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First National Blunder

I have to say that I really liked the FNB campaign that the ANC hated so much.
I liked it because it is always refreshing to see a commercial corporation having the balls to stand up and speak out against what it sees as social injustice.

Particularly given the penchant of business in South Africa to just quietly curry favour with whatever party is in power. They almost all did it during apartheid and they pretty much all do it now. Except for FNB, Nedbank and a few others.

Good stuff

As an ordinary South African I like to see people, companies and organisations speak their minds. To say it like it is.

But, as a marketer I think that what FNB tried to do was completely insane.

The first clue to this insanity was a statement from FNB that they didn't intend the campaign to be political. Well, just how naive can you be?

One of the most basic fundamentals of marketing is that it is not about what you have said but how consumers perceived what you have said.

Lessons from history

I would have thought that FNB would learn from its stupidity in 2007 when it got snared up in a controversy over statements it made about crime. I would have thought that given the excellent track record in marketing FNB has demonstrated these past few years that they would have carefully considered what they were doing before leaping into the cauldron with such obvious abandon.

If any of their marketing and advertising people in particular had taken the trouble to read the newspapers, listen to the radio or watch TV news these past few years, they would not have missed the fact that the ANC is not only super-sensitive to any political statements that could even vaguely be regarded as negative, but also that the ANC is paranoid and prone to knee-jerk reactions. Usually hysterical.

The fact that FNB pulled the whole campaign after just a few days is testament to the fact that they simply did not think it through. That not a single thought was given to unintended consequences.

Little worlds

FNB is not alone - a far too large a section of the advertising community is completely out of touch with current affairs and living in their own little world of mostly make believe consumer behaviour

There are those who argue, of course, that FNB has got a lot of public sympathy and encouragement for their brand, but this is nonsense.

One has to bear in mind that the ANC has more that 60% of the popular vote in this country and therefore it can be logically deduced that if the ANC is irritated by what FNB has done then a massive chunk of the voting population of this country will also be annoyed. It is a mistake in marketing to upset even a small section of your target market, let alone what, in this case, could be the majority of it.


There is another very basic fundamental of marketing. Do not, under any circumstances venture into the realms of religion or politics when it comes to advertising. Its what would-be advertising execs are taught early on - probably when they are still sperm.

According to statistics that I trot out at the drop of a hat, 20% of all advertising in this country not only doesn't work but impacts negatively on the brand it is supposed to be promoting.

I have to say that for a company that has in recent years taken the marketing of banking services to entirely new level, it is beyond me how they managed to get this one so incredibly wrong.

About Chris Moerdyk

Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.
Struan Bourquin
I do wonder whether or not they hadn't planned this to play out just as it did, at least in part. Anything being pulled from TV by the government tends to get a massive viewership online (they're sitting on around 140,000 Youtube views so far) but of course only a fraction of South African's have internet access and data to burn on Youtube - the impact alone within the short period of flighting may well be greater than if it hadn't been pulled just through the news reporting and talkability. It does make me think, because FNB is run by a bunch of very smart people (I'm affiliated in no way :) thanks for the article Chris!
Posted on 23 Jan 2013 14:06
Alistair Mackay
It's an interesting perspective, but I completely disagree, Chris. What FNB did was attempt to connect with people about the things that they care about - their country, their future, their fellow citizens. It's an example of a brand seeing it's role in society and trying to use that for good - it's the kind of CSR meets brand-building that we really need in South Africa.The ANC's reaction was bizarre and egotistical. The ad was not about them; it's about us, the citizens.
Posted on 23 Jan 2013 14:37
Anthea Variend
I too was disapointed with the ad, not so much the script but the way in it which it was delivered. The way it currently stands is fine if you listen to it once or twice, but I truly believe that if they wanted it to be an inspirational message or one that inspired action from the SA public then her tone should have built up to a more confident and hopeful one. I kept waiting for that young lady to burst into tears.
Posted on 23 Jan 2013 14:42
Tameron Carneson
Great article! I totally agree with your sentiments, and also with Lee's comments. I found the ad completely insincere and almost directionless. The rehearsed nature of the girls speech makes me cringe and the fact the it leads to no real call to action, makes it seem pointless. If their objective was talkability, then they succeeded seemingly... but there is nothing meaningful about this campaign.
Posted on 23 Jan 2013 14:47
Kashveer Gobichund
Hi Chris, Pasau, Struan, Lee, Alistair, Anthea, Tameron, AK101, Right said Fred and the Bizcommunity Community Network of Friends and AssociatesI am passionate about Marketing, Digital Marketing, Strategy, Innovation, and Corporate Entrepreneurship. It was a great CSI (Corporate Social Investment) initiative as it seized the attention of the individual viewer (“current and potential /future individual clients.”). I would have support any Brand/Organization that the guts and insights to engage, interact, and stimulate debate in this manner, I am respective of your perspective, but I am of a different opinion as an individual for many reasons;1. It is a CSI (Corporate Social Investment) Campaign - yes it was showcased on T.V but the message is one of hope and being the change via creating conversations, debate and interaction that you want to see in South Africa 2. FNB has/and will not withdraw the campaign – they withdraw certain aspect of the material and not the advert / CSI Campaign in its entirely 3. I personally like the Adverts to depict story – which was done4. The advert / CSI Campaign is not not NOT aimed to be political but rather voicing the youth ‘s situation, their vision, their future aspirations, and how the youth envision themselves achieving their greatness, and realizing our goals and dreams in South Africa 5. There is a school of insights – that the best individuals for panel/focus group surveys are children as they have a untainted perspective and they called (the product/the service) it as they see itSo as South Africans as Individuals the reasons why we should care about and value this CSI campaign – is because this campaign is from a youthful future and current perspective of South Africa (i.e. what could be done now to effect the change to create a better South Africa in the Hearts and Minds of all Individual South Africans as citizens of this great and beautiful Country) (i.e. the conversations and the debate and the interactions that is required and needed to take South Africa to new heights, new ventures, new opportunities, new insights, new solutions, new mindsets)Whether a child is Black, White, Indian, Coloured, Green, Purple, Red, or Blue if a child is in distress/hurt – the human emotion and conditioning is to go to that child and asked them what has happened irrespective of Race that I believe was the essence of the CSI Campaign but due to certain unforeseen circumstances there is now distortion in the message, It was not about being political it was a matter of being the change that you want to see in the world only this case suggests the change via debate and conversations and interactions in South Africa. I feel that an important aspect of the FNB CSI Campaign (Advert) has being missed entirelySo what I would ask yourself and maybe even those whom are around you as an individual is to ask yourself, and them the following; “As a Mother, or a Father, or a Brother, or a Sister, an Uncle or an Aunt or a Neighbour and as a South African Citizen - what is the vision that you have for your Child, Sibling, Nephew, Niece, the child next door – where do you see that aspirant youthful individual? What do you see that aspirant youthful individual achieving? And how do you see them achieving their vision? Now ask your Child, your Sibling, your Nephew, your Niece, the affectionate child next door where would they like to be?As an Individual as a South African Citizen, What works in that child’s favour for them to achieve their vision, their dreams, and their goals and what does not?If you want to answer via or if you want to ask yourself in privacy own home I do understandKindest of RegardsKashveer “Kash” GobichundBlog:
Posted on 24 Jan 2013 12:09
Athol Franz
I couldn't disagree with you more Chris. FNB have via their AD agency have made the headlines of almost every dialy newspaper over this issue. Can you imagine what the media space is worth? Anyway the campaign just highlighted the levels of corrfuption within the ANC.Athol Franz
Posted on 28 Jan 2013 14:45

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