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Manufacturing Indaba 2018

Ne(k)romancers feed on corporate gluttony

What crazy, self-aggrandising, corporate-exploited BS has happened to Nek Nominations, the latest craze sweeping social media.
For those who, like me, live under a social media rock, Nek Nominations started as a challenge to get one of your mates to do something totally irresponsible involving the abuse of alcohol. Given modern youths' propensity to binge drink by funnelling, etc - there is even a charming tradition that on your birthday you have to drink the same number of shots as your age - it is small surprise that a couple of Irish kids died whilst responding to this challenge.

Enter, stage left, a South African who decided to turn it around. He accepted the challenge but, instead of consuming copious amounts of alcohol, he went out and lovingly filmed himself giving food to a homeless man at a traffic light. (Huh?)

What did he give him - a hamburger a coke and a chocolate. For this act of deep, caring he has become an international social media hero - and scores of others are being challenged to match his act of selflessness.

Forgive me for being cynical. I once gave a homeless man an apple. I was driving my then adolescent daughter to school and, regularly, we passed the man on the corner of Oxford and Riviera. We used to notice him because on the cold winter mornings he would collect all the newspaper bills, set them alight and then sit on them to keep warm - making him look like one of those self-immolated Buddhist monks.

Go forth and multiply - and not in a nice way

Jessica, driven by her strong social conscience, urged me to give him the apple from her school lunch. I offered it out the window...he told me to ... you know, go forth ... and that I was a white ... and you can guess this one too! That ended that!

The ne(k)romancer who handed the homeless man the junk food, did not do him any good. Did he have any real care or compassion for the man.? Did he even know his name? Has he done anything more for him?

I doubt it. It was shameless self-aggrandisement. The man was simply the object of his route to "fame". He is likely not even going to go back to give him another high-fat meal! We have no idea of the way his gift was received.

SAB story

But what he did pales into insignificance compared to what SA Breweries did. There is a video on YouTube - SA BREWERIES #CHANGEONETHING - which is professionally filmed, music-backed and shows two of their staff members loading a bakkie of groceries to deliver to a charity so that "thanks to SA Breweries the children of Rays of Hope have groceries for another month". We do not get to meet the children or the charity and we are not told whether this is a charity that SAB regularly contributes to, why they chose them, or whether having used them once for their vainglorious self-promotion, they actually care about them, at all.

This is the problem. We are all in favour of people helping others. There are many people who do so quietly, out of conviction, expecting nothing back. What a contrast to those who use the less fortunate shamelessly without real care or concern.

But what SA Breweries did gets worse. In their promo video, which probably cost more to make than the cost of the food they gave away, they treat us to responsible drinking messages...

So the people who make the product that might well have caused the man to be homeless in the first instance - and which certainly spurred the start of the Nek Nominations alcohol abuse "game" - are now trying to help the indigent and preach responsible drinking to us.

It's self-serving. It's cynical. It's rubbish - and it turns me off them. What about you?

About Peter Mann

Peter Mann is a founder of Meropa Communications ( and has been CEO since 1989. He worked for most of South Africa's major newspapers as journalist for 15 years before that. He is a member of the South African Press Council appeals panel; and a trustee of literacy NGO READ. Tel +27 (0)11 506 7300, email , follow @petermann, and connect on LinkedIn.
Mel Fisher
Wow what an ***hole. He's probably never given one thing in his life to anyone. You are one of those who just sit and complain, I'd bet money on that. So what, at least, instead of being young and dumb, people have turned it around. A lot of good is coming out of it. So it's filmed. Who cares!!! I think it's great that corporates are getting involved and donating as well as promoting charities. Maybe step out of sandton and your fancy car and see what's around you. The country needs whatever charity help it can get. You are what's wrong with this world. Seriously, do us all a favor and drop off it!
Posted on 10 Feb 2014 08:38
Dylan Balkind
Peter, you silly sausage. You've gone and missed the point – and the propensity for something to go viral that social media affords us. The point was not for Brent's act of kindness to change that homeless man's life. It was to start something that would see more charitable good happening rather than nothing at all – or worse, the vapid binge stints that bring no one any good: What's self serving and cynical is your armchair activism. Why not spend the time it took you to write the above and go do something good for someone who has never heard of you or Meropa Communications? Ah... too late.
Posted on 10 Feb 2014 11:31
Dylan Balkind
PS: Have a look at this when you have a gap Peter. The comments alone will give you a bit of insight into how viral this feel-good really is...
Posted on 10 Feb 2014 11:45
Russell Tandy
Companies get exposure? YES. Charities receive donations? YES. We created one as we wanted to challenge our clients and they really embraced and enjoyed the challenge. We gained nearly 1000 likes on facebook and the clients both donated to their chosen charities. ?v=9fYwYrA_7lI&feature=youtube_gdataC'mon Peter, you have some big name brands on the books, go out and do something for that homeless guy (more than just an apple this time) and ask your clients to do one better.
Posted on 10 Feb 2014 15:10
Carrie Garner
I have to agree (somewhat) with the comments above. The Neknominations have been turned around into something positive. Your ONE experience with ONE person who was rude to you ONCE is not a good enough reason to give up so quickly. And while I get your point about handing out junk food to homeless people not being a "healthy" act or that the act may have been self-serving, who cares what his intentions were. The point is that people are trying to take a stupid irresponsible viral campaign and turn it into something good. That shows a wonderful positive side of humanity and makes me feel good about the type of people who live in our country. Who cares if the acts are self-serving, at least its benefitting others too! Spread a little love, cynicism never fixed anything!
Posted on 10 Feb 2014 15:34
Paul Talliard
Hi PeteAt least you honest about how you feel.Nevertheless,some good can come out of such a thing.See FNB sponsored TV ad on Hands of Honour ,a Social Enterprise creating employment on the notorious Cape FlatsSince the ad was on TV we have received from very positive responses and our profits are on the rise.More profit means we can help more people and do more good.Have a look...I dare you.I also need any advice.What would have been better,a cash donation/sponsor/funding or the exposure.Lets hear from the experts.
Posted on 10 Feb 2014 15:38
Unfortunately South Africa already has a problem with enabling poverty. I agree that we need to be reminded of the South African spirit of Ubuntu and we need to continue to spread kindness and charity but sometimes people see a situation they can abuse and the philosophy of ubuntu is not immune. Charity needs to be about sustainable change for the greater good of the future. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. There is a positive side to charity and a negative side. Unfortunately in South Africa people learn to abuse kindness and charity which is why we still see so many poor people begging in the streets, charity sometimes enables people to continue asking for charity instead of learning new ways to survive in harsh environments or situations. I'm not saying it's easy to live on the street, I honestly believe it takes a different kind of bravery to go out on the street and to ask people on a daily basis for charity, and sometimes it isn't a choice, but we shouldn't become enablers but rather we should become a new source of inspiration to strive toward better living for all.
Posted on 10 Feb 2014 17:32
Marelise van der Merwe
Peter, I am as turned off by publicity campaigns as the next one (and quite agree re: SAB spending more money on the stunt than the food). I also agree that help should be sustainable. But honestly, what turned me off more was your rather self-congratulatory tale of once offering a homeless man an apple. That's your big contribution to the debate? Come on, get off your butt and do something nice for someone. I bet you anything you like that those on the receiving end of the favour won't have the luxury of complaining about the vanity or self-promotion of the giver. That, I'm afraid, is something only you can do, from your position of undeniable privilege.
Posted on 10 Feb 2014 18:41
Don Packett
Jesus Mary and Joseph! You gave a man an apple!? Without filming it!? I'm in awe at your selflessness, your giving nature, your willingness to help people less fortunate than yourself by way of redistribution of old fruit.
Posted on 11 Feb 2014 08:40
Peter Swanepoel
Pete old chap -normally I would call this a blatant troll, but then you would not know what that is, would you?
Posted on 11 Feb 2014 09:25

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