#10Q: The Loerie Awards and brand impact

Preetesh Sewraj took over as CEO of The Loerie Awards just after South Africa entered hard lockdown - no small feat in the midst of a history-making global crisis.

Preetesh Sewraj took over as CEO of The Loerie Awards just after South Africa entered hard lockdown to prepare for the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic. He is no stranger to all the dynamics of industry awards, as the former CEO of the Product of the Year; but it is no small feat to take up any new job in the midst of a history-making global crisis. He now has to strategically rework the Loerie Awards for 2020 and still ensure it delivers on its goal to support brand communication across Africa and the Middle East, despite the challenges being faced by the industry – and without the entry fees that usually fund the awards, including events, which may or may not happen this year. November is a tentative prospect at this stage. We caught up with Sewraj on his plans.

1. How have you had to change strategy?

The Loeries Creative Week is normally a physical event that requires large groups of people from across Africa and the Middle East to gather to support the creative ecosystem. The challenge of COVID-19 is that this pandemic creates a major barrier to large-scale human interaction and travel, so we have had to strategically look at how we can deliver our mandate, to support a strong brand communication landscape, within a world that is struggling with COVID-19. Our focus remains the same, but our execution has now shifted to ensuring that we support society in this time (via initiatives such as Wake the Nation); supporting the industry by making entries free; and amplifying our messaging, Through initiatives such as The Loeries Creative Hour webinars.

2. What will the Loerie Awards look like this year?

It will be a hybrid experience that has already started. Key is that we will unroll additional layers based on regulation amendments across the region. Our promise is that while the experience will be different due to COVID-19, we know that the impact that we will have on the creative landscape will be as strong as ever. We are an organisation deeply rooted in the creative environment so we will bring strong creative thinking and innovation to the Loeries Creative Week experience this year.

3. How have you managed industry expectations?

The prevailing industry expectation was that the Loeries would cancel our initiatives this year. Many awards cancelled their plans but, as a non-profit organisation, we knew that stopping our initiatives would go against the very spirit of the Loeries. By not only continuing, but also making entries free, we have shown the industry that the Loeries is here to support the industry even during times that challenge it the most.

4. What about sponsors and the impact of Loeries?

I have to admit that it was tough in April. We gave away free entries and did not know how we would deliver this year, but we are seeing an amazing response from sponsors. I think the key takeout for the industry will be to see who has supported them in the toughest time and many sponsors are coming on board to support brand communication and ensure that, through the Loeries, the mechanisms are in-place to recognise, reward, foster and inspire creative excellence that supports societies across Africa and the Middle East. We are innovating and building new platforms that support the industry, including a job portal, and supporting the work being done by Open Chair to support women in the industry.

5. Why should brands care about the Loeries?

Brands and agencies are part of the same ecosystem and the Loeries is a perfect way of recognising effective relationships. There is a misconception that the Loeries is an advertising award – in truth it is so much more than that. If you look at our rankings, then you will see the prominence given to brands and brand representatives. The Loeries is therefore truly a home for brands and agencies. There is no other ranking of brands and their representatives across Africa and the Middle East, so the Loeries truly is an important ally to many brands.

6. What is required of brands right now?

There are some people who would say that brands need to focus on societal messaging and refrain from pushing their products and services, but we have to take a sober look at what society needs most and what will help society in this time. When we conduct this analysis, we see that society is looking at brands to help them better understand how their product or service can add value to their lives during this challenging time. If brands can deliver this messaging in an empathetic manner, then this will strongly resonate with consumers and serve as the best way that they can add value to society in this time.

7. How will brand advertising change under Covid?

Brand communication is an ever-fluid industry that has an amazing ability to understand consumer needs and speak to them in an authentic voice. I do not see that changing at all. The key difference will be that now we will see that the brand voice will be influenced by the impact of COVID-19 and the way consumer needs have evolved in this time. Empathy will be the cornerstone of this communication, but all communication will still resonate with core human truths.

8. What will you bring to the Loeries?

Prior to even joining, the Loeries chose #CreateChange as the theme for 2020. I believe that I can help bring some of this change to it. I come from an innovation background, so I am here to ensure that the Loeries is an agile organisation that is ready to embrace innovation by listening to the industry and ensuring that our innovative thinking aligns to the needs of the industry.

9. How do you inspire others?

A proven way to inspire others is through having a big vision and having the track-record to show that this vision can be made a reality. I like to show individuals their true potential and through this process I find that people are motivated to take up the challenge of big goals.

10. What is your superpower?

My superpower is being able to have one eye on the big picture and the other on the details. It is important to ensure that the detailed work we are doing leads to big change and you need to have a grip on both these areas.


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