The topic under discussion at last week’s Financial Mail AdForum on telecommunications, in association with Ornico, was: “are current telecommunications ads doing the job?”. A panel consisting of Ornico’s Mongezi Mtati, Deon Wiggett of Fairly Famous, FCB’s Suhana Gordhan and Arye Kellman of Tilt dissected a selection of 10 of the most frequently flighted telecommunications ads.

First up was a television retail ad from Cell C. For Wiggett – who is known as the ad industry’s Simon Cowell (referring to the English reality television judge) – the work spewed intrinsics and was deeply dull. Gordhan agreed, adding that the music made her feel “uneasy”. There is no excuse for making bad retail ads, she said. Mtati said Cell C lost an opportunity to show how it differed from other service providers and what “more” it provided. Kellman – the millennial on the panel – said there was nothing his age group hated more than admin, and that this ad seemed like a lot of admin.

Next up was a television spot for Liquid Telecom. Most of the panel were not familiar with the brand. Mtati said that even after seeing the ad, he was not sure what Liquid Telecom was or why it was credible. Gordhan said she would award a “small high five” to the ad for trying, but that it was distracting and the message got lost. For Kellman, the ad did the job, but not in the most exciting or creative way. Wiggett said there was no level of charm at all in it.

The big take-out:

The recent Financial Mail AdForum in association with Ornico found the latest crop of telecommunications ads disappointing

A print ad from MTN – depicting rugby posts in a derelict, poverty-stricken area – announced the brand’s sponsorship of Springbok rugby and received a mixed response from the panel. This print ad was part of a larger television campaign. The panel agreed that the meaning of the ad was lost to those who had not seen the TV campaign. The print ad wasn’t synonymous with SA rugby, maintained Gordhan. Mtati disagreed, saying that while rugby is associated with rolling green grounds, many people in places such as the Eastern Cape and Soweto play rugby in the exact conditions depicted in the ad, and that it was a brave move from MTN to show that the brand identified with every South African. Wiggett suggested that perhaps the print ad was a poor translation of the TV campaign – a case where print and television were not properly linked. The ad raised the question “if you can’t do print properly, should you do it at all?”

A Neotel print advert came under fire from the panel, with everyone in agreement that it was old fashioned and did not resonate, particularly with younger markets.

Back to television, and a Samsung mobile ad featuring Maps Maponyane brought into debate the authentic use of influencers in advertising and how, to be credible, the brand must be put in the hands of the influencer. The feeling was that this ad was not authentic and that Maponyane had been overused. Kellman felt kudos should be given to Samsung for creating a local advert, while Wiggett said there should be no kudos when the international version worked better than the local one.

A print advert for a Siemens Augmented Reality app did not win favour among the panellists, who said it was methodical and unexciting.

In much the same way, a Sony Xperia radio ad brought “comic relief for all the wrong reasons”, said Gordhan. However, the question was posed that perhaps the panel was being arrogant and that the advert’s call to action would attract consumers. The overall feeling was that the ad did not work.

Telkom’s animated television ad was severely criticised by Wiggett.  Kellman pointed out that the happy, carefree tone of the ad didn’t correspond to its rather steep price point. Gordhan commented that too many clients are afraid of including just one message in an ad and as a result try to cram too many messages into one piece of communication.

Vodacom’s TV ad provided an inspirational message of hope. However, Kellman pointed out that the ad could have been for banking as much as anything else and that it did not show how technology would empower the girl in the ad to change her life. He said the ad was emotive but failed to sell the idea of Vodacom’s next level, which is the brand’s proposition for the youth market.

The final ad, a radio spot for Vox Telecom, was deemed boring and full of clichés. Wiggett pointed out that as a business owner, his pet hate was being told how to feel, adding that he could work it out for himself. The panel agreed, however, that the advert’s concept of a fixed telephone rate was an interesting one.

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