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UJ students win Assegai award for AI-incorporated MaXhosa X Nike strategy

Eight final-year students specialising in PR and Communications from the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Department of Strategic Communication secured a Gold DMA Assegai award in the student category. The prestigious Direct Marketing Association Assegai Awards 2023 took place on the 9th of November 2023 at the Wanderers Club in Illovo Johannesburg.

The students from UJ, comprising the New Echelon syndicate—Mlungisi Mokone, Relebohile Mosala, Thapelo Tshamano, Nhlanhla Mxolisi Msindo, Sphiwe Maluleka, Gerson Gulamo Bica, Beyonce Mbali Mahlangu, and Teboho Moloi—showcased creativity and embraced the transformative influence of Generative Artificial Intelligence which is disrupting the communication industry.

As part of the final assessment for Communication Management, students were briefed to produce a data driven strategy for a proudly South African brand that used generative AI for their creative prototypes. The class opted to make MaXhosa Africa the focus of their assignment. “In light of the explosive adoption of Generative AI this year, I felt it was important to design an assessment which would give students an opportunity to use it in constructive and industry appropriate ways,” said Senior Lecturer in the Department of Strategic Communication, Dr Caroline Azionya.

“I am so proud of their work; they have a solid strategy that incorporated digital humans and other novel elements” she said.

The winning strategy which was shortlisted from around 20 groups was presented on the 25th of October 2023, before a panel of seasoned judges from the industry. The judges were impressed by the calibre of work presented to them.

“We are grateful for the DMA and the judging panel for setting aside time to invest in our students. The student category is an important channel for nurturing emerging talent in our industry” said Prof Elizabeth Lubinga, HOD of Strategic Communication.

These young Strategists demonstrated their adaptability in a sector where AI is often viewed as a potential threat to the creative process. The winning strategy heavily leveraged AI-generated materials, challenging the conventional belief that creative professions and AI are mutually exclusive.

“Winning the Assegai awards student category really shows that dreams can become a reality. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Dr Caroline for her mentorship and unwavering faith in us. We couldn’t have reached this milestone without her guidance and support” said Nhlanhla Mxolisi Msindo from New Echelon.

Sphiwe Maluleka from New Echelon added, “Being congratulated by industry professionals and agencies that we look up to felt so surreal. It gave us hope that our dreams are valid, and our goals are within reach.”

The University of Johannesburg’s success at the Assegai Awards 2023 reaffirms its commitment to fostering innovation and preparing students for the evolving landscape of the communications industry. As the accolades pour in, the UJ Strategic Communications students stand as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring professionals, proving that the fusion of creativity and technology can indeed yield extraordinary results.

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