Making stories relevant for Africans
SA’s struggling to create consistently authentic advertising that has a uniquely local voice
While advertisers do get it right occasionally, it’s still very hitand-miss, with the majority of campaigns continuing to depict a very stereotypical and traditional view of consumers. This means they’re missing out on opportunities to truly engage with people through authentic storytelling.
Think of the number of breakfast cereal ads depicting a so-called “typical” nuclear family including Mom, Dad and the requisite two kids. Really, is that the best we can do? How many families actually eat breakfast that way? Statistically, this so-called nuclear family includes only a minority of consumers and omits the single-parent families, the older child tasked with ensuring that younger siblings eat breakfast before being bundled off to school because the parent left much earlier in order to get to work on time, and the grandparent who’s raising the grandchildren.
There are other ways to advertise breakfast cereals – but we’re not using them. Why?
As an industry, we’re still so focused on ticking racial boxes that we sacrifice authenticity and fail to tell the other, less stereotypical, but more genuine stories. If the creative industry is to survive and thrive, it’s imperative that we tell authentic stories which engage consumers in a relevant and more meaningful manner.
With only a few exceptions, local advertising isn’t getting it right partly because global advertising departments have too much influence over what’s created locally without a sufficient understanding of the nuances of local culture, and partly because we’re not researching correctly. In a research environment, most people don’t get excited about a very novel advertising idea because it doesn’t fall into their known lexicon. It therefore takes a brave client to give that campaign the go-ahead. All too often, however, we fall back onto the tried and tested, resulting in advertising that’s more of the same, rather than telling authentically South African stories.
African advertising agencies have an opportunity to deliver realistic content that engages consumers, but to do that, we need to better understand how people are thinking and feeling. Social media – and Black Twitter, in particular – is a very good indicator of public sentiment and how people are engaging with each other. The creative industry would be well served by studying this engagement and replicating it in advertising communication. If we’re telling a story about fathers, for instance, it doesn’t matter what race the father is, as long as the story’s relevant.
It’s time to throw the rule book out the window and start telling consistently South African stories in a uniquely local voice.
Multi-award-winning creative Neo Mashigo is the Chief Creative Officer of the M&C Saatchi SA Group.