uganda) that was never exposed on any platform; the judges either overlooked it or failed to pick this violation.

The agency scooped an Ubuntu Award, recognising excellence in sustainable marketing and a Grand Prix award for media innovation, the highest accolade at the event. When it became clear that the campaign was never signed off by the client or launched into the market, Metropolitan Republic was stripped not only of its awards for the MTN work but also of its trophies for other brands, including The Fish & Chips Co.

Although Loeries Awards has been remarkably transformed over the years, analysts say there is a need to look into the grey areas that seem to be clouding the reputation of the awards.

In fairness, Lories is not the only award embroiled in controversies. The Grammys, Annie, Oscars and even Hugo Awards, at one time or the other, faced such credibility issues.

As we move into the ember period, which is the season of awards, industry experts have emphasised that there is a need for awards jury to be more transparent, objective and accountable in stating clearly why each winner emerged in every category.

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