Happy days are here again
THE COVER GIVES a clue to the kind of waspish, ironic humour within. It depicts a headless black man holding a detergent box labelled “Newish, improved SOUTH AFRICA” and promising “Gets rid of those stubborn whites!” and “brings out the brilliance in blacks!”
The title of Happy Ntshingila’s book Black Jerusalem was inspired by Carly Simon’s feminist anthem Let The River Run that was the theme song of the 1980 movie 9 to 5.
Ntshingila was one of the three founders of the quirkily named HerdBuoys ad agency that later became HerdBuoys McCann. Now head of marketing at Absa, he’s written a highly personalised account of those early days – with considerable attention given to the bugbear of any ad-man’s life: the new-business pitch. The book is amusing, likely to be challenged by people with a different memory of events and sometimes comes close to libel.
As he wrote in his informal, quaintly Runyanesque style: “The Coca-Cola Company’s arrogance is a well-documented truth that at times has helped them, at other times has tripped them up and at most times has infuriated those who have had to deal with them.
“This boy (Coca-Cola’s Ben Langdon) was on the up and up and he didn’t care whether the bodies he was climbing over were dead or alive; although if pressed for a preference I think he would have inclined towards the cold variety.”
Pressed by Langdon in an “inappropriately worded email” to fix the Coca-Cola problem, Ntshingila responded: “Dear Ben: Piss off.”
HerdBuoys management wasn’t impressed when other black agencies jumped, as they saw it, on to its bandwagon. Ntshingila writes: “After HerdBuoys had established itself, a crop of other so-called black agencies sprung up; mostly transparently ill-conceived attempts constituting black management with white tokens who were old and looking for a pension plan. The most illustrative example was Azaguys, who couldn’t even be bothered to come up with an original name.
“What made matters interesting was the chief Azaguy himself, Sipho Luthuli. This man, who was to advertising what Mike Tyson was to the evolution of man, made a lot of noise by claiming he was going after HerdBuoys’ business.” Brutally frank sums it up.