by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) Let’s stand and offer an encore for this week’s Ad of the Week. We’re doing the unusual by recognising the second ad in a campaign we’ve singled out before, because of the superb thinking, outstanding craftsmanship, and powerful storytelling that makes this brand work. The commercial is for Investec’s #outoftheordinary, a powerful campaign that tells the story of remarkable people at


On 28 April 2016, I wrote about how I was blown away by the first ad in this series that I saw. This was the story of Lindiwe Zondo, the Investec Promaths Alumna who achieved extraordinary academic outcomes despite the odds that faced her.

Swimmer Cameron van der Burgh — who won Gold in the men’s 100 breaststroke at the 2012 London Olympic games — is the hero in this second advert, “Burning ambition: Cameron van der Burgh’s Out of the Ordinary talent”, which looks at how he took the title with “a stroke that’s far from perfect”.

The TVC begins much like a film, with the title: “Investec presents”. Stark black, white and greyscale, the shot breaks the surface of a body of water, and then the viewer sees flames burning on the water. Another title tells us “this is an out of the ordinary story”, just before Van der Burgh’s body cuts through the water full frame, and the Olympian begins to swim through the flames.

“He could be faster if he had the perfect stroke,” a deep, almost cracking voice says amid sounds of fire and water. “But he doesn’t,” it continues: “So instead he just keeps pushing. And the only way he knows he is working harder than anyone else, is when even underwater… he burns.”

As this deliberate tone speaks, there’s a series of dramatic shots — made all the more impactful because they’re monochrome — of Van der Burgh cutting a graceful butterfly stroke through the water and flames. The camera work and editing are masterful, so you get a full view of the Olympian’s chiselled form as he glides through the aqua. It’s almost like watching a finned creature from a perfect vantage point — underneath it — as the beauty in motion sails above you.

Master of black and white

We all know that Keith Rose of Velocity Film loves black and white, because he uses it so often, and he uses it so well. He’s a master of his form and, together with the great creative talent from Y&R, this is a story that’s peerless in the way it is told. I wouldn’t normally choose two adverts of the same campaign to feature in this column, but how can I not salute work that is this excellent?

You may also go behind the scenes by watching “The Making Of An Out Of The Ordinary Advert”.

In it, Van der Burgh talks about how he felt about swimming in a pool of fire. “My initial response when Investec asked me to swim through a pool of fire? I was quite petrified,” says the Olympic champion.

The special effects team had to do a lot of research to see how they could create a pool of fire that he could swim through, without doing him any harm. The solution came in the form of flammable gas which was released underwater, but which was safe to work with because the special effects crew could turn this on or off at any stage of the shoot, and the flames would die almost instantly.

Speaking about the campaign, Janet Larsen, head of group marketing for Investec, says, “It’s bold, it’s exciting, it’s quite energetic and I think hopefully filled with a lot of passion which talks a little bit to what we stand for as a brand.” In the making of the movie, Larsen says that, as an Investec ambassador, Van der Burgh’s involvement in the commercial also speaks to the Olympian’s belief in the specialist bank and asset management brand.

The perfect mindset and attitude

If Van der Burgh doesn’t have the perfect stroke, how has he become a global swimming superstar? Graham Lang, chief creative officer of Y&R, answers this by saying: “How does he overcome this imperfection? He overcomes it by having the perfect mindset and the perfect attitude towards what he does.”

Van der Burgh says that, one day when he’s old, he’s going to look back at the Investec commercial and show it to his kids. “It is something that I will be quite proud of, and it will be one of the highlights of my career.”

And what a career he’s enjoying. The Olympian currently holds the world record for 50m breaststroke, the same stroke he won Gold for in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He also took Gold for breaststroke at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona, at the 2010 World Championships in Dubai, and the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

The ad ends with the question: “How ambitious are you?” At the age of 27, Van der Burgh — who’s currently training in preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics that will be held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, 5–21 August 2016— knows the answer to this question.

I’ve read that Keith Rose has a 20-year relationship with Investec; it shows — the work he’s doing with Y&R, like van der Burgh’s swimming, is in a league of its own. It is beyond world-class.


Client: Investec Bank
Agency: Y&R South Africa
Chief creative officer: Graham Lang
Creative directors: Ross Makepeace, Adam Wittert
Copywriter: Adam Wittert
Art director: Gareth Owen
Producer: Sonja Reichwein
Client service director: Franki Robinson
Account director: Gavin Joffe
Production company: Velocity Films
Director: Keith Rose
Producer: Shannon Gloyne
Executive producer: Helena Woodfine
DP: Eugenio Galli
Special effects supervisor: Andrew Robertson, Elemental Effects
Post production company: Left Post Productions
Editor: Saki Berg
VFX: The Ludus — Charmaine Greyling & Searle Street Post Production — Graeme Armstrong
Music company/composer: Mad Planet Limited — Neil McLellan
Sound/audio engineer: Freqncy South Africa — Dave Harris
Post production online: Searle Street Post Production
Post production offline: Left Post Productions

Name of TVC updated on 18 May 2016.
Credits (copywriter) updated on 1 June 2016.


Oresti PatriciosAd of the Week, published on MarkLives every Wednesday, is penned by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki), the CEO of Ornico, a Brand Intelligence® firm that focuses on media, reputation and brand research. If you are involved in making advertising that is smart, funny and/or engaging, please let Oresti know about it at

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