Creative Cleanup Challenge, winners announced and message from students clear, ad folks need to ditch fossil fuel clients

Students from some of the top creative, advertising and design schools in the country took part in the Creative Cleanup 2023 live brief challenge. The challenge was clear – inspire ad-makers (their seniors) in the commercials industry to stop using their talents to promote fossil fuel companies. The winning work has been released and the message across the board was clear, these students do not want to touch briefs from fossil fuel companies.

The students who stepped up to the Creative Cleanup Challenge didn’t have it easy – not only did they need to create a compelling message to get their seniors thinking about their role in climate change, but some of those very seniors were the ones who would be judging their work.

This year’s Creative Cleanup panel consisted of industry veterans Nkanyezi Masango, Chief Creative Officer at Dentsu Creative, Suhana Gordhan, Independent Creative Leader, Daniel Kaplan, Executive Producer at Bioscope Films and Julie Maunder, Founder and Owner at and Clean Creatives SA’s country director, Stephen Horn.

(From Left) Suhana Gordhan – Independent Creative Leader, Nkanyezi Masango – Chief Creative Officer at Dentsu Creative, Julie Maunder – Founder and Owner at, Daniel Kaplan – Executive Producer at Bioscope Films and Clean Creatives SA’s country director – Stephen Horn.

The Creative Cleanup Challenge was briefed in by Clean Creatives’ South African chapter; a movement advocating for the Advertising, PR and Production industry to decline work from the fossil fuel industry. Commercials for fossil fuel companies (think Sasol, BP, Engen, Shell, Caltex for example) directly contribute to the climate crisis by creating positive perceptions about fossil fuel companies, distracting from activism work and thus slowing down legislation that will stop the damage they are doing. Clean Creatives worked in partnership with Creatives for Climate network to set the student challenge and saw entries from all across South Africa.

You can read more about what we’ve written on Clean Creatives and the role of advertising in climate change here

After the judges reviewed all the work, a decision was made to award two winners. The joint winners were Joshua Kelly (Red & Yellow) with an animated thought-provoking entry encouraging creatives to ponder if they are using their creativity to ‘fuel the wrong fire,’ and a team comprising Justin Beswick (The IIE-Vega School) and Karla Koekemoer (Open Window Institute) who designed a contract version of the pledge to make it more visible in agencies.

Stills from the winning work by Joshua Kelly (Left) and Justin Beswick Karla Koekemoer (Right)

Watch what the judges had to say and see more about the work in the video below:

Commenting on being a part of the challenge, Suhana Gordhan said, ‘Something like Clean Creatives is a necessary conversation. It’s a tough one in South Africa because we are plagued with so many other challenges but I don’t think that should stop us from being able to talk about it, being able to see how it can influence our work, and how we can start to take a stand against any brands that we consider to be harmful to the environment.’

Nkanyezi Masango added, ‘I found this brief very educational. I think it’s something that as an industry we can take on and really interrogate where our values lie.’

The challenge winners were announced at a panel discussion event titled ‘Unleashing Creativity for Climate Action’ held during the African Climate Alliance’s Cape Town Climate Week in September.

Daniel Kaplan, a Loeries board member and Executive Producer at Bioscope Films, praised the simplicity, clarity and inventiveness of the winning work, saying it was ‘extremely encouraging to see the various executions that the students used’ to respond to the brief. He added: ‘As creatives in an industry where we have power to change perceptions, it’s important to consider carefully when we use our creative skills to change these perceptions for fossil fuel companies specifically, who are … significantly responsible for the climate change crisis.’

Founder of IDIDTHAT and well-intentioned but forgetful recycler Julie Maunder said, ‘We can acknowledge that declining work while facing the current financial pressures on our industry seems wild. We can also acknowledge that the advertising industry is the primary industry responsible for shaping perceptions around the companies responsible for the greenhouse gases which are causing climate change. Both can be true. This Creative Cleanup brief is a great way for senior and emerging talent to engage about our industry’s future role in climate change. I really think it has the potential to shift our industry’s conscience and to action real change.’

Karla Koekemoer, this year’s joint winner from the Open Window Institute, commented on the experience of the challenge saying: ‘Creativity plays a crucial role in climate action. And it has the power to inspire, educate and drive change…I’m really proud that we were able to use our innovative storytelling and design to motivate individuals and businesses to adopt sustainable practices.’

Joshua Kelly, this year’s joint winner from Red and Yellow, also reflected on the challenge saying: ‘Getting to participate in the Creative Cleanup Challenge was honestly such an honour. And even though it started out as just a brief that I got for college, it blossomed into this thing that was the eye-opener into how much I’m able to say with what I do…If I could give one message to the creatives that are wanting to work in the PR industry and for fossil fuel companies: do what your heart says you should do. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. So create what you want to create.’

The judges also gave special mentions to a team from AAA Advertising School for the effective copy: ‘Why Create For Those Who Destroy?’ and to two other Red & Yellow students who subverted agency philosophy to encourage them to cut ties with fossil fuels: Ogilvy, which use ‘change is our lifeblood,’ as their philosophy, was challenged to think about ‘which side of change are you on?’. Joe Public’s agency vision is G.R.O.W.T.H. which stands for Greatness, Resilience, Ownership, Work, Thinking and Honesty. The agency was challenged to think about whether these values are compatible with working for fossil fuels with a clever reconceptualised acronym: Get Real! Our World’s Too Hot.

The winning work was profiled in the Clean Creatives SA 2023 F-list report which was launched at an event held to coincide with Loeries Creative Week 2023, and featured in leading media outlets like News24, Business Day, and Daily Maverick.

Read more about Clean Creatives publishing the F-List, naming 41 South African agencies and PR companies using their talents for fossil fuel companies

‘The student engagement on this brief has been phenomenal, with many instantly taking the Clean Creatives pledge to not work on fossil fuel creative briefs throughout their entire careers,’ said Clean Creatives SA’s country director, Stephen Horn.

All the submissions to the Creative Cleanup 2023 challenge can be viewed on the Creatives For Climate hub here.

For further enquiries please contact:
Stephen Horn: Clean Creatives SA Country Director
Cell/WhatsApp: +27 (072) 621-0457