Absa ad on the money


The Citizen (Gauteng) - - NEWS - Bren­dan Seery

Onion for painfully slow SA Post Of­fice’s light­ning-fast branded ve­hi­cle.

Brand ad­ver­tis­ing – es­pe­cially when it is of the “go big, or go home” va­ri­ety – tends to be up­beat and pos­i­tive. And, when go­ing for up­beat and pos­i­tiv­ity as your mo­tif, there can be a ten­dency to chuck clichés at your ex­e­cu­tions … like cute kids or an­i­mals.

That’s what Absa ap­pears to be do­ing in its lat­est ad for its Cor­po­rate and In­vest­ment Bank­ing (CIB) di­vi­sion.

One would have thought that hard-nosed in­vestors or an­a­lysts would be capi­ti­vated by num­bers and pro­jec­tions, not by cutesy. But clearly Absa doesn’t believe so, be­cause the lat­est ad for the CIB busi­ness goes quite a way down the cliché route.

We see a cu­ri­ous young girl, ap­par­ently fas­ci­nated by light and en­ergy and cap­tur­ing it – dream­ing big. She imag­ines things which will help save the con­ti­nent, Africa, which is her home.

The voice-over speaks – in clas­sic rose-tinted, hold-hands-ands­ing-kum­baya op­ti­mism – of what makes us here in Africa dif­fer­ent from ev­ery­one else. This is the “brav­ery to imag­ine and the will to get things done”.

That all adds up to Africanac­ity, Absa’s clever lit­tle word play which blends Africa and tenac­ity.

The prob­lem, though, is this: Look around you. Do you see much in the way of the will to get things done? In Eskom? In sta­te­owned en­ter­prises? In mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties? Ex­actly. I am also not quite sure what the brand mes­sage is in there for the money crunch­ers which will per­suade them to en­trust their money to the bank.

How­ever, if that all sounds like a build-up to hand­ing out an­other Onion, let me dis­ap­point you. De­spite all the flaws and ques­tions it poses, this ad has a sim­ple charm which is in­fec­tious. I think a lot of that has to do with ex­actly that pos­i­tiv­ity, some­thing which has been in short sup­ply in South Africa for a long time.

There’s also an in­no­cence about it all.

But what saves the ad from mid­dling is the su­perb pro­duc­tion, the re­spon­si­bil­ity of Di­rec­tor Dule of Chill Pill Films. The colours and the images through­out have a lu­mi­nes­cent, al­most dream­like qual­ity. It’s like be­ing caught up in a fairy tale.

You watch it and won­der: Maybe, just maybe, the world could be like this one day …

Or­chids to Absa, its ad agency FCB Joburg and to Chill Pill Films.

If you de­cide, as a brand, to go down the “mo­bile bill­board” route and em­bla­zon ve­hi­cles with your lo­gos or your mar­ket­ing mes­sages, you need to be very, very care­ful. Some brand man­agers have told me, over the years, that they are re­luc­tant to see their brand­ing used in taxi ad­ver­tis­ing. That’s be­cause there is a very real dan­ger, given the way that many taxi driv­ers be­have, that your com­pany will end up be­ing associated, how­ever un­wit­tingly, with crim­i­nal be­hav­iour.

How­ever, when you are a col­laps­ing and use­less state-owned en­ter­prise, you must be dou­bly care­ful that you don’t send out the don’t-give-a-damn type mes­sages to your cus­tomers.

So I was in­fu­ri­ated to see a SA Post Of­fice branded car at the air­port the other day when I got back from Europe.

To re­cap about this or­gan­i­sa­tion: whereas Royal Mail in the UK prom­ises that if you post a let­ter by 5pm, it will reach its desti­na­tion any­where in that coun­try the next day, our equiv­a­lent’s ac­tual per­for­mance en­sures that, if you post a let­ter by June, it should get to the re­cip­i­ent by De­cem­ber. That is if it is not opened to look for valu­ables to steal and then dumped in the near­est drain.

I bet none of you read­ing this has re­cently re­ceived a car li­cence re­newal re­minder by post which ar­rived ahead of time.

So, guess what sort of car the SA post Of­fice chose to brand? A bakkie? No. A Toy­ota Corolla? No. All too util­i­tar­ian,

This Sapo car was a Mini Cooper S, prob­a­bly cost­ing more than R300 000 when new and ca­pa­ble only of trans­port­ing driver and one pas­sen­ger – at high speeds, nat­u­rally.

It pro­vides a great jux­ta­po­si­tion for your brand: fast car and abysmally slow ser­vice.

An Onion for you. I won’t post it to you be­cause I doubt whether it would get there.

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