Zara Driss, Sales Director, CNN International Commercial
From music to art, fashion and literature, the increasing popularity of African creatives on the international stage is exciting. African talent is now also being recognised across the advertising and marketing sectors, most notably with the first win for West Africa at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity where a bronze lions in the Non-profit / Foundation-led Education & Awareness category was awarded to ‘The Soot Life Expectancy’ for The Extra Step Initiative by X3M IDEAS in Lagos. This remarkable campaign was impactful in helping communities, spotlighting the need for environmental change and how technology, data and international collaboration can raise attention and ultimately change lives.
While this award win was a great cause for celebration it also highlighted how under-represented the continent still is at Cannes Lions, an event which marked its 70th year. Andisa Ntsubane, CMO Vodacom was a judge in the B2B awards category, and stressed the importance of Africa contributing towards global best practice and being represented at the biggest global showcase of creativity. He commented on the huge opportunities across the continent, particularly from a brand point of view: “The continent of Africa represents the largest growth opportunity in the world. We represent the single largest opportunity for brands to have big impact whilst making money. But from a brand point of view, there is no better place to drive innovation and creativity to help address some of the social issues that we’ve got.” Having worked with many large African brands and governments in my time at CNN, I couldn’t agree more.
Andia’s comments took place during a panel discussion that I moderated at the festival, a session about building future-ready brands in Africa, which CNN International Commercial hosted in collaboration with the International Advertising Association. Inclusion and accessibility were a key part of our conversation, whether that is financial inclusion for entering global awards due to cost implications with foreign exchange rates or accessibility in terms of having the opportunity or technology to take part. Sbusiso Kumalo, Chief Marketing Officer at African Bank, addressed this from a marketer’s perspective: “You’re not necessarily looking for rocket science to solve problems, sometimes it’s just accessibility… I know what it means for the customer, to have a product that not only solves their problems, or their challenges, or caters to their aspirations, but for that product to be accessible.”
Solving problems for consumers, creating brand recognition and loyalty are essential to the CMO but this is a role which continues to evolve and, alongside the role of the CTO, marketing teams need to interpret data, understand and adapt to emerging technologies such as AI and Chat GPT. Andisa commented on the role of the CMO today and how it’s incumbent on marketers to constantly learn and upskill their expertise to be informed for conversations with partners and agencies and, importantly, help guide organizations and the C suite on opportunities and considerations around new technology to drive business and benefit customers.
AI continues to be a huge topic in our industry and along with the excitement there’s of course some hesitation around safety, regulation and labelling. Steve Babaeko, CEO and Chief Creative Officer at X3M, winners of the first Lions for Nigeria, was part of our panel discussion and expressed positivity for AI: “Eventually, we’ll get over the initial panic of AI is coming here to take jobs for the creative industry. We must understand that AI can give our creativity better wings to fly.”
Even with the advent of more sophisticated technology, creativity is essential in helping brands to thrive and, even though CMOs have an increasing amount of factors to consider as part of their evolving role, they need to also remain focused on their brand purpose. Sbusiso highlighted what he thinks this should be: “The responsibility today is not to really build a trademark, but to build a heart mark, because that’s sustainable. We have to have an impact that outlives profit as a consequence. What are you really trying to do? What’s the why? What’s the purpose? And how are you ensuring that your design and product really captures that?”
Technology, creativity, purpose and of course sustainability are all vital elements in our industry and, as demonstrated by the recent award win, African brands are embracing this and excelling. Andisa told me that ‘this is the decade for Africa’ and I agree, there’s many opportunities ahead and I’m excited to be a part of the industry and to see what there is to come.