Tuesday, December 2, 2014

International ad archives accused of ignoring African creative

My friend Ivan Raszl, curator of Ads of The World posted this image on Google+ (as well as AOTW) with the comment, "Now, this is embarrassing."

Indeed. There are many ironies at work here. The submission to AOTW by apesobey.com stated "Even though we know they are always objective and fair, the impression of every single African that has had his work turned down by a prominent advertising curator is: 'They killed it!' Ivan Raszl of Adsoftheworld is represented as a chainsaw killer of ads."

How could Ivan not post it after that? Ivan wasn't the only "ad slayer" so portrayed. Michael Weinzettl of Lürzer's Archive also gets it:

An African-based online ad archive is definitely a great idea, and I'll be following it to see stuff that I may otherwise have missed. But the bigger question is, are the big international ad archives anti-African, as the ads overtly suggest?

Ivan, now a Canadian resident, is Hungarian. What I always found interesting about his blog is that it provides diversity to the online discussion about advertising. For those of us in North America, it's easy to be exposed to mostly English-language advertising mostly from the United States, Canada, the UK and Australia. Following AOTW gives me insights into the very different insights and sensibilities of Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. As well as several nations in Africa.

I've never noticed a particular lack of African creative on the site, but it's quite possible that many submissions from African agencies are being rejected. The thing about a privately-sector, curated ad archive is that it is as subjective as an international awards show. Unlike awards, though, the online archives make an effort to include not only the best creative in the world, but also what is controversial or noteworthy. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I've had a number of my ads appear on AOTW. I've also had a number of them rejected. All ad sites have a particular bias or flavour. In the case of AOTW, its taste prioritizes Art over Copy. When submitting work, you have to keep in mind whether the work will appeal to the audience. In this case, the audience is the ad editors.

But is there any racism involved in their decisions? Nothing overt, that's for sure. We all have our prejudices in deciding what we find appealing and relevant. It's possible that if the editors were African, rather than European, their tastes would be different. Which is why we need lots of different places to learn about lots of different kinds of advertising. More Adlands. More Joe La Pompes. More Inspiration Rooms. And AdFreaks and Adrants and Copyranters. In every language and culture.

In my own blogging, including for European-based social marketing review site Osocio, I make similar decisions. One of an international group of editors, I try to keep my social and linguistic biases fairly transparent when I find work from very different cultures insensitive or confusing. (To Osocio owner Marc van Gurp's credit, he's been actively trying to find more contributors from the developing world for years.)

So, in my opinion, the portrayal of Ivan and Michael as slayers of African ads is not exactly fair. But advertising is full of cynical attention-grabbing tactics. This one worked. Now show me some great African creative, guys!


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