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“You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry. You’d better not pout, I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town”.

December 1, 2011

Flickr by Sappymoosetree

Tis but a few weeks before Christmas and here we find ourselves, looking back at the year that was 2011 and in our case, wondering what excitement may lie ahead over the closing three weeks.

And what a year it’s been…Mr. Malema’s potential disappearance (at least for a while) is an early Christmas pressie, and if that’s the only thing in my stocking, it’ll suffice. As for the financial markets, well Vanity Fair warned us in October 2010, to “beware of Greeks bearing bonds” and here, 14 months later, we stand in a similar paralysed limbo wondering whether to cash in and take all our chips off the stock market table – or to hope that we’re smart to stay in the game. It’s all cyclical anyway – “they say”. Or is it?

There’s a first for everything and it seems this little eh, problem just won’t go away. I recently asked a global financial guru at a business lunch if I should finally retreat (yes, I know it’s a tad late Abel…) into Gold. His answer was brutally simple. “Gold” he said, “is not an investment. It’s insurance” – so, do we need insurance?

It was also in March this year that we watched in horror as the latest major Tsunami ravaged Japan. I come from PE and only knew the term “Tidal Wave” until 2004, when those awful walls of water killed villages of people, including a few personal acquaintances. My sister-in-law was there on honeymoon at the time, as was one of my closest friends. Fortunately both were only just spared…timing as they say. And so all this tragedy puts so much into perspective about what we have to give thanks for over the “festive season”. It has been a year that I’m fortunate enough to be able to reflect on, in mostly a very positive way. Some close family and friends have had significant health issues, they are well now and looking forward to hopefully a far better 2012.

The personal highlight of the year has been to see our “agency”, as the industry likes to define us, shed its training wheels and careen down the hill with skill and joyful abandon. We have managed to secure the trust of some of South Africa’s (and well beyond our borders) most valuable brands. The work we’ve been doing has been a far cry from that which traditional agencies can get involved in – and much closer to where our real passion and skill lies, namely, co-creating brilliant business ideas with our Clients that get translated into powerful and resonant marketing and communication solutions. It’s much easier said than done – but I’m greatly encouraged by the tangible results. Given the time of year, I think one of the biggest ideas ever in marketing that I’d like to pay tribute to, are the Santa Claus images created by Haddon Sundblom in the 1930’s for Coca-Cola.

To think that almost four generations have grown up with a promotional “brand icon” representing Christmas. And I’m not referring to his 1972 cover for Playboy magazine. In fact he did that drawing at the respectable age of 73 when older men aren’t usually drawing nubile lasses in scanty “Santa-wear” (unless of course you’re the Prime Minister of Italy). But then again, my 93 year-old grandfather, but a few days from his passing and lying under some heavy hospital blankets was asked by his nurse “Are you hot Dr. Perl?”, to which he calmly responded with his eyes still closed “I was, in my youth”. And then a little grin appeared. This is a time of year for story-telling and yet, our story remains mostly untold – but when I look at the talent that has joined the agency over the past year and those who start in January 2012, I am blown away by the depth and breadth of skill that now lives under our two roofs. We will be up to 80 people in January and celebrate our second birthday on 1 February. It was a real feather in our cap when three weeks ago, M&C SAATCHI ABEL were awarded “best performing agency” in our worldwide network. A true credit to the passion, determination and talent of those I’m fortunate to call my colleagues and friends.

This year coming will hold its usual mixed bag for us all. Hopefully the markets will finally calm, or we’ll just get more use to the chaos. It is said to be a Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times” but here it is simply the order of the day and the “opiate of the (South African) masses”. We love interesting. That is why we achieve the extraordinary as a nation. Tough, determined, resilient – but above all, we are optimists and not afraid to have a little chuckle at ourselves. So, hopefully slightly ahead of the Christmas clutter, I wish you a HAPPY HOLIDAYS.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 1, 2011 10:05 am

    I am going to run with the idea, that we are going to have to get used to the chaos, and I don’t think that that is a bad thing

  2. December 19, 2011 11:18 am

    What a wonderful December blog this is. I wanted to say congratulations on your ‘best performance’ and to say I so agree with Maurice Saatchi you are all ‘brilliant’. I have watched the growth of your agency most closely as I have a brilliant member of our family working with you and know some of the team. Well done and happy holidays to you, enjoy your 2nd birthday! Lisa Key

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