Ad of the Week with Oresti Patricios – ads that make you feel good about paying tax
MarkLives Ad of the Week with Oresti Patricios – ads that make you feel good about paying tax
At the best of times paying tax is seen as a necessary evil, but when politics is so highly contested – as it is right now – paying tax becomes a highly emotional issue. Locally tax payers are horribly over-burdened and the tsunami of news about government corruption and wasteful expenditure hardly endears those who fill up the state’s coffers to SA’s revenue collection entity.
This is what makes marketing the SARS brand such a massive challenge. Our country’s revenue collections service is among one of the most efficient state departments, but the funds it collects are not being well spent by government which is a major irritation for tax payers.
But City Press editor, Ferial Haffajee, penned the perfect column a couple of weeks ago called ‘Tjatjarag: Sars adverts help soothe nascent taxpayer resentment’, which talked about what a wonderful government organisation SARS is, and how it is even the subject of a Harvard case study.
“The agency is South Africa’s most efficient and innovative, and is always held up as a public-service model,” writes Haffajee. “The effective collection of tax has been a steady story of governance success. Under former tax commissioner Pravin Gordhan, and now under his successor Oupa Magashule, tax compliance has taken the country from a state of high delinquency to one of high compliance.”
If you read a paper called ‘The power of politics: The performance of the South African Revenue Service and some of its implications’, by Laïla Smith of the Centre for Policy Studies, you’ll understand why this is the case. SARS, says Smith, appears to be one of the success stories of post-apartheid government. “In a context in which the failure of the state to elicit citizens’ compliance with public obligations is seen as a central weakness of the new democracy, and in which the efficiency of government is seen by many analysts to be wanting, the statutory tax collecting agency has substantially increased its revenues.”
Like Haffajee, political analysts Dumisani Hlophe and Steven Friedman say SARS’ efficacy is all about good management. SARS “has increased tax collection in South Africa mainly due to improved administration,” say Hlope and Friedman, adding: “Managerial technique has increased efficiency and the use of coercive tactics. Coercion, not negotiation is seen as the key to effective revenue collection.”
In normal product parlance, marketers talk about ‘push’ or ‘pull’ strategies to engage consumer behaviour and to drive sales. In the world of tax collection the customer strategies are equally complex and because tax is usually a grudge payment, marketing these brands usually employs strategies of coercion and persuasion or negotiation, in order to get people to part with their hard earned cash, and deposit them into state coffers.
In South Africa there’s hardly any negotiation, but a whole lot of coercion and persuasion, which Hlope and Friedman explain the need for: “There is no suggestion that increased revenue collection has any link to enhanced citizen confidence in government. The state has not yet established a rapport with the tax paying public or corporate institutions to allow voluntary payment compliance” Hlope and Friedman say.
“The political process tends to outweigh the ‘social contract’. From this perspective the legitimacy of the tax regime cannot be assumed and needs to include both persuasion and coercion.’ Because of the lack of confidence tax payers has in government, the push to get tax payers to pay is tough, and needs to deliver a power-packed punch.
Making an ad for SARS must be one of the most complex and difficult briefs and ad agency can face, but hot off the Receiver’s ‘Everyone can be good at tax’campaign, which cajoles citizens to get online and do the right thing, comes the ‘Touching lives’ campaign.
It is a diverse and emotionally loaded series of advertisements that use realism – real people and real stories – to strike exactly the right positioning. ‘Celebrating life’ reminds us all of the dramatic rescues by the SADF when a tropical storm called Dando raged over the Lowveld, and left people stranded, wondering how they would survive.
‘A second chance’ tells the story of Lynette October who grew up on the Cape Flats and who fell into the wrong crowd. “I had gangster friends and got addicted to drugs,” she says. “Eventually I lost my job. And my mother, who was looking after my child, told me to never put a foot in her house again.”
But October went into rehab, cleaned up her act, and moved to Lephalale in Limpopo to find a construction job at the local power station. “One day I got a call. A lady told me I had been accepted. I was so excited, I just said, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ I wasn’t listening to what she was saying – I had to call her back.”
October went into training with 700 other apprentices, in an initiative that was funded by tax payers. Now for the first time in years, October has a salary, supports her daughter and can even send money home to her mom. “I would like to thank the taxpayer for contributing to my life, for getting me to where I am, for giving me this opportunity to upgrade myself and build my future,” says October.
Other ads in the campaign include ‘Walking Tall’ the story about how Junior Mohlabi received a government grant to buy a mothballed shoe factory and turned it into a runaway success; ‘Dreaming Big’ which is the tale of how Modjadji Ramphelo (a remarkable student from rural Tzaneen) got a bursary from government to go to university; and ‘Positively Alive’ where Elsie Bogatswe tells of how she survived AIDS with the help of ARV treatment and went to become an HIV/AIDS counsellor in her community of Vosloosrus. All these adverts feature the real people at the centre of each story.
Yes, paying tax is a grudge activity, more so when you read about all the corruption and wasted government funds. But isn’t it great to learn about how your hard earned Rands are changing lives and growing this country? Well done to SARS and its advertising agency Draftfcb Johannesburg for reminding us about how great this country truly is.
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