A Cannes-do Cannes

2011-06-23 00:00

After seven years of drought have the rains returned to South African television advertising? Though predicting success at the Cannes Lions is a dangerous game, the local industry has more commercials with realistic hopes of winning something at the world’s top advertising competition than we’ve had for several years.

The Gunn Report’s traditional pre-Cannes list of the 20 best TV commercials includes two South African contenders: FoxP2’s “Drive Dry” spot “Love to meet you” for brandhouse (at number eight) and Ogilvy Johannesburg’s powerful ad for People Opposing Women Abuse, which shows city dwellers ignoring the sound of a woman screaming for help but reporting a neighbour for playing the drums loudly.

The multidisciplinary brandhouse campaign – which highlights the risk of assault in jail if you’re arrested for drunk driving – is one of only eight TV ads nominated for a D&AD Yellow Pencil this year. A public relations programme generated R14m worth of PR space over five weeks on a budget of R3m. It was in newspapers, on radio talk shows, TV programmes, blogs and websites – some as far away as Britain, Australia, Germany, Switzerland and Hungary. There were more than 130 000 YouTube hits and 85 507 visits to our interactive experience on in eight weeks.

“We knew the campaign had become part of popular culture when we saw a consumer-generated Facebook fan page with more than 17 000 members,” says Fox P2 MD Charl Thom. “We even heard a DJ mix the ‘Pappa Wag Vir Jou’ sound bites into a house track, which was pretty eerie.”

Ogilvy has several hopes. From Johannesburg there’s its Kraft/Cadbury “balloons” commercial, in which a couple of hundred coloured gas-filled balloons capture the imagination of some monks and break up their devotions (pictured). Which all goes to show a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bar contains a “glass and a half of pure joy”.

And while Selinah, the recovering Aids sufferer, has passed her sell-by date for other awards, Ogilvy has managed to squeeze a bit more life out of the Topsy Foundation campaign by entering it for the inaugural Cannes Effectiveness awards. Other Ogilvy hopes are KFC Snacks and (from Cape Town) Stimorol, Volkswagen and NSRI.

KingJames creative chief Alistair King says the industry goes to Cannes with its strongest line-up of contenders for TV trophies in years – but it could have been even better. “Some of the best work has missed the Cannes flighting deadlines but will be on show at the Loeries in September,” he says.

SA’s hopes aren’t limited to the TV category, with many agencies having tackled the integrated category this year. TBWA Hunt Lascaris, now down from the mountain called the “trillion-dollar billboard” campaign, has a couple of realistic hopes for metal-ware. For the Endangered Wildlife Trust it came up with the idea of showing every surviving member of six endangered species. It’s a powerful idea that – dare one say it? – could emulate the trillion-dollar billboard.

The very idea you can show the entire gene pool of any species in actual photographs on a single billboard is chilling, but there they are – eight rhino with the headline: “You’re looking at every northern white rhino left on the planet.” Other executions make the same point about the last 91 riverine rabbits, 36 blue swallows, 394 wild dogs, 235 wattled cranes and 153 dugongs (in African waters).

“This was a long, slow process,” says TBWA creative head Damon Stapleton. “It took us a couple of years to track down all the photographs. But this is the way of it these days. The presentation of winning international award entries routinely takes four or five months. That’s because of the increasing complexity of advertising campaigns, which almost always incorporate a range of touch points.”