VMLY&R South Africa has taken 10th place in the Cannes Lions Agency of the Decade awards for the Middle East and Africa region.
It’s only 10 years since the agency launched as NATIVE, a small, full-service digital marketing agency with the bold ambition to become South Africa's best, which is why Ryan McManus, Chief Creative Officer at VMLY&R South Africa acknowledges that this accolade is a gratifying achievement for such a young agency and a testament to the type of work it produces.
‘This award reinforces our belief in purpose-driven work that lives in people’s lives,’ he said. ‘This is an ethos with real meaning, a practice we live and breathe every day. We actively create real connections between brands and their consumers. And it shows in the work.’
In 2013 a partnership with global digital marketing giant VML, further entrenched NATIVE’s leadership position in South Africa. In 2018, Y&R, another WPP company, merged into VML, integrating the strong digital heritage of NATIVE with Y&R’s more traditional through-the-line creative excellence giving clients the ability to create a brand experience across every touchpoint, an integrated approach to brand communication very few local agencies are able to provide.
In 10 years, the agency has worked with some of the country, and continent’s biggest and most influential brands, consistently winning awards for the work produced.
McManus doesn’t credit the award to the agency’s people alone. ‘Our clients are brave enough to trust us - they give us the freedom to push the work beyond the obvious and deep into the communities they serve,’ he said.
A retrospective view of some of VMLY&R South Africa’s more recent wins at Cannes shows that work with the ability to really engage the customer in a culturally relevant manner is work that wins awards.
#IAmMuslim, a 2016 campaign for PASSOP took home a Gold Lion and reminded the world that being Muslim does not make someone a terrorist. In the same year, Twitter Refugees, also for PASSOP, won a Silver for an automated Twitter engine that hijacked the global conversation to remind the world that refugees are human beings.
In 2017, VMLY&R took home 6 Cannes Lions including Cannes Entertainment Agency of the year for Absolut’s One Source Live campaign which was responsible for re-igniting the iconic global brand into an African context to win the hearts and minds of local consumers.
In 2017 Stop The Cycle for Huff Post received two Bronze Lions for using Facebook’s new 360° ad format to raise awareness about how consumerism has an impact on society and the environment.
The true film Dead Fish Eyes about how surfing helps youngsters from the Cape flats find an alternative life to gangsterism, won a Bronze Lion in 2018 for Surf Shack.
And in 2019 Don’t Tell Me What to Do won a Bronze Lion for repositioning the Edgars brand, taking it from being on the outside of local culture to a culturally relevant connected brand through a multi-channel campaign that combined make-up tutorials, body-positive poems, choir performances, personal stories, a fashion collection and an original song by Africa’s rising icon Sho Madjozi.
‘We always strive to create work that is popular culture, rather than advertising - work that people choose to spend time with,’ says McManus who believes that brands should not exist in the pre-roll before a consumer’s chosen content, but should bring consumers the entertainment they actually want to watch.
VMLY&R has topped and tailed the top 10 agencies in the region, with VMLY&R Dubai taking the top spot as the #1 Agency of the Decade, positioning the global agency as one of the strongest in Africa and the Middle East for brands looking to harness creativity, technology, and culture to drive value for their clients.