Feedback session- Local is Lekker, as we speak to Matthys Ras and his creative career growth
D.IO: So, tell us... Where are you at this current moment? Are you having coffee, stealing a moment in the office or perhaps a coffee shop?
Matthys: A bit of everything above. Working in a coffee shop, so "stealing" some time to do this :-)
D.IO: What was the path that lead you to this career?
Matthys: I aspired to be an architect during high school. I thought it was a very creative industry, while not being too "arty". I also wanted to work with computers. So I went to an open day at the local Graphic Design School at NMMU in Port Elizabeth and it seemed like the perfect combination of creativity, business, entrepreneurship and software.
I studied my 3 years and finished Cum Laude. I was one of two chosen to do a 4th year for a B-Tech Degree in GD. So I did that, focusing on Advertising, and completed this degree Cum Laude as well. A month later (January 1999), I started working as a Junior Art Director at Publicis Advertising in Cape Town. My first project was the new Peter Stuyvesant Music Spectacular with Prodigy which featured opening act, Faithless.
I designed everything from the concept to finished repro to media. I worked at Publicis until August 2000, after hundreds of awesome projects, and decided to quit this job and start my own advertising and branding business, called Globecreative. In 2013, I moved to Johannesburg (for love) and here I am now, happily married and always creative. Most of my clients are in Johannesburg, some are still in Cape Town and many are in different countries globally. I have perfected the art of long-distance creative work which has always been a bonus for international clients.
D.IO: What are the first three words that come to mind when thinking about your country / city (it can be sights, sounds, tastes, feels, mood, people, texture etc).
Matthys: Vibrant, corruption, potential
D.IO: Have you seen any examples of brands, artists or organizations that incorporate the memories/associations you just mentioned?
Matthys: Yes, vibrant: Coca-Cola, corrupt: Government, potential: the whole nation of South Africa!
D.IO: What feelings does your country / city evoke?
Matthys: I'm quite negative about it as it is, but planning some great things to improve SA for everyone.
D.IO: Do you think it is important to localise international campaigns?
Matthys: Very important. Every culture is different. When creating a user experience (UX) for a brand, you cannot just consider the UX of those in one’s home region. The world is made up of a diverse range of identities. There is a need to understand the differences between these identities and to implement them in custom campaigns. By this, I don't just mean to customize per country. International campaigns need to prioritise customization per culture, beliefs and aspirations within the respective countries.
D.IO: Is it a make or break for brands to localise?
Matthys: Generalizing a campaign to "fit all" is like admitting you don't know your market.
D.IO: Do you believe as a creative you are well placed to help brands translate local nuances? Why?
Matthys: Yes, 'cause my right brain is like a chameleon. I have the ability to mentally place myself in the shoes of others to find the right solution that they can connect with.
D.IO: What is the one thing you would want campaigns to capture about the local demographic?
Matthys: I believe advertising is about encapsulating ‘human truths’ in the form of real life ideas and experiences that people are able to connect with.
D.IO: Are there any examples of global campaigns that have incorporated the local nuances of your market while staying true to their brand? How do you think they captured / merged this complex relationship?
Matthys: Coca-cola has negotiated this complex relationship really well. They have been able to creatively connect with local people, energy and music, while still maintaining the creative structures of their brand personality.
D.IO: How does the process of adapting global campaigns as opposed to creating new campaigns dim local creativity? Can adapting campaigns capture the local essence when local creatives are limited to simply adapting global campaigns?
Matthys: It depends on the global concept of the campaign. Some are very open to local interpretations of the same concept. If the global concept is too centralized on the "home culture" of where the brand originates, not only will this damper the creativity of local creatives, but the brand will also have a campaign that is easily lost in translation.
D.IO: What is the one rule you follow for positioning a brand to fit into the local environment? Please discuss a case where this has failed or succeeded.
Matthys: Consider the physical local environment first. I have seen many campaigns where Apple or Samsung would advertise their products in South Africa by showing images of people using their devices while commuting on the New York City subway. It looks cool as they lean on a pillar next to the Times Square Station sign, but no one in SA can relate to this. They can only aspire to it. Someday they can experience that... in NYC. So, it seems out of reach for most South Africans.
D.IO: With consumers deeply entrenched in the digital sphere, how does this affect localisation and brand experience given consumers may experience a brand online first?
Matthys: There should be no difference between digital, print, tv and radio when it comes to localisation. Because digital campaigns have the ability to specify the regions and the specific markets in which they are seen, there are even less excuses for a brand not to localise their digital campaigns.
D.IO: What other markets do you look to for inspiration?
Matthys: USA, UK, Brazil, Far East.
D.IO: There is this idea of culturalization vs. localization of brands, what is the difference if any and does this help brands gets closer to the local market?
Matthys: Culturalization in my opinion is not limited to any specific region or country. South Africa for example is littered with various awesome cultures. We are a beautiful nation of people with so much potential to become a world leader, in ANY industry. South Africans cannot generally be split into local areas for brands to target. We are so mixed, brands should culturalize their campaigns to "attract" customers, rather than "target" them.
It is clear that when we look past the faults and unrefined elements, South Africa is a land full of potential. The call for brands to seize these opportunities and tailor their communication specifically for our diverse demographic and cultural landscape is one that should not be taken lightly. Thank you Matthys for highlighting this very important point!