MarkLives Ad of the Year with Oresti Patricios – The best ad of 2012

Happy 2013 and a prayer to the ‘gods’ of advertising – may the new year bring us all a slew of local campaigns that are imaginative, entertaining, hard-working and impactful. Now’s a good time to choose the best ad and advertiser for the year that’s left us, and it is a fairly easy choose. That’s because one brand consistently stood head and shoulders above the rest with a series of outstanding adverts that combined to make an incredibly powerful statement about South Africa and being South African. For me, that brand was Nando’s – but to explain why I need to offer some context.

Culturally and politically, 2012 was a year of great rifts and antagonisms. The national discourse boiled with ANC infighting and party-political mud-slinging, and the nature of our national ‘debate’ was characterised by the ad hominem. Name calling and public attacks on people’s reputations were pretty much the order of the day.

Unfortunately we came no closer to achieving tolerance in the race debate either. The year closed as it started – with yet another public fracas that followed a letter entitled ‘Dear White People’, which was written by activist film maker and writer Gillian Schutte. What followed was an emotionally-driven storm which culminated in a public spat between Schutte and Max du Preez, in which the feminist author called the former founder of Vrye Weekblad a ‘fascist liberal’ and a misogynist, while one of Schutte’s acolytes called du Preez ‘just an old white Afrikaans male piece of shit’.

In between the e-toll wars continued with Cosatu squaring up against the ANC, the Malema and Zuma feud continued right up until Mangaung, and civil society continued its showdown against various government departments.

Conflict and spurring reached murderous heights with the assassination of local politicians in the North West, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

In a year so saturated with violence (both real violence, and the violence that saturates our public discourse), it becomes hard to remember who and what we are. The focus is strongly flooded by the Tsunami of news that appreciating our culture and who we are as South Africans becomes divorced or abstracted from our experience of our world.

At times it can feel a bit like being the deer caught in the proverbial headlights of the ongoing car that’s hurtling toward you at breakneck speed. The beautiful bush is all around you, but all you’re worried about are those two, round orbs. You can step out of the light at any minute and disappear into the beautiful, lush, dense darkness of the bush that surrounds you – but all you can do is stare and fixate. The violence of the national discourse becomes consuming or overwhelming.

That is why Nando’s wins the advertisement and the advertiser of the year, hands down.

The fowl people have never shied away from the controversial or from taking risks. Nando’s goes where angels fear to tread, rolls up its sleeves nando's diversity adway past its elbows and gets its hands dirty with the issues that affect all our lives. This is a fairly dangerous path for a brand because it can so easily backfire if you misread the cultural cues or create advertising that isn’t finely in tune with cultural sensitivities. Let’s face it, it is much easier to sit back and create advertising that’s divorced from cultural tensions and difficult realities.

But Nando’s has won its cultural strips from being in society’s mosh pit, and that’s why we love the brand. It is part of who we are and the relationships that we forge in our fiery society.

More so, in 2012 it held up a mirror to us with its campaign #25reasons, which reminded us why South Africa is such a great country.But the ad of the year must go to Nando’s diversity advert which uses the brand’s trademark sense of humour to create a telling epiphany about what it means to be South African. Congratulations to Nando’s and its awesome advertising agency Black River FC for a truly courageous campaign for the chicken people in 2012. A special mention must also go to Retroviral, the Jozi digital communications company that handled the crowd-sourced and social media aspect of Nando’s #25reasons campaign.

We live in a young democracy and like many other young or emerging nations the formation of new class, power and economic relations will not be without struggle or conflict. In the robust and rowdy discourse that surrounds this process it is very cool that Nando’s has reminded of what’s made us who we are.

Ad of the Week is published on MarkLives every Wednesday. See past selections here.
Oresti Patricios is the CEO of brand and reputation analysis company Ornico.

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