Mak­ing sto­ries rel­e­vant for Africans

SA’s strug­gling to cre­ate con­sis­tently au­then­tic ad­ver­tis­ing that has a uniquely lo­cal voice

Destiny Man - - TRENDS -

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.

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