On the morning of 9 November 2017, residents of Johannesburg awoke to the sight of 365 Striding Men 'walking' the iconic Nelson Mandela Bridge, prompting the whole of South Africa to ask, who are they? And why have they come?
The answers quickly became apparent. The statues were symbolic of the Johnnie Walker Striding Man logo and they had come to stride purposefully towards an abuse-free society in South Africa. They had no intention of doing it discreetly.
This progressive campaign for Johnnie Walker from Diageo was envisioned by McCann Worldgroup Johannesburg and supported by four major NGOs, namely POWA, Lifeline, Million Men March and Tswharanang Legal Advocacy Centre, all standing side by side.
Every last detail of the campaign has been by design. The statues appeared the day before the end to the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. As if to say, this isn’t the end, we’re just getting started. Why? Because 16 days isn’t enough. To highlight this, McCann placed 365 Johnnie Walker Striding Men statues in one of the most representative places the city had to offer. One for each day of the year. The sheer scale of the operation meant that it could not be ignored. And therein lies the rub.
CEO of McCann Fraser Lamb said, “Our mission is to help brands play a meaningful role in people’s lives and this was a sure-fire way to do it. You look at 365 guys, because that’s the point, the point is we can’t have 16 days of activism when it is really about it being every day. We want an abuse-free society in South Africa and this is the way to draw it to people’s attention. To do a stunt of such epic proportions really hits home and makes people think.”
Two statues in white flanked the left side of the Nelson Mandela Bridge – providing a physical platform on which supporters could sign their name; big, bold, in permanent marker – promising, for the world to see, to work towards an abuse-free society. The leading bronze statue carried a scroll pledging to stride for good.
What business, some asked, did a leading alcohol brand have in campaigning against abuse of women and children, when alcohol abuse so often plays a pivotal role in this behaviour? We at McCann said simply, perhaps you don’t know our ethos, but we’re all about truth. And the truth is alcohol plays a role in domestic abuse and our clients are brave enough to talk about it. To have the conversation, provide education and ultimately effect a permanent change in accepted behaviours.
Monica Moagi of POWA explains, “This campaign is making people aware of the role of alcohol abuse.” And Diageo Marketing Director Sandy Griffiths elaborates, “This is a cause that is very personal to me and close to my heart. Being involved in the alcohol industry I see the adverse effects of alcohol abuse and I want to ensure, as an individual, and as an organisation, that we are doing the right thing to educate consumers on the potential ill effects of alcohol.”
Also generating awareness for the cause were a number of celebrities who are survivors of, and/or activists against, abuse. Amongst them were Letoya Makhene and Andile Gaelesiwe.
Onlookers arrived at the bridge exclaiming that they had heard about it on the radio. They wanted to see it for themselves and they wanted to pledge their support. They walked beside us.