Recently, I stumbled across television adverts promoting two or three SABC radio stations and I must admit that I was impressed with the public broadcaster for moving with the times and keeping up with the changes in our social environment. But the first thing that crossed my mind was that although this was an interesting and different execution, to me, something important was lacking.
If I recall, the three radio stations were Munghana Lonene FM, which broadcasts in Xitsonga; Motsweding FM in Setswana; and Phalaphala FM in Tshivenda. I'm yet to see the other remaining stations.
The first thing that crossed my mind was that, although this was an interesting and different execution, to me, something important was lacking.
My argument is that even though listeners of these radio stations are not conservative, and are hip and keeping up with the times, they still uphold their cultural and traditional identity, including their respective languages. Just visit either Limpopo or North West to see these changes in the social component of these provinces. You will no longer come across bored, quiet and lame-looking youths, especially in the metropolises. Hence I have a serious concern about these ads.
Fail to educate, inform about culture
What is evidently clear in those ads is that they fail to educate and inform the public about the culture of the people who live in the regions being served by those indigenous language radio stations. For instance, one shows a coach with his team of young boys practicing soccer. To me, this approach is wrong because it doesn't provide the public with a clear depiction of the unique cultures and traditions of either the Batswana or Vhavenda.
Yes, the ads depict the changing times, which is good enough, but the cultural aspect is missing. One of the mandates of the SABC is, in a nutshell, to educate and inform the public in various ways and forms, and ensure that it reaches all people of different cultures, languages, beliefs, etc.
All the different ethnic groups in South Africa have their own traditional ways of doing things, and even clothing serves to proudly distinguish each tribe. There are numerous different things that are unique to each tribe - like the way the Vhavenda greet their elders or royalty or, when the Bapedi people communicate with their elders, they normally speak in a plural form, which denotes respect.
However, these traditional and cultural aspects seem to have been overlooked by the entire production team, including the client, agency and production house, during the conceptualisation of the ads.
How does it connect to culture?
The Motsweding radio ad where the coach catches up on latest news via his mobile phone while coaching - how does it connect to culture? Yes, the message is that he is keeping abreast with the news and views on his favorite radio station but I still strongly believe that the aspect of his culture and traditions could somehow have been showcased. Besides, why is he coaching a team and listening to his favorite radio station at the same time? I mean really! (And we wonder why foreign coaches run our soccer teams?!)
So why did the client approve a concept which does not reflect the true traditions and cultures of these stations? I also wonder if the staff composition of production companies comprises people who understand SA's cultural heterogeneity or are they just preoccupied with winning awards? Clients should develop briefs that do not lead to winning awards at the expense of misrepresenting our traditions and cultures.
Clients must look at the overall impact and authenticity of the concepts, as ads are not only there to achieve objectives, but also to educate and inform. They need to ensure that ads like these, especially from the SABC, leave the viewer not only with a single-minded proposition from the blueprint but with a profound cultural take out.
How much was spent in production?
I also wonder how much was spent in producing these adverts. It would have been a good idea to shoot the commercials at Lesedi Cultural Village. Not only would they have had the various cultural aspects at their disposal, but the stylists would also have had less work in choosing clothes for the day.
Everyone in the advertising industry needs to ensure that whatever we do is true to our cultures. Since TV is a passive teacher, it is unfortunate that most people, especially young ones (who happen to be our future leaders), do not question anything. They take everything for granted and think that what they see is correct (seeing is believing).
And if this shallow depiction of our cultures, traditions or religions persists, then we are in trouble. It would mean that the SABC's educational aspect - in any form, be it TV series, dramas or adverts - has no essence, base or profoundness.
Bonnie Ramaila has extensive experience in marketing, advertising, PR, research, branding, and media and communications across government, public entities and the private sector. She is one of the few women marketing and communication specialists with solid and vast experience in these fields and across the three sectors. She currently works in The Presidency as a communications director in the Performance Monitoring and Evaluation unit. She writes in her personal capacity. Contact her at .
I suggest you look at the demographics and particularly the age groups of the stations' listenership. Unless the audiences mostly consist of people aged over 50, which is unlikely given the latest population stats, cultural values are not all about language purity and traditional dress. Effective communication is the primary aim of these ads. Get real to get across. Posted on 10 Mar 2011 14:47
Firstly refering to ur seeing is believing comment, as an urban youth who grew up and co-dwells in the rural areas as well as the township, I must let u know that the youth are clued up on what they are doing. The reason why they accept what they see is because they're aspirational. And where does this aspiration come from? from programming such as Generations and Live. And don't blame the client, because they probably got blown away with an amazing strategic presentation. So if it's change ur looking for u r pointing fingers in the wrong direction, because the brands u r refering to are not trend setter, they're trend followers. Sho Posted on 10 Mar 2011 15:09
The writer has a very good point and it is something I witness everyday where creatives conceptualise ideas with one blanket approach that all black people are the same and pay no attention to cultural differences within different tribal groups. There is nothing wrong showing that people are moving with the times but culture remains relevant irrespective of how modern one is. Having visited a rural area a few times, if you grew up in a township doesn't make you understand the market in as much as few township visits by a creative white person doesn't mean he can come up with relevant concepts for township dwellers.All of us in advertising must stop being defensive and try to be everything to everyone, write one ad in english and translate it directly to different languages assuming that it will be relevant from an urban station listener to African Language Station listener. Listen to African language stations and you will hear countless examples of what I'm talking about. Whether you are 21 or 50 remains relevant. Posted on 10 Mar 2011 16:18
What is your solution then for those trying to break into that market who don't have the time to learn an entirely new language, but are trying to & to do what they can by interviewing locals from the said township as well as doing market research? Posted on 10 Mar 2011 16:40
Outsource, get an expert even if it's on a part-time basis. An example is translations instead of giving a translation job to someone who is from Soweto and claims to know all the languages but none fluently, get people who speak the languages properly who will not just translate but will understand the concept and be creative when translating. It sounds like a lot of work which most agencies don't have time for but you would've done justice to your client's campaign. Posted on 10 Mar 2011 17:05
In response to article written in BizCommunity entitled “Radio Station ads lack cultural element.” I’m happy that a conversation in a media forum like this one is taking place about our station. I felt it prudent to respond to the article and share more about the station’s position on it.Motsweding FM TV promo is clear in terms of paying homage to our current listeners. The ad aims is to strengthen the relationship with our current audience and we aim to enhance the brand’s relevance to our market. This TV Commercial is meant to articulate a pictorial definition of where the station is currently sitting in terms of our blueprint and audiences are concerned.The TV ad promotes the radio station using SOCCER as central theme and touch point that resonates with a majority of our listeners and South Africans. If you tune into Motsweding FM you will know that Soccer is a part of the station’s programming; listeners resonate with the game and these are some of the people who emanate from the “North West “region who are now upwardly mobile, holding key positions of leadership in their chosen vocations, be it in the community or business And to us the coach represents that person. He is a catalyst to progressiveness, that not only is he inclined with his culture, but he’s able to articulate himself in the language and uses his ambition to empower, uplift and engage his surroundings.In relation to Culture, the station is the custodian of Setswana language. Motsweding is the culture of our listeners, who are Setswana speaking and understanding South Africans. Our Programming accommodates an array of Setswana dialects, educates and imparts knowledge about the Setswana culture (evident in our shows). The station also actively participates in key Heritage events that uphold and preserve the Setswana tradition. Motsweding FM is not a regional station, but a national public service radio station with reach in the North West, Gauteng, Northern Cape and Free State. We are the fourth biggest public service radio station in the country. Posted on 16 Mar 2011 19:33
So, Kgalema Eugene Mametse, how do you explain the fact that the same promo speaks of "Bosele" the morning show, which you have subsequently killed and replaced at the end of March, yet the promo still flights in April. Why do you spend so much money creating an ad for the show that you knew will not be around after April? Posted on 14 Apr 2011 13:35
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