Accolades to brands’ tributes to Madiba
Most got the right sense of occasion; only one was in very bad taste
HERE is a story that, back in the mid- 1990s, when computers in newsrooms were comparatively new, a bunch of late-night duty reporters in the newsroom of the Sunday Tribune in Durban were transfixed by Tetris, or some other digital way of passing the time.
Came knocking-off time, they reluctantly shut down and headed home. The next morning, they were rudely awakened by the news, carried in the Sunday Times, that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been assassinated the previous evening... which they might have noticed had they been monitoring the news wires instead of playing Tetris.
Some wag among their colleagues later placed a death notice in the Daily News, the Trib’s sister paper.
“Yitzhak Rabin,” it said simply, “Sadly missed by the people of Israel and the Sunday Tribune...”
This has been one of those weeks in which we all hoped we wouldn’t miss the biggest story in this country since Nelson Mandela walked free in February 1990. And, most of us didn’t... quite why The New Age had nothing I will never understand.
All across the country, in newspaper, TV, radio and Internet newsrooms, people came in to work bleary- eyed around midnight... some barely having got to sleep after working a full day.
That, of course, was not surprising. This is the sort of thing we live for – being there when history is made.
And I think that the South African media – print and electronic – did an incredible job not only of revealing the sad news, but also of recording, comprehensively, the reaction from South
TAfricans and the rest of the world to the passing of an icon, the likes of whom we’ll never see again.
All the main newspapers came up with detailed supplements, detailing the great man’s life and his impact on our lives. Many of these supplements had, of course, been on ice for as long as five years, as people planned in detail for the dreaded day.
It may seem callous to write someone’s obituary while they are still breathing, but we knew – as did you, the consumers – that people would not wait, that they would soak up all the information they could on Madiba, to preserve the moment and his memory.
And that is where newspapers really came into their own.
Think about it: if you want something to keep that records one of the most impactful moments in our history, to pass on to your children and grandchildren, or just for yourself to remind you of how fortunate we were to have him... then a USB disk and a screen grab of a website doesn’t quite do it, does it?
Papers all around the country and across the globe sold like hot cakes because of the need to know and the urge to keep something to remember him by.
Interestingly, posters for The Star newspaper, which went out on the streets early on Friday morning, had largely disappeared a few hours later as people took them down to keep as souvenirs.
I know I may be biased but I believe our group, Independent Newspapers, did the best job, with a variety of well-produced and thought-provoking front pages, and a host of well-written, respectful supplements which covered all aspects of Madiba’s life and what he stood for.
I also salute the electronic media (including the oft-maligned SABC) for the breadth of their coverage and the respectful way they controlled their news flows. But the stand-out electronic person for me was Talk Radio 702’s presenter David O’Sullivan, who began by broadcasting live from outside Mandela’s former home in Vilakazi Street in Soweto and then went in studio. It was goosefleshinducing stuff.
By and large, I think companies played it also the correct way when it came to remembering and acknowledging Mandela.
One of my readers, Kevin Shields, thinks that the ad by Tempur, a maker of mattresses, was in particularly bad taste because it used the phrase “Rest in peace” against a logo of someone sleeping on a bed. I agree with him – it deserves an Onion... even if your business is beds, for heaven’s sake, at a time like this, just drop the logo.
Most other advertisers did well and I’d like to award those we feature here – Shoprite Checkers, Coca- Cola, MTN, Geely – welldeserved Orchids.
But the best I saw was for Nando’s because it is a classic example of “less is more”advertising and because it makes a point so powerfully with so few words.
The print ad, which ran in weekend papers, was black with the simple words: 1918 - forever. Noone would have had to think to get that. And it said eloquently what we all know... Mandela will not be forgotten.
There was no Nando’s logo. That was good because the brand is often associated with humour and it could have been tacky. However, because Nando’s typeface is so well-known, there was no doubt who was behind it.
It is a sad time, but a time when we all started to celebrate Madiba and remind ourselves how things could have been very different in this country without him. It was a poignant salute.
A thoroughly deserved Orchid to Nando’s and to Black River FC, their former ad agency.
Just one final observation: it might seem a bit callous again to talk about Brand Mandela, but I cannot help it. This brand is powerful not because of what it spends in marketing and its clever ads.
The brand is outstanding because it is authentic, it is true and it will live, perhaps as Nando’s predicts, for a lot longer than a long, long time.
TOP ON THE ORCHIDS: Nando’s went for “less is more”.
ONION: Tempur was tacky.