OK, I'll admit MTN already got its foot in the door with me right at the beginning of its new TV ad: I'm a Commodores fan and I think Nightshift (their tribute to soul legend Marvin Gaye - also one of my favourites) is one of the best tracks they produced.
Even though it’s a musical eulogy, it has the sort of “quiet storm” energy many a soul wannabe had tried, and failed, to capture. It is also about moving on after loss, of celebrating a life and honouring someone in the best way possible – by never forgetting.
As such, it is a song of optimism and of hope. And, brother do we need those things in bucketsful in present-day South Africa.
It’s also a salute to those thousands of people who work through the night across our country, the people we seldom see; the people who also have real lives, real loves… and real fun.
The show starts at 2.31am at Cape Town airport, with an air traffic controller (ATC) who’s on nightshift, downloading the song.
He starts relaying the music with the help of his MTN smartphone.
He Skypes his friend Marvin (also using MTN), who is another controller in Joburg and begins to sing to him. Soon, Nightshift is winging its way across the country to other airports, where other workers – from immigration officials to security guards and technicians – start getting down.
The beat infects passengers on an airport bus and those who have just boarded a plane. The song ends up, eventually, with the wife of the first ATC guy, who is sitting at home with their baby, and she forwards it to her hubby, thereby closing the circle.
Is it realistic? I don’t think so. Would we like to see life that? Most definitely. The best advertising sells dreams – and this is what MTN is doing here, while reminding everybody that they can be the glue which binds us.
Great ad, so an Orchid to MTN, plus ones for agency Metropolitan Republic and Bomb production company (director Teboho Mahlatsi and producer Gavin Joubert).
Screengrabs from the ad.
I sometimes wonder about what can only be the English language teachers who went AWOL instead of teaching, so low is the standard of written language in this country these days.
It grates me to hear the Peugeot Fourways radio ad flighting at the moment.
Not because the voice artist gets the French name wrong – he correctly pronounces it “Purr-zhow” – but because he pronounces genuine as “genu-u-wine”. You’re not living in some Ozark mountain backwood, boetie, and last time I checked, South Africa follows English – not American – pronunciations.
Maybe somebody thinks sounding American will add class (a common ad industry mistake) or maybe they just don’t know.
Either way, it’s rubbish and gets a real, genuine Onion. The other thing that annoys me about the gaps in English education (sorry teachers, maybe the material you were working with wasn’t that great to start off with) is the increasingly common use of the expression “from” when describing a range of products.
That is wrong because it is using only half the correct expression. The way it should be used, people, in this context, a “from” always implies a “to” somewhere. From beds to broomsticks to brass knockers, for example.
Maybe I am getting a bit like Dr Sheldon Cooper from TV’s Big Bang Theory, who gets demented when people don’t finish sentences. Or maybe I’m just…
Onion in this case – not because they are the only guilty one, but because they are in my face every day with it – it’s Joburg radio station Hot 91.9.
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Brendan Seery has been in the news business for most of his life, covering coups, wars, famines - and some funny stories - across Africa. Brendan Seery's Orchids and Onions column ran each week in the Saturday Star in Johannesburg and the Weekend Argus in Cape Town. Contact him now on
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Great to see some spine-tingling big TV emerge from ever dwindling ATL activities. Brilliant concept, music, direction, flawlessly executed. Fantastic commercial from Metropolitan Republic and client MTN!