This year the Awards, by the MMA SA, South Africa’s trade organisation, are sponsored by Takealot, MultiChoice Meta, MTN and Standard Bank Group. The awards turn nine this year.
“We are very excited to start the countdown to the gala event. It is so humbling to see the quality of work that is produced by South African brands and agencies, and each year the work gets better and better,” Sarah Utermark, MMA South Africa country director.
“It also aligns with the marketing tools of the day. Although Web 3.0 is not yet mainstream, and may not be for some time, there has been a degree of early adoption and it’s this innovation that we can expect from this year’s Smarties,” adds Utermark.
The awards, which turn nine this year, have over time seen the evolution of marketing from social media’s impact and Web 2.0 in the mid-2000s to the arrival of Web 3.0 and all its new tools and technology today.
In addition to the physical award, winners will also receive an exclusively-designed Smarties NFT Award which they can share digitally.
Over the past few weeks, 20 of the country’s senior-level marketers carefully reviewed and assessed the159 shortlisted submissions to arrive at the top 88 who have now been through the exciting Pitch Week process.
A live campaign pitch by the brand and agency teams allows the judges to understand the strategy and business impact underpinning the submissions and get a sense of the passion and ingenuity for each entry.
“Pitch week makes the judging process very real and, much like a Dragon’s Den experience, puts the entrants on the spot to present their best work in just a few crucial minutes to the judges,” says Utermark.
Under the Smarties seven core categories, the 33 subcategories include campaigns utilising new Intelligent devices, experiential tech, integrated e-commerce, innovation and personalisation as well as metaverse, blockchain & NFTs categories which reflect the evolving marketing landscape.
“The MMA SA is on the forefront of change within the marketing universe and this year’s categories reflect this. We also hold all entrants to a high account when it comes to delivering business results. Our Awards focus on delivery and performance and this is what our highly skilled Judges looked out for this past few weeks,” says Luisa Mazinter, Smarties jury chair.
Among the 20 Judges is Odette van Wyk from Takealot.com head of advertising, Alan Buck, CMO at L’Oréal and Thulani Sibeko brand builder and business executive.
While each judged different categories, they shared a common theme with regard to what they wanted to see in their category’s entrants.
“Results and impact are definitely important and that’s the foundational expectation. I looked for how marketing or communication can create value by using unique brand properties or characteristics to leverage powerful insights,” says Sibeko
“I was most interested in how the entrants converted their campaigns to business value. The narrative around marketing has changed with the proliferation of performance marketing and traceability of digital and social advertising.
“It is now possible to attribute income and business value directly to campaigns. Marketing and advertising can have a seat at the Executive table and speak the language of business, which is ROI and ROAS,” concurs van Wyk.
Buck, who focused on social impact this year, says he judged entries on how brands and corporates added real value and impacted society in a tangible and positive way.
“Understanding the campaign’s intention to drive good is critical as there is a risk of green-washing. Campaigns instead need to be relatable and link clearly back to the brand and its category. In doing so, business results will follow,” he says.
As for Buck’s social impact check-list, what was critical for him was real societal impact, a direct relationship to the brand’s heart, long-term sustainability and the actual impact on the ground.
The other 17 judges agree with van Wyk, Sibeko and Buck and, in line with the MMA SA’s focus on delivering business results (40% of the entry’s mark is weighted towards business results), all reviewed hundreds of submissions with this in mind.
All the finalists can be viewed here.