Ac­co­lades to brands’ tributes to Madiba

Most got the right sense of oc­ca­sion; only one was in very bad taste

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - MEDIA& MARKETING -

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.

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