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#OrchidsandOnions: Power to unify a nation

Patriotic duty: Corporate acts of altruism against Covid and riots; MultiChoice, MTN show advertising to be more than a medium for selling things.

Across our newspapers, TV screens and social media feeds this week, it truly seemed like the end of days for South Africa – the long-feared up- rising of the poor.

Of course, it was more than that – it was a cynical manipulation of the hungry and the angry in a naked power play and an attempt to make South Africa ungovernable.

Yet the awful inevitability of collapse and anarchy, which was the motif of the first few days of the week, morphed into something more – the true South African spirit reasserting itself and saying: Hell no! We won’t stand for this!

On the barricades, despite the obvious race hate, all colours stood to defend their property against the hordes.

And the knight – black of course – came riding into town on his white taxi to help turn the tide on the side of a community defending the very economic sinews that provide jobs.

It was vintage South Africa – suicidally depressing the one moment, upliftingly optimistic the next.

And two particularly emotional adverts – one not even intended to be about the rioting – showed the power of advertising to be more than a medium for selling things. It can be part of a process to unify a nation.

First up was MTN’s brilliant “Covid-19: Better days are coming” ad, which showed how people are getting frustrated and angry with the Covid restrictions, from mask-wearing to sanitising.



But, there is hope on the horizon, as vaccinations provide one way out of the darkness.

What really made the message resonate, though, was the music – a slow, bluesy rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s classic Don’t Stop.

The words need no elaboration:

“If you wake up and don’t want to smile
If it takes just a little while
Open your eyes and look at the day
You’ll see things in a different way

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow

Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.”

One day, we will look back on Covid and the attempted coup and say: Yesterday’s gone. In the meantime, we’ve got to see things in a different way and keep on thinking about tomorrow.

It’s a message which had extra resonance this week, reassuring people that this, too, shall pass.

It’s a message we should all take to heart. And MTN, as a quintessentially South African brand, has reminded us. An Orchid to them as well as their agency, TBWA South Africa.

Patriotic re-editing


MultiChoice is another brand with its roots in South Africa and this week, its people quickly jumped to re-edit a video done to celebrate the Springbok win in the Rugby World Cup in 2019 (Good grief! Is it really that long ago?).

Set to the moving tones of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, the ad was recut with scenes from other events where we came together as South Africans, to celebrate, to support... and where the things which separate us were so much less than those which unite us.

MultiChoice didn’t have to do it. There was no real commercial benefit, other than in reinforcing the message that the company is part of the landscape in South Africa and concerned about that big picture.

But it performed a patriotic duty at a time when it was needed.

So an Orchid for MultiChoice.

Let’s hope we see more corporate acts of altruism but, even more important, of nation-building in the days and weeks ahead.
*Note that Bizcommunity does not necessarily share the views of its contributors - the opinions and statements expressed herein are solely those of the author.

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 moc.liamg@4snoinodnasdihcro
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