Johannesburg - The Trillion Dollar Campaign, advertising the exile newspaper The Zimbabwean, has become the first recipient of the New York Art Directors' Club's Black Cube award for best-of-show.
The campaign, by TBWA Hunt Lascaris of Johannesburg, is already the most-awarded South African advertising campaign ever, and one of the world's best in the last 18 months.
The relatively low-budget campaign highlights the devaluation of the Zimbabwean dollar under the Robert Mugabe regime by pasting a billboard entirely with Zim dollar currency notes. Slogans like "Thanks to Mugabe this money is wallpaper" and "It's cheaper to print this on money than on paper" forcefully brought home the point.
The Art Directors' Club is a non-profit global membership organisation which connects communications professionals and stimulates world-changing ideas. Its awards have been going for 88 years, and it introduced the Black Cube last year, but gave no award then.
TBWA Worldwide Creative Director John Hunt (of Johannesburg) said the award "bodes well for our philosophy of celebrating the idea, not just the ad".
The campaign has won multiple awards all around the world in a range of categories, such as outdoor advertising, integrated campaigns, ambient advertising, design and mixed media. Last year at the Cannes Lions, considered the most prestigious international awards festival, it won an unprecedented Grand Prix and four Gold Lions.
But it is considered by the cognoscenti as an old-fashioned campaign, which makes no use of new (digital) media. A judge at Cannes last year said this was "probably the last time a campaign like that will win a Grand Prix at Cannes".
The campaign's success probably also owes a lot to the widespread awareness of Mugabe and his policies, and the general opprobrium with which he is regarded in the Western world.
It elevated Hunt Lascaris to top of the creative league table for 2009, but played so big a role that it left many wondering whether this was a "one-hit wonder" for the agency, or the start of a genuine renaissance.
Hunt Lascaris was the top creative award winner in South Africa for the first half of the decade, then slipped as low as 11th before making this comeback.