I have been wondering for a while now why the South African National Defence Force thinks it's necessary to pay for advertising on billboards along the country's national highways. After all, these don't come cheap.
Then, earlier this week while reading Business Day
(page 6, 10 April 2012), I came across a large advert extolling the fact that it cares for its veterans. Well, I should hope so - but does this really warrant a large full-colour advert in an expensive newspaper? And I am sure that its newspaper campaign does not stop at Business Day
This got me thinking: "Why are they spending so much taxpayers' money on this campaign? What are they hoping to achieve?"
Taxpayers are not direct beneficiaries of SANDF activities. Nor do we need to be persuaded to buy their products or service. We have a defence force because we are a sovereign nation and, as such, need one to protect our borders and citizens from invasion, or to help other nations defend themselves in times of need.
Our defence force is paid for by the citizens of South Africa - its budget is provided by National Treasury, not because I decided today, based on the advert I saw in Business Day
, to go out and buy something from them.
I do not argue that they need to communicate with stakeholders, be they army veterans, current defence force personnel, the government, or even the average South African. Of course, I have not had sight of the SANDF's marketing or communications strategy and it would be interesting to see what other tools it is employing to reach its target audiences directly. Yes, yes, I know advertising is an important part of the marketing mix, but there are far more cost-effective, less wasteful ways of getting a message across - especially for this government department.
Considering it is using some of my hard-earned money, I really hope that whoever is advising the SANDF has not stopped at a relatively easy way out - not particularly creative, expensive adverts that do absolutely nothing for me but raise my ire because I know the expense involved.
The best "advertisement" for the SANDF, or any other government department for that matter, would actually be delivering on its mandate. Imagine how powerful that would be.