by MarkLives (@marklivesThis week we feature insight into the brief, creative idea, production challenges and results of the ongoing “Breaking Ballet” campaign for Joburg Ballet by TBWA\Hunt Lascaris.

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Client: Joburg Ballet
Ad agency: TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris
Title: Breaking Ballet

Information supplied by TBWA\Hunt Lascaris


Joburg Ballet knows that, in order to sell more tickets, it needs to appeal to a younger, more-diverse audience. Despite the company having incorporated more-contemporary, African-inspired works into its repertoire, most millennials still think of ballet as a stale, old-fashioned dance form. Joburg Ballet approached TBWA\Hunt Lascaris to help change this perception and encourage young South Africans to consider ballet as a viable form of entertainment. The agency thus needed to demonstrate that ballet can tell stories about anything, that it can be contemporary and relevant, and that it’s certainly no boring relic of the past.

Creative summary

#BreakingBallet is an ongoing series of bite-size ballets inspired by the biggest stories online. These take the form of short films, which are seeded straight back into trending conversations on social media. The entire process — from identifying the trigger and briefing the dancers to producing the film and seeding it back into the conversation — takes 3–5 days. This ensures that the stories are still highly relevant when the films are launched.


Because the target market wasn’t coming to Joburg Ballet, it had to go to them. The films were released through the Joburg Ballets’ social channels: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Because it had zero media budget, the subject matter of each film had to be released at the speed of culture for it to be picked up and shared. A broad audience was reached, from radio stations, influencers, news broadcasters to fashionistas and musos. The campaign has been running since July 2017 and is an ongoing series.


Ordinarily, a ballet production involves many months of conceptualisation, choreography and rehearsals. The most-exciting thing for all parties involved in this series of ballets, from the dancers to the audience, has been not knowing what story is coming next. The campaign is 100% shaped by real-time data mined from social media. This is then artistically reinterpreted as a brand-new ballet.

This data also shapes the short film, in terms of the mood, location, cinematography and art direction.The series has responded to a range of topics, from social issues such as gun control, LGBTQI rights in Africa, women abuse and the Cape Town Drought to sport and blockbuster films such as Black Panther.

“Teaming up with a production company like Darling was crucial,” says Peter Khoury, TBWA\Hunt Lascaris chief creative officer. “We needed a wide range of talented directors that have different points of view and approaches to filmmaking. This is what gave Breaking Ballet a distinctive aesthetic, a range of storytelling styles that differed from film to film and also managed to evoke a wide range of emotions.”


By feeding highly relevant stories straight back into trending conversations, the campaign has earned a lot of success. Ballet, and Joburg Ballet in particular, is being spoken about in places it never dreamed of.

Important stats include:

  • 560% ROI in earned media
  • 24m media impressions
  • 91% engagement rate
  • 39% increase in social media followers
  • Ticket sales are at an all-time high and climbing show on show.

[Editor’s note: We did query the 24m impressions stat after taking a closer look at social media traction for the campaign. The agency has come back with the following clarification, which we accept. A third party was engaged to do the social media campaign analysis for the case study. The report was dated 20 April 2018; the entire campaign-period analysed was July 2017 to April 2018. The total number of media impressions for this period was 24 185 736. The agency further clarified that the metric used was “Opportunities to See” as opposed to Reach.]

Full playlist

See also


Ad agency: TBWA\Hunt Lascaris
Chief creative officer: Peter Khoury
Executive creative directors: Rui Alves, Kabelo Moshapalo
Creative director: Nikki Taylor-Garrett
Copywriter: Jeff Tyser
Business Unit Director: Debbie Pienaar
Head of TV production: Sandra Gomes
TV producer: Boitumelo Rabosiwana
Senior motion designer: Sibusiso Mkhwanazi
Designer: Khethiwe Makhubo
Production company: Darling Films
Directors: Jeana Theron, Ross Garrett, Chloe Coetsee, Zee Ntuli
Executive directors: Melina McDonald, Lorraine Smit
Producers: Saskia Finalayson, Lindsay-Jane Barnard, Mmameyi Mphahlele, Liz Dahl, Allan Glogauer
Sound engineer: David Law
Freelance DOPs: Adam J. Bentel, Michael Cleary, Devin Toselli, Willie Nel
Ludus editors: James O’Sullivan, Evy Katz, Marc Ash, Nick Young
PR: Sasha Kupritz



MarkLives logo#Campaigns is the new weekly MarkLives column featuring insight into the brief, creative idea, production challenges and results of South African communication campaigns, both ongoing and recent. Have a campaign worthy of being featured in #Campaigns? Submit a short motivation to 2mark and we may well be in touch. Please include links to campaign material, when it ran/is running and why you believe it should be featured.

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