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#OrchidsandOnions: DA crosses line in political persuasion

I’ve been off the radar for about a month now, having been on a trip to the UK, and apart from anything else, the time spent in His Majesty’s Kingdom reminded me of how fortunate we are in South Africa when it comes to entertaining and creative advertising.
#OrchidsandOnions: DA crosses line in political persuasion

Most of what I was bombarded with over there seemed to be aimed at children – with garish colours, graphics and animations being the order of the day. 

There was plenty of call-to-action and retail-type advertising, perhaps an indication that agency creatives (or more probably, their bosses and their clients) aren’t ready to take chances. 

As an example, I saw nothing like our current KFC ad – about researchers from Marion Island voyaging back 2,300 km to SA to get their favourite taste. 

That is classic local ad work - telling a story and selling a product at the same time.

Yet, undoubtedly, there have been brilliant ads produced by the icons in the UK industry,  and I was reminded of one of them when I returned home to the deluge of local political advertising.

Back in the late 1970s, Saatchi and Saatchi in London produced what some called “The poster of the century” – a faked picture of an unemployment line with the caption “Labour isn’t working”. 

#OrchidsandOnions: DA crosses line in political persuasion

Such was the power of that catchline that it endures in reworked pieces for the Tories, and was stolen by American Republicans when they wanted to have a go at Barack Obama on behalf of Donald Trump.

Sadly, our political party marketing has produced nothing remotely like the Saatchi brilliance.

But it has produced controversy.

The DA possibly burns bridges, among other things

Centre stage was taken by the Democratic Alliance (DA), with its computer-generated image of a South African flag burning as a metaphor for the destruction of our country. 

Frankly, I am not surprised about the row which erupted, because the decision to run it was tone-deaf, from a marketing point of view. 

You should never run an ad which can piss off the very people you are trying to attract. 

And, after the fact, you should never try to take down critics by insinuating they are stupid.

The DA gets a fat Onion for that one.

Hate mail incoming in three, two one…

All is not lost

However, even as the poison pens accuse me of being a communist ANC running dog, let me point out that, yet again, the clever DA people in the Western Cape are showing how political marketing can be done.

Under Cape Mayor Geordhin Hill-Lewis, the city has erected banners across neglected government infrastructure in the city, pointing out that the national government (i.e. ANC) is responsible for the mess.

#OrchidsandOnions: DA crosses line in political persuasion

Hill-Lewis said in a Tweet: “We’re not playing. We’ve tried for so long to get the owners of these buildings to clean them up, or hand them over to us so that we can clean them up and repurpose them for social housing.”

‘Nuff said. Well done. Factful, not open to interpretation, which makes the point crystal clear. 

Cape Town gets an Orchid for that chirp.

Bosa is not playing games

While on the subject of the DA, its former leader Mmusi Maimane – now leading Build One South Africa (Bosa) – also got the tongues wagging when he used a tower of Jenga blocks to make the point about the train wreck of a country we live in. 

Simple, but powerful. And, even though there was criticism that the concept had been stolen from the movie The Big Short, which was about the 2008 financial crisis, Maimane and Bosa get an Orchid for that ad.

EFF’s strategic success

I know this will irk many but I have an Orchid for the Economic Freedom Fighters and their entire marketing campaign. 

There is no one catchy slogan – testimony to the fact its policies appeal to such a broad church – but the party relies heavily on the charisma of its commander-in-chief, Julius Malema, to attract votes. 

In Johannesburg, the party’s posters are excellent from a production point of view – better than anyone else’s and cleverly placed, too. 

#OrchidsandOnions: DA crosses line in political persuasion

Juju and his organisers put their big, weather-proof posters high up on light poles along main arterials in the suburbs, knowing that these are taxi routes.

An Orchid – a red one – then, for the EFF.

Other hits and misses from political parties

DA and Action SA, as well as Freedom Front Plus, plastered their posters all over the former white suburbs…you’re preaching to the converted, guys, so why squander your resources?

The ruling ANC hasn’t done anything clever or startling but, at the same time, has been doing a decent job of painting a picture of a country much changed since 1994. 

However, I think, with all due respect,  President Cyril Ramaphosa is past his sell-by date. 

His “new dawn” promises have proved hollow and there is definitely a “how the hell can we believe you?” air about him.

The umKhonto weSizwe part of Jacob Zuma has made amazing strides in just over six months – testimony to the pulling power of the former president, who has cleverly portrayed himself as a victim of a conspiracy by White Monopoly Capital. 

Nevertheless, to go from zero to where they are now a serious contender in places like KwaZulu-Natal is proof of effective marketing. 

So, they also get an Orchid.

The one positive, though, is that, with the election now less than 48 hours away, the political ads have to end.

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.
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