Telecoms tower. Picture: BLOOMBERG/SUSANA GONZALEZ
Telecoms tower. Picture: BLOOMBERG/SUSANA GONZALEZ

The most recent FM AdForum, held in association with Ornico, focused on adverts flighted between May and July 2018 by the telecommunications sector. The sector is dominated in SA by four players: Vodacom, with 42.1-million subscribers; MTN, with 30.2-million; Cell C, with 16.3-million and Telkom, with 5.2-million.

According to research conducted by Ornico, it was Vodacom that dominated the sector, with the most ads flighted during the period under review and the highest advertising spend attracted. The company accounted for 98% of the ads flighted on Supersport 1. In terms of social media reach and engagement, MTN received the most social media mentions, though Vodacom dominated in terms of total social media reach. The most popular content was from Telkom.

This month’s AdForum panel was chaired by Phumi Mashigo, founding partner of Ignitive. Panellists included Andy Rice, co-host of 702’s AdFeature; Peter Khoury, creative director at TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris; Nkgabiseng Motau, art director at Think Creative Hub; and Mongezi Mtati, marketing manager at Ornico.

The first ad under the spotlight was a Cell C commercial advertising unlimited free data via the network’s Black app. There is nothing overtly wrong with the ad and it does the job, but in a cluttered environment ads need to be more compelling and more disruptive, said Khoury.

Rice called the ad a “pack and brag ad” and criticised it for not being more compelling or adequately explaining the link between Black and Cell C. “If Black is positioned as an alternative to Netflix and Showmax, they have a [huge] job ahead of them,” he commented.

A Huawei commercial for the Huawei P20 that depicted footage shot with the phone-camera was well received by the audience, despite the concept not being a new one. However, though the panel commended it for being locally shot in SA, the commercial came across as having a 1980s feel to it and was not sufficiently compelling. Huawei, they argued, needs to develop its own unique voice rather than relying on something that has been done before by iPhone. What Huawei overlooked, pointed out Rice, was that this product’s global-quality lens would appeal to discerning photographers.

An MTN commercial for Bozza Network depicting a young boy using Google to find out how he can get the girl of his dreams was well received by both the panel and audience. “It’s an ad we can all relate to and continues to be entertaining even on repeat views,” said Mtati, pointing out that while brands in this category were price sensitive a year ago, they have since moved on from this approach. This is a much stronger retail ad than one that shouts price and features, added Motou, adding that she really liked this commercial. “We all make decisions from an emotional perspective and then try to rationalise that decisions,” she said.

The MTN Bozza Network ad, said Rice, is a reminder of how much emotion can be generated by music. “It’s charming and beautifully cast, and a great ad,” he said, adding that considering it costs the same to flight a good ad as a bad one, why would you want to make a bad ad?

A Samsung Galaxy commercial showing an array of people using the Samsung Galaxy handset to take videos and pictures received mixed reviews and was criticised for being shot for an international market and looking like a product brochure.

A Telkom prepaid commercial featuring local pop star Kwesta was well liked by both the panel and the audience. The commercial was commended for using a single piece of communication to establish the Telkom brand and for playing a meaningful role in culture. The challenge for such ads, pointed out Khoury, is that they often feel as if they’re talking to an audience rather than with an audience.

The final commercial under review was a Vodacom NXT LVL ad that depicted under 25s standing their ground and expressing themselves. The commercial was widely panned by the audience, and the panel agreed it was an unsuccessful ad. Rice said it looked like the result of a brief from the client to be future-looking and to appeal to under 25s. “It appears as if the agency has taken a future trends report and married it with a youth segmentation report and then tried to make the resulting combination into something visual.”

It contained bad acting and an uncompelling message, agreed Khoury, adding that brands need to be careful when they use micro-influencers.  “The whole ad feels disingenuous,” said Motou. “A good idea should be able to resonate across age groups. The bottom line with this ad, however, is that there wasn’t a good idea.”

Audience members were encouraged to tweet. The top tweet – as voted by Ornico – was awarded two books, a case study from Ornico and two tickets to the next AdForum event. Tweets that were placed second and third received one ticket each to the next AdForum.

The top tweet from this month’s AdForum came from Lynn Joffe of Creatrix.

Second place was awarded to Boipelo Tlhabanelo of MTN SA and third place to Deyasha Sukdeo of Global Access.

The big take-out: Large advertising budgets don’t necessarily translate into compelling and engaging advertising. Considering that it costs the same to flight a bad ad as it does a good one, why bother making bad ads?

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