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#OrchidsandOnions: Spot the local charm

The new Kia ad is pure homegrown excellence. But Japan Tobacco International gets an Onion for slick, but misleading, advertising.
Screen grab from the ad.

In marketing these days, the bean counters often trump the creatives. Because it can be much cheaper to import advertising for your brand than it is to produce it locally, we see a lot of overseas work, which varies from acceptable to downright rubbish.
If you’re trying to convince customers to buy your product because it fits into their – South African – lives, how does it help your overall marketing strategy to serve up bland European or American ads?
And, ads which are clearly set in some amazing modern metropolis thousands of kilometres from the real Africa, not to mention often badly dubbed from Spanish or Portuguese…

That’s why – and I am not ashamed to declare my bias here – locally produced work will always grab my attention.

Kia, the Korean car maker, has, over the past few years, been doing some attractive and truly South African work and has already picked up a number of Orchids from me.

The Updated Sorento: Kia's Flagship SUV

The current generation Kia Sorento made its South African debut in June 2015. But what sets this flagship model from its competitors?

By Naresh Maharaj 8 Feb 2019


The latest, for the Kia Sorento SUV, is no exception. It reminds me of some of the edgy advertising of the post-apartheid years, when South Africans of all races were trying to get over the artificial barriers of colour – and to laugh at, and with, each other. Vodacom’s “Yebo Gogo” was the gogo of that genre of advertising.

Sadly, that optimism of the Rainbow Nation has all but disappeared – for various reasons – and the Kia ad tiptoes quietly, and respectfully down memory lane, reminding us that, for all its faults, South Africa is still beautiful.

We see a white family climb into their Sorento, piling it up with luggage and heading off for a trip. We don’t know the destination, but we see the family practising phrases in isiXhosa.

It soon becomes clear: They’re heading for a wedding in a deep rural area. And, wanting to fit in, all the whiteys don traditional clothes… only to find out everyone else (i.e.: the black family and friends) are all dressed Western.

There is an “awkward” moment, followed by broad smiles and an even broader welcome. And everyone ends up partying – the one thing all of us have in common.



The punchline, says Kia: The Power to Surprise. And it does – not in a shocking way, but with a gentle nudge, which reminds all of us we have gone off course in recent years.

It showcases the Sorento, too, although this is secondary to the point that Kia is equally at home anywhere – town or country, black or white.

So an Orchid to Kia and ad agency OFYT.

It was interesting to watch the latest salvo from the tobacco industry this week in its ongoing defence of its extremely lucrative, albeit ruinous and deadly, business.

What can we expect from the new Tobacco Bill and its ripple effect?

The proposed Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill is intended to replace the 1993 Tobacco Control Act, but is imposing a number of highly restrictive regulations...

By Andrew Neumann 18 Jun 2018


Japan Tobacco International (JTI), global owner of both Winston, the number two cigarette brand in the world, and Camel, outside the US, took out a print advertising burst to highlight research it has done about South African attitudes towards government plans to introduce plain paper packaging for cigarettes.

Firstly, the ads spoke breathlessly about the attitudes of “South Africans”, while admitting that the survey only involved just over 1,000 people.

Even with supposed demographic representativity, that still amounts to an average of 100 people per province. Sorry, but with a sample that size, you’re never going to convince me about “national” attitudes.

Also, the questions were phrased in such a way that they were likely to get favourable (to tobacco, at least) responses, in my opinion.

Example: asked to rank in order of importance when it comes to public health policy, of course most normal people are going to put plain packaging for fags a lot lower than good pay for doctors and efficient government health services.

What do South Africans think about SA's proposed Tobacco Bill?

The general public views the burgeoning growth of illegal cigarette sales in the country as of far greater importance to address, than Government's proposed plain packaging for tobacco products...

23 Jul 2019


The questions also did not go into the existential questions about tobacco – apart from that hoary old chestnut about it being a matter of choice (of course it is, other than “passive” smoking…)

Those questions and debate would centre around the fact that tobacco usage (and not abuse, there is a distinct difference) costs the country billions a year in health costs. Those are footed by you and me, the taxpayer.
Also, while there was a lot of time devoted to the curse of illegal cigarettes in this country – and the loss of billions in tax revenue, it must be said – naturally, there was no discussion of the global tobacco industry’s propensity to avoid paying tax.
Those behind the campaign said newspapers were chosen as the platform, because they are still regarded as trustworthy. That’s a feather in the cap for us, I suppose.

But there are still old hacks like me who will hand out Onions to companies like JTI for slick, but misleading, advertising.
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About Brendan Seery

Brendan Seery has been in the news business for most of his life, covering coups, wars, famines - and some funny stories - across Africa. Brendan Seery's Orchids and Onions column ran each week in the Saturday Star in Johannesburg and the Weekend Argus in Cape Town. Contact him now on
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