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A South African Perspective

Every country over time develops its own advertising communication identity, colloquialisms and national ‘flavour’ by reflecting the history, customs, folklore, politics and humorous idiosyncrasies that define the unique characteristics of its citizens.

Sometimes these communication campaigns laudably win local and international advertising industry awards. As important as these annual accolades are, the ultimate award sought, is successfully winning the hearts and minds of a domestic target audience.

In the famous words of Bill Bernbach: “You can say the right things, you can do the right things, but if no-one feels it their gut, nothing will happen”.

This is my subjective perspective on some commercials that earned my attention for their contextualization of the colourful strands that make up the rich, cultural tapestry of South Africa’s society.

1. Audi Q2, Untaggable Thando Hopa

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy, Cape Town, South Africa

Audi’s Q2 defies being neatly classified as belonging to a specific automotive category or market segment. It’s a high-performance, luxury coupe that’s equally at home in an urban and off-road environment. In short, the Q2 is ‘untaggable’.

Sam Coleman directed this expressive home-grown version of the untaggable campaign with a great soundtrack created by Markus Wormstorm.

The commercial stars South African lawyer, model, actress and activist, Thando Hopa. She was born with albinism, and as many people with her skin-pigmentation all too often experience, it means having to endure societal exclusion owing to superstitions, stigmas and embedded prejudices.

With the moral support and encouragement of her parents Thando refused to be held back by societal stereotyping and is consequently rapidly changing the perception of albinism. Her inspired partnership with the Audi Q2 #Untaggable campaign is a celebratory tribute to an enlightened social consciousness about the diversity of beauty.

2. VW South Africa, Thanks Dad

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, South Africa

I saw ‘Thanks Dad’ years ago and have never forgotten it. The commercial was directed by Kim Geldenhuys who has a noteworthy talent for imbuing stories of human interactions and family relationships with great emotional depth and resonating pathos.

3. Bell’s Whisky, The Reader

Advertising Agency: King James, Cape Town, South Africa

This much lauded, excellently crafted commercial was directed by Greg Gray and struck an emotive chord with many viewers.

The selling line “Give that man a Bell’s” became a metaphor for a well deserved token of honour and a popular South African catchphrase.

4. Nando’s, Blue Light Brigade

Advertising Agency: Metropolitan Republic, South Africa

The commercial is a satirical take on the ‘blue light brigades’ used by government ministers to the huge annoyance and disdain of most South Africans.

Brilliantly directed by Kim Geldenhuys who displays a deft talent for filmic comedy, the commercial was an instant hit. It rapidly reached 3.2 million views, became one of the watched YouTube videos globally at the time and the hashtag #NoBlueLights received over 8,000 participants.

5. Allan Grey, Father’s Share

Advertising Agency: King James, Cape Town, South Africa

Directed by Peter Pohorsky, this sensitively observed, very South African story is a heart-warming commercial of a boy learning the value of long-term investing from his father.

6. Coronation Fund Managers, The Elephant Whisperer

Advertising Agency: FoxP2, Cape Town, South Africa

The commercial was inspired by much-lauded conservationist and author Lawrence Anthony’s true story from his bestseller ‘The Elephant Whisperer’.

Film Director Robin Goode’s superb ability to capture the compelling drama of adopting a herd of rouge elephants on the Anthonys’ Thula Thula Game Reserve; ensures emotive viewing.

The remarkable story of passionate dedication and patient perseverance is told through the eyes and voice of Lawrence’s widow Françoise Malby-Anthony. Renowned South African actor-director Albert Maritz plays the part of Lawrence.