Can an ad unite a nation?

May 05 2011 21:48
Wilma de Bruin
THE NEW  advertisement from First National Bank (FNB) certainly has South Africa atwitter.

It depicts a young girl singing the national anthem to a packed FNB stadium. Towards the end she forgets the words. After a couple of anxious moments of silence the 80 000 spectators join in, helping her finish the anthem. It’s a simple idea with a bold message: “Where there’s help, there’s a way.”

The new television clip, with its simplicity and strong conciliatory message, had hardly made its debut on Freedom Day when it was greeted by nod after nod from the public – as well as from FNB’s top executives.

The bank’s chief executive, Dr Michael Jordaan, had no hesitation in declaring his love of the advertisement, which he said gave him goose bumps no matter how often he saw it.

He said that, judging from spontaneous feedback received, the advertisement was extremely popular with all South Africans.

The use of the national anthem, as well as the symbolism of the FNB Stadium, contributed to its popularity, he said. The current controversy over “Shoot the Boer” shows how a song can distance people from one another.

The bank wants to demonstrate, also with a song, how really friendly and cooperative South Africans are as a nation.

According to Jordaan, not all South Africans realise that FNB is the country’s oldest bank.

It was established in 1838, and is the only one of the four big banks without a big or controlling foreign shareholder. FNB is therefore proudly South African and sees it as part of its role to boost patriotism and national pride. It hopes its new advertisement will succeed in fostering both.

Jordaan explains that, whereas most banks periodically change their slogans, FNB’s approach is rather to stick with its positioning of helpfulness. The “Where there’s help, there’s a way” phrase is therefore not a significant deviation.
Jordaan said that a couple of similar ads were planned for the future and there would be particular focus on the Afrikaans market.

This advertisement is the product of the MetropolitanRepublic Advertising Agency, and the brainchild of a prize-winning creative team: Stefanus Nel, George Low, Avi Pinchevsky and Paul Warner. Filming took three evenings, and was directed by Greg Gray of Velocity Films.

Coming up with the right story had been a lengthy process but ultimately proved well worth the effort.

Nel, the clip’s copywriter, who has twice won the Pendoring prize, said the purpose of the advertisement was to foster a “proudly South African” consciousness, which is the message FNB wants to convey – with a feeling of warmth. The clip has apparently succeeded admirably because since its first broadcast people have raved about it on Facebook and Twitter.

After searching far and wide for the right young girl for the role, the team discovered a real gem in Yoliswa Mzwakali (8).

It can be problematic to work with children because they are inclined to become nervous and, when shooting starts, they easily forget their words.

But this was not the case with Yoliswa: she brimmed with self-confidence and is a born actress.

Almost a year has passed since the World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa, and the feeling of oneness has dissipated, said Nel. But this advertisement reminds us just what it means to be proudly South African.

If we unite and hold hands anything is possible.

What makes the advertisement even more relevant is the fact that it occupies the spotlight at the same time as a divisive song being debated in court. But, while one song can divide a nation, the new FNB advertisement shows how another can reunite a people, said Nel.

Click here to watch the advertisement on YouTube.




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