The WARC Awards are now open for entries. Here John Bizzell, WARC's Awards Lead, finds out what the three Middle East and Africa jury chairs will be looking for in the 2024 winners. Meet Telkom's Gugu Mthembu, the UAE Government Media Office's Khaled AlShehhi and Absa Kenya PLC's Carolyne Kendi.

Gugu Mthembu is as passionate about developing respectable brands as she is about facilitating diversity in the creative industry. A firm believer in enabling inclusive opportunities, Gugu embraces and drives impactful change initiatives, and lends her marketing skills on a pro-bono basis to several charity organisations as a Board Director. Under her stewardship, Telkom has made the incredible rise to being the third-largest telecommunications company in South Africa.

Gugu on… 

Cultural impact

“Cultural impact can mean challenging stereotypes that have become accepted norms, promoting progressive change or involvement in culture drivers to shape a new narrative around a particular topic. A brand driving this in South Africa right now is Tastic Rice from Tiger Brands; as part of their annual campaign, they have partnered with fashion designers, musicians and artists not only to reimagine their packaging and how the story of rice integrates into key celebration moments, but to adopt causes that bring about positive change in society.”

Understanding path-to-purchase

“Telkom had to adopt a more consumer-centric approach based on insights uncovered through our data science capabilities. We have identified new growth opportunities from the granular data insights and created dynamic offerings that are more palatable to our consumers in their current state and communicated this clearly. Consumers need to hear that brands understand their challenges and stand with them. We have seen a few other brands adopt this type of approach.”

Making an entry stand out

“I’d like to see entries that not only tick the boxes in their respective categories but shift the jury’s thinking. The hygiene elements need to be taken care of – there needs to be a clear golden thread between campaign objectives, the strategy and tactics adopted to meet those objectives. Some entries I’ve seen in the past were brilliant in execution but there was no clear view of how the execution responded to the objectives or drove KPIs.” 


Khaled AlShehhi has made significant contributions to advertising and marketing in the Middle East, garnering over 220 international awards for his strategic work. A prominent member of the Global CMO Growth Council, he was named Dubai Lynx Advertising Person of the Year in 2023, honoured with the 2022 World Media Award and featured in the Arabian Business 2021 Power List of individuals shaping the Middle East's future. His insights on government creativity make him a notable industry speaker.

Khaled on… 

What makes a channel pioneer

“A true pioneer is a brand that not only adopts new or underutilised media channels, but does so in a way that sets new standards for engagement and creativity. Pioneers are trailblazers who use these channels in innovative, perhaps even unconventional, ways to reach their audience more effectively. A prime example is the rise of augmented reality (AR) in marketing, notably IKEA’s AR app, IKEA Place, which allows users to visualise furniture in their own space before purchasing. This use of AR was ground-breaking, transforming the shopping experience and setting a new benchmark in retail.”

Strategic thinking in a cost-of-living crisis

“The ongoing volatility has profoundly influenced strategic thinking in the Middle East and Africa. Brands are increasingly adopting empathetic marketing, focusing on value and relevance. Supermarkets and consumer goods companies, for instance, are focusing on promoting budget-friendly options and there’s a notable pivot towards community support and engagement. Brands are initiating programmes to aid those most affected by economic hardships, fostering goodwill and deeper connections with their audience. Digital engagement has also accelerated, as brands seek efficient, impactful ways to connect.”

Originality, impact, and clarity

“Entries for the WARC Awards 2024 should demonstrate creative thinking that challenges norms and pushes boundaries. Show us how your campaign has not only achieved its objectives but also made a significant impact – be it in terms of business results, cultural influence, or innovative use of media. I want to see entries that tell a compelling story, supported by robust data and clear outcomes. Authenticity is key; ensure your campaign reflects genuine understanding and engagement with your audience.”

Carolyne Kendi is passionate about Africa and believes that we can all achieve our full potential if we stay hungry, positive and creative. She has more than 20 years’ experience in blue chip organisations across various industries working on global, regional, and local brands in several markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. She believes that the role of a brand, business or organisation is not to extract value, but to do well by doing good and leave their customers and communities better than they found them.

Carolyne on…


“I am a strong believer in the notion that brands and businesses must have purpose at the core of what they do to be successful in the long run. This is because without purpose, then it becomes a very transactional engagement that can easily be replicated by someone else. The combination of a purpose led brand and a great relevant product/proposition/solution is the right formula for long term sustainable growth. A purposeful campaign is one that delivers value for the business, value for the customer and impact in the community they serve.”

Balancing performance and band building

“People do not buy randomly, and their predisposition and perceptions affect their choices. The role of performance marketing is to convert brand preference to a tangible result and the cash flows that are critical for any business’s survival. Building brand preference that does not convert means there is no return on the investment. It is critical to find the optimal mix that will deliver efficiently and effectively for your business or category in both the short and long-term.”

Strategic thinking in the cost-of-living crisis

“In Africa, there is always a huge part of the population that is close to or below the poverty line. The current volatility is making it even more difficult for these customers to survive and they are looking for help with navigating these difficult times. People want brands to demonstrate they understand the current reality and to help them stretch the money they have. This means, strategically, a deep understanding of what our customers are thinking and feeling, and responding with relevant solutions that deliver customer value.”

The WARC Awards 2024 are open for entries now. Early-bird deadline: 12 December, final deadline: 6 February. Download your entry pack here. Register for the free ‘How to Win’ webinar on 5 December here