by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) Which ads reaped the rewards, and top spots, in’s Ad of the Year countdown? There’s something common to all of them — every ad is about making life better. After a torrid 2016, these top five offer hope, are beautifully crafted, make a point and make a difference. Congratulations to the brands, agencies and service suppliers involved: your world-class work stands as a beacon to what local talent is capable of.

Last week, we looked at five runners-up that all tied for 6th place; this week, we finish off with the top five, starting off with fifth place and working our way up to the top to the numero uno MarkLives Ad of the Year for 2016.

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#5. Define Tomorrow by Net#work BBDO for Unisa

In fifth place is Net#work BBDO’s heart-warming TV commercial for Unisa, “Define Tomorrow”. This is a feel-good mini-movie about a young man who works as a taxi driver by day and uses every spare minute to study.

The film, which is shot mainly at night, and with lots of rainy scenes, takes the viewer through a series of scenarios that show the young man’s normal day-to-day life: driving the taxi at night, handing the car over in the morning to his father for him to do the ‘day shift’, falling asleep exhausted over his books. But, when he starts getting frustrated, he sees other people also studying, which inspires him to persevere.

The dramatic climax of the story is when he arrives home, but his father is not waiting to take the car. He hurries inside, and his son runs forward with a letter from Unisa: he has been successful! It’s a poignant moment, and the characters are realistic, so one empathises with them — an inspiring story for anyone who wants to study further but cannot afford to do it full time.

In summary, it’s a movie that’s been beautifully shot, masterfully scored, with great editing and point-perfect direction by Kevin Fitzgerald of 0307.



#4. Promaths by Y&R SA for Investec

Fourth place goes to Y&R South Africa for its “out-of-the-ordinary story” for Investec, about a remarkable young person living in a local township who entered the SA school system without a mentor to help her, and without access to the internet.

Using the analogy of a maths equation, the story looks at how, with help from an organisation called Promaths, young Lindiwe Zondo was able to achieve a 100% pass in matric maths. Promaths is a partnership between Investec and Kutlwanong Maths, Science and Technology Centre, helping high-school learners with extra tuition in maths and science.

Directed by Keith Rose in his trademark black-and-white style, the ad doesn’t shy away from the realities of SA’s problematic education system, but it offers a ray of hope — that with the right input at the right places, even the most-disadvantaged person has a chance of breaking out of the cycle of poverty. It’s part of a larger campaign called #OutOfTheOrdinary, which is hosted on an Investec minisite,and also made Ad of the Week this year for another ad, “Burning Ambition/Firepool”.

This campaign is doing big things for Investec, which in turn is helping to do big things for SA. Kudos to Investec, Y&R, Velocity, Rose and everyone involved in this campaign; you have a lot to be proud of.



#3. Twitter Refugees by NATIVE VML for PASSOP

Agencies have been thinking creatively about social media, and sometimes the simplest ideas are also the smartest, and most effective. NATIVE VML got the Twitterati thinking about xenophobia and prejudice with a Twitter bot created for PASSOP*, a civic organisation devoted to fighting for the rights of asylum-seekers, refugees and immigrants in South Africa.

The Syrian war created one of the worst humanitarian crises of the era, with millions of people fleeing the ravaged country, seeking asylum in neighbouring countries, or across the Mediterranean, in Europe. As the drama unfolded, the term ‘refugee’ became highly stigmatised, depersonalising those it identifies, and presenting them as a faceless problem, rather than a situation that involves real human beings.

The bot that was created by NATIVE VML monitored Twitter and replied to any tweets containing the word “refugee”; changing the word to “human being”’ instead. In hijacking these conversations, people were made to think about how they refer to displaced people.

According to Ryan McManus, ECD of NATIVE VML, the campaign has been mentioned on CNN, Sky and Channel 4 in the UK, as well as various other media in SA and abroad.

A campaign like this has real potential to change hearts and minds, to make people examine their prejudice and think again about what it is to be human.



#2. Iziko Slave Calendar by Geometry Global Cape Town for Iziko Slave Lodge Museum

What’s in a name? If you were one of the slaves who landed at the Cape between 1653 and 1856, it was something that was stolen along with your freedom. In a sad, shameful and mostly buried part of SA history, human beings were treated as commodities and traded for spices, tobacco and tea in a global trade system that ran from Europe to the Far East, Africa, the Americas and back to Europe.

Slaves were named after the month they landed in the Fairest Cape, and these names have persisted to this day. To commemorate the date that SA formally adopted its new constitution, which recognises the rights of all humans as equals, the Iziko Slave Lodge, with Geometry Global Cape Town (an Ogilvy & Mather company), released a calendar in May 2016 featuring black-and-white photos of 12 of these slave descendants. Each photo is accompanied by a short quote from each subject, who gives his or her feelings about their name, and what if feels like to be descended from slaves.

A video was also produced, featuring some of the calendar subjects who gave more insight into their experiences.

n exhibition, titled “My Naam is Februarie: Identities Rooted in Slavery”, began running at the museum later in 2016 as part of an ongoing campaign to drive awareness of this part of SA’s history. It’s ongoing until March 2017, so you may still see these prints in the context of the Slave Lodge.

The beautifully framed photographs and integrated campaign form a powerful message that gives insight and renewed respect for those who lived and died under the yoke of slavery. This remarkable campaign shows how important narrative and history are to SA, and how we need to collect, and share the stories that have made us who we are.



#1. First Kiss by Y&R Cape Town for Safely Home (Western Cape Government) [GRAPHIC]

And here it is — our best ad of the year. A road-safety ad that brings home, in graphic detail, just why it’s important for everyone, including backseat passengers, to be strapped in with seatbelts. This is even more important now — given it is the festive season and youngsters are out celebrating. This ad is so excellently crafted, it has become an instant classic, and it’s difficult to look at without your breath being taken away. The ultra slow-motion technique used in this TV commercial is one of the standout features, as it brings home just how much force a human body may exert when flung around by the momentum created by an accident.

The story sucks you in, as it features a likeable young man who meets a young woman at a party. The couple hits it off, and there is desire in the air. Their attempts at having a kiss are thwarted by other people, and eventually it’s time for the party to end. The young woman accepts a lift in the same car, and they are together in the back seat. Just when they are about to sneak that first kiss, the car is involved in an accident, and at this point the mood changes from romantic to horrifying.

The man is thrown around the car and collides with the driver and front passenger, with brutal force. Glass shards fly as the man tries to stop himself from flying through the windscreen. The shock of another impact forces him back and the slow-motion ‘kiss’ as his face collides with the young woman’s face is an ironic twist to the tale. The final scene reveals that all four people in the car are dead, and it was all due to the one passenger — the young man — who was not buckled up.

This ad, with its high-impact and graphic effects, was incredibly well-executed by Y&R Cape Town and Jason Fialkov of Egg Films. A gut-wrenching reversal of mood that will hopefully make people think about the importance of safety belts.



2016 was a chaotic year, with major social upheaval. The judging panel didn’t seek to reward social justice campaigns, but these were the adverts that won our best scores. In reflection, it has shown us how important crafting meaning and connection has been this past year, and how important it will be in the coming year as populism continues to polarise.


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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