Are South Africans obsessed with their stomachs? Nearly half the nation's favourite TV commercials in 2012 were for quick-service restaurant and fast-food chains.
The annual Adtrack list of best-liked TV commercials by research house Millward Brown shows that Spur Steak Ranches' "Sign Writing" ad, in which a shop sign writer is distracted by the Spur next door, struck the strongest chord among consumers in SA.
Second was Wimpy's "Missing Lunch" ad. The top 10 included ads by Nando's and two pizza chains, Debonairs and Roman's. Two more Nando's and one Wimpy ad made the top 20.
That's quite a change from previous years, says Adtrack head Claire Herman. From 2009 to 2011, only one fast-food/quick-service ad made the top 10 each year. She suspects the change in 2012 may be a sign of the times.
"The economic environment is still quite tight and consumers are searching for small, affordable treats for their families. Relevance is therefore key in engaging the SA public and some categories are more relevant than others."'It's harder for your work to stand out'
Brett Morris, group creative head of Draftfcb SA, whose Johannesburg agency won the Wimpy account last year, agrees that food is a "high-interest" category in SA at present. That can make it more challenging for agencies. "It's harder for your work to stand out."
Adtrack asks thousands of South Africans each year to name their best-liked ad. The winning Spur work was created by the Cape Town-based Haas Collective, whose executives include former Draftfcb executive creative director Francois de Villiers. He joined shortly before Haas was awarded the Spur account. It had previously been held by Draftfcb.
De Villiers says of the agency's Spur campaign: "This is the type of communication we love doing at Haas, especially for a real SA brand like Spur. To do work that really connects and is liked by ordinary people is very rewarding. To win this accolade is a special bonus."Car ads a bit of a non-starter
In contrast to the food chains, cars and liquor - usually standout performers in the best-liked ads - disappointed. Morris, who has seen his group's Toyota and Lexus ads routinely figure prominently in the past, admits he is surprised that the motoring sector didn't do well this time. "I think there was a good crop of car ads last year."
He wonders if the low profile of beer and spirits ads may have something to do with threatened government legislation against liquor advertising. Some formerly prominent brands are now "playing it safe", he says. "Maybe with controls coming, they don't want to be too noticeable."
One thing that doesn't change, says Herman, is that ingredients in great advertising usually include humour, children, animals and celebrities.
"TV ads are increasingly seen as entertainment," she says. "If you can make us smile or laugh, you are entertaining us. If you entertain us with a brand that is very relevant, you may just have a winning combination."
She observes that all the food ads on the Adtrack list, and several of the others, are locally produced. This doesn't necessarily mean SA-produced ads are better than international ones. However, clients need to realise not even the most creative ads appeal to consumers in all markets. "We need to caution about the ability of an ad to travel," she says.
Source: Financial Mail, via I-Net Bridge