Youth Day, on June 16, might not have the same sense of urgency as it did in 1976, but the youth of today still need to liberate themselves from challenges such as unemployment, HIV and a struggling education system. However, similar to the youth of 1976, the people who will liberate them from these struggles are individuals who do not accept the status quo and who find a way for greater collaboration across all levels of society.
Jessica Crozier, copywriter at creative agency Black River FC, says that youth today have a different creative mentality than they did even just 10 years ago and they’re looking for more authentic experiences. “In fact, in the past decade or so we’ve seen a drastic change in the mentality of South Africa as a whole.”
Youth crave real, honest and authentic relationships with each other, with politicians and yes, even brands. “Brands also need to be honest and real. People want to be respected, engaged, entertained and intrigued,” she says.
Black River FC copywriter, Oarabile Mahole, agrees, saying advertising should show an evolved understanding of today’s youth. “SA brands need to be more transparent and interactive when it comes to interactions. Even though so many brands have a social media presence, it’s still largely a one-way conversation. Consumers want to feel that they’re a part of the brand, want to feel like the brand loves them back.”
Crozier and Mahole have a keen understanding of today’s youth – they themselves are young, dynamic, questioning individuals and this energy is essential to Black River FC’s on-going creative success. They are the youthful leaders who understand the need for new rules of engagement.
“From my personal experience, young creatives are more willing to share ideas and help each other out, without expecting credit for it. We look out for each other and learn from each other, which changes how we think and create,” says Crozier. She continues to explain that this creates an atmosphere of trust, which means you are willing to listen to feedback about your ideas.
The first advert Mahole ever worked on was the Nando’s Diversity advert – a piece of work that can definitely be described as “brave”. The ad went on to achieve huge acclaim, winning the Creative Circle Ad of the Year award, a Bronze Eagle at the 2012 Eagle Print Awards and a Bronze at the 2012 Loeries.
“My first-ever television advert had some significance for the South African ad industry. Personally, this has given me some exposure and confidence to deal with subsequent briefs. I am given the freedom to add value by expressing my ideas and opinions,” says Mahole.
Another young Black River FC copywriter, Lufuno Mavhungu, says the agency has always produced work with a strong South African flavour and the diversity within the agency is key to this. “We are encouraged to be brave and irreverent in our approach to briefs. This, coupled with the healthy mix of cultures within the agency, allows us to create a fresh and different approach that speaks to a wider audience.”
Mavhungu has been working at Black River FC since 2009 and during this time she has achieved phenomenal success, winning gold, silver and bronze Loeries, as well as a Grand Prix, two silver pendorings and a bronze Cannes Lion. She attributes her success to the open, honest and collaborative culture of Black River FC.
There is no “senior vs junior” dynamic at Black River FC and everyone is given the chance to participate in briefs, big or small, and idea sharing is critical. Louwrens Venter, a young designer at Black River FC, says that in addition to this, daily inspiration is important. “There is incredible, awe-inspiring work all around us. By taking the time to look closely at the South African landscape, by understanding what is happening on the world stage, we are able to constantly grow and improve professionally.”
The South African advertising industry is welcoming a new breed of creative – the youth who grew up in and embraced “free” South Africa. They, better than any of their predecessors understand what is required to move South Africa forward, and they’re constantly seeking out creative solutions for a better South Africa.
Mahole, Venter, Mavhungu and Crozier grew up in different neighbourhoods, bringing their diverse “real life” experiences to their work at Black River FC. However, one thing they all have in common is a sense of national pride, which they feel influences their work. This is a sign of a united South Africa, with more youngsters than ever before sharing a common quest for more tolerance, accountability and honest conversations at all levels.