by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) For pushing the boundaries and exploring new ways to market a traditionally conservative product to a new generation, Mirum and Scottish Leader are this week’s Ad of the Week.

Mirum Agency and Scottish Leader Whisky profile a South African, Dennis Chuene, who has taken an everyday item and turned it into a fashion statement. The result is a charming little movie that shows you how an innovator turns a cultural staple into sought-after luxury.

What do Scotch whisky, a carry-bag made from plastic fibre and fashion have in common? Not much, you might think. But, then to make the connection, you’d need to have a new perspective, according to Mirum, the agency behind the latest online ad in Scottish Leader’s #newperspective campaign.

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The familiar ‘china’ bag is used throughout Africa, and is a rugged, inexpensive carryall that may be used for shopping, luggage, fresh produce, or by hawkers to carry their goods. These bags continue to be so universally popular because they’re durable, accessible just about anywhere, and may be used to carry just about anything you might need to haul from one place to another. Iconic, this carryall is made from a virtually indestructible material woven from plastic fibres. What do they look like? The distinctive blue, red and white chequered pattern or tartan is this bag’s mainstay.


South African clothing designer, Dennis Chuene, drew inspiration from the china bag and decided to reuse the plastic material in a stylish new line of bags for his label, Vernac. The result of Chuene’s upcycling? The bags have been a major hit in Johannesburg and Cape Town, with enquiries coming in from as far afield as Germany. The innovative bags have also earned Chuene more than his 15 minutes of fame. Recently, he was featured on local TV and on CNN talking about these stylish backpacks, sling bags and tote bags.

Chuene tried to make other clothes and shoes from the material, but it just didn’t work. Undeterred, he got a graphic artist to copy the classic blue, red and white pattern, which he had printed on material, so that he could realise his vision for clothing that would match his bag collection. And, in that invention, Scottish Leader saw an opportunity to tell its own story. For several years, Scottish Leader has used the concept of ‘a new perspective’ as part of its marketing message. Scottish Leader is part of Burn Stewart Distillers that was bought by Distell from CL World Brands and Angostura Limited for £160m (R2.2bn) in 2013. It’s apparently the no. 1 selling blended whisky in Taiwan, and has shown good growth in South Africa.

In the mini-documentary, the brand celebrates people who apply a new perspective to what they do — such as Chuene, who’s taken a commonplace material and turned it into high fashion. The TVC is told with Chuene narrating the story of the ubiquitous bag. When he was young, he used to call the carryall a ‘mshana’ bag. But, when the designer travelled through Africa, he found that this bag was commonplace and had various names — including mme se keile, Ghana-must-go, and khumbul’ekhaya.

“Each one of these names has a story behind it, but each story has one thing in common: they’re all stories about a struggle for a better life,” says Chuene in the voiceover.

The visuals are beautifully shot images of people in rural SA. We see a man cycling across a bridge, with said bag balanced on the carrier behind his saddle. In another scene, we see a woman carrying one on her head while walking along a dusty road. The narration continues: “Because this bag, much like most people living on this continent, hasn’t had things easy.” At this point, the visuals of rural life are intercut with close-up shots of the bag material being cut and sewn.

The next scene is of Chuene walking through a rural village, dressed in his trademark denim and leather. The sky is moody and overcast, with clouds over the mountainous background. In voiceover he says: “But you know what? Things are starting to change, and more and more people are moving forward.”

Then the ad moves to Chuene in his studio, working at the sewing machine with the bag material, stitching it into something new. His narration continues: “If I’d told someone 20 years ago that these bags would become a fashion statement, they would have laughed in my face.”

“You’ve got to see the potential”

The camera pans across a corkboard with photos of various creations made using china bag material. The scenes that follow juxtapose the scenes of the old bags with more visuals of Chuene’s creations, including closeups on his label, Vernac. His narration concludes: “Maybe that’s the trick to life. You’ve got to try and not see things — or people — for where they are right now. You’ve got to try and see things from a different perspective; you’ve got to see the potential. Once you can do that, there’s no stopping you.”

The final shot is of Chuene in front of a cloud-covered mountain, with his name on the screen, and the title, “A new perspective on design.” Following this is a simple packshot of the three Scottish Leader whisky bottles: Original, Signature and Aged 12 Years.

The conventional way of selling scotch whisky, more often than not, is to wax lyrical about the Scottish origins, the peat, the heath and the bagpipes — which doesn’t ring true with most South Africans. Especially the young, mobile entrepreneurial and artistic urban sophisticates for whom whisky is a good target market.

In this campaign, Mirum proves that local is more than lekker; it adds major brand relevance and makes a really cool connection. By celebrating an artist such as Chuene, Scottish Leader aligns its brand with the artistic and entrepreneurial spirit that we all hope will bring SA into a new era.


Agency: Mirum
Chief creative officer: Andrew Bloom
Creative director: Rod McCall
Copywriter: Charlie Gilbert
Art director: Rod McCall
Strategist: Gina Schreuder
Account director: Jared Epstein, James Booth Mirum UK
Senior digital project manager: Sonja ter Horst
Production/post-production: AVA
Director: Rod McCall
DOP: Tyron Kuypers
Editor: Timothy Weyer


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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