#DigitalEdge2015: Making Stories

Storytelling is as old as time. Marketers have been doing it forever if you think about it. It was the theme for this year’s Digital Edge that took place at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg.

Brought to you by Native VML and Nedbank, the event is its 7th year and it was my first time attending. I have been avoiding it for the last few years because it felt like just another conference, you know? I thought wrong. It is perhaps SA’s biggest platform for educating the industry on digital communication.

“We must use stories to journey into the heart of who we are, by telling stories we bring ourselves into being,’’ said Native VML CEO, Jason Xenopolous, as he kicked off the event.

The buzz

If storytelling has been around for ages, why is this on every brand manager’s tongue at the moment?

Technology. Technology has changed personal relations; the way we interact with each other. It’s changed the way we communicate with brands, our expectations of brands changed and similarly, the way brands communicate with their consumers and how they tell their stories.

Over the last few years, there has been a dramatic shift that has changed the marketing landscape forever. Digital Edge aimed to address these challenges that brands face when telling their stories by using technology across a plethora of channels.

Co-create stories

Giving an insightful presentation on co-creation was Dr. Wu, Chief Scientist at Lithium Technologies who probably summed up the event in one line; “Digital is the end of business as usual.”


The event was followed with more insights from influencers like Khaya Dlanga and Dr Sindi van Zyl. We were shown a few short films from Kenya and Nigeria and my only request to the organizers would be to actually book more speakers from the entire continent. We want first-hand experience not just a video.

What stood out for me was a talk by Mel Attree, Director of Content Strategy at Ogilvy SA, who talked about the responsibility of telling stories properly. It’s not just about vomiting words, it’s a process which, in all fairness, is not rocket science.

We, the communications community, know this, we know it but still we don’t implement it properly. According to Attree, it’s all about agencies interrogating the brief followed by the collaboration/co-creation. Collaboration seems to be the new integration. Can we stop playing boardroom bingo and really pull up our socks?

The Client Partner

A new face to the digital landscape is Musa Kalenga who was recently appointed as Client Partner at Facebook South Africa. This guy owned the stage and had us eating out of his hand. He understands his product and how it fits into business. On Africa and technology, Musa says that it’s not the strongest who will survive but those who can adapt to change. Businesses need to embrace technology while understanding humanity. On storytelling, he says “we need to think like humans before we act like brands,” in that way, we will create meaningful connections.



This year’s keynote address was delivered by award-winning director, Spike Lee. Known for his grit and honest portrayal of the black American narrative, Spike delved into how technology influences art and business. His appearance was succinct but charming.

We received a sneak preview of his star-studded new movie, Chi-raq which will be released by Amazon.com. This will be the first feature film to be released by this online giant. Something that Lee says, is shaking up Hollywood.

Lee pulls no punches and delivered on the event promise. He didn’t present, he didn’t preach, he told a story. He touched how you’re never too old to learn, his film students taught him about crowd-sourcing – a big lesson for corporate  facing new media.

I have included a few more pearls for Spike below.

Digital Edge was worth every cent and I am looking forward to another but more diverse line up.






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