Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

An evocative commercial advertising a rare diamond looks set to disrupt the way diamonds are marketed.

The commercial, titled the “The Light at the Start of Everything”, is the work of TBWA SA, and explores the origins of the Okavango Blue of Botswana, the largest fancy deep-blue diamond that has ever been made available for auction and the largest blue diamond discovered in Botswana.

Botswana is one of the world's largest producers of ethically sourced natural diamonds. The stones are the country’s main source of income and account for about 80% of its exports. Only a small percentage of the diamonds discovered globally are classified as fancy colour, with even fewer being classified as fancy blue.

The Okavango Blue’s unusual colour make it a “once-in-a-lifetime” find, says Marcus ter Haar, MD of the Okavango Diamond Company (ODC), a rough diamond marketing company wholly owned by the Botswana government, which is using the stone as part of a campaign to promote the Botswana diamond industry.

Ever since De Beers coined the now ubiquitous phrase “Diamonds are forever” in the 1930s, diamond marketing has followed a fairly predictable pattern, with the category tending to base its advertising communication on a man-made narrative illustrating diamonds as an emblem of lasting love. This narrative was entrenched with the song Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend in the original Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in the late 1940s and the 1953 film featuring Marilyn Monroe.  

The ODC briefed TBWA SA in the last quarter of 2018 to develop a campaign which positioned and profiled the stone ahead of its anticipated sale this year. The campaign aims to paint a positive picture of Botswana, and position the ODC as an important player in the diamond seller market.

The agency, says TBWA SA chief creative officer Peter Khoury, set out to disrupt the status quo in this category by telling the remarkable and sometimes unfathomable story of the Okavango Blue diamond.

The commercial is based on a visual poem called “The Light at the Start of Everything”. Written by poet and author Iain Thomas, it focuses on the tangibility of time juxtaposed with the fact that a diamond such as the Okavango Blue – named in honour of Botswana’s wildlife-rich heritage site, the Okavango Delta – sits outside of time. “The poem is a way to look for peace and reassurance that even though our time here as humans is limited, that we are part of something so much more significant than ourselves,” says Thomas. “When you look at something truly eternal, like the Fancy Deep Blue, it reminds us not to obsess over time or to waste it.”

The commercial explores the stone’s origin with an upfront sequence showing the birth of the stone. “We took creative licence with this introductory sequence, created by Wicked Pixels, with a focus on the visual aesthetic and metaphor for the light at the start of everything,” says director Kim Geldenhuys of 03:07 production company.

The story then moves on to the magical, unspoilt land of Botswana, where the stone was discovered. The film features people of Botswana and images of the country, shot on location over five days.

“Seasonal weather plays a role in terms of where animals are located at any given time and the nature of the landscapes, so we were not absolutely sure what we would be able to shoot,” says Geldenhuys. “In fact, the landscape had altered even in the time between our recce and the actual shoot.”

A strong visual treatment and a good sense of the tone and wonder inspired by Thomas’s poem meant the team were able to stick to the guiding principle. One of the signature scenes in the commercial is a dawn sequence featuring flamingos taking flight. “Right up to the moment we arrived at the flamingo location we were not sure they would be there,” says Geldenhuys.

The big take-out

TBWA SA has set out to disrupt the status quo in the diamond marketing category.

These were not the only challenges the team faced. “We didn’t get to the see the stone until very late in the project, so we relied on an interpretation of information,” says Khoury. “It all turned out well in the end and shooting on location in Botswana was very special because it’s such a remarkably beautiful country, populated by warm and friendly people.”

Only a handful of similar blue diamonds have come to market in the past decade, and there is little doubt that the Okavango Blue is the most significant of these.

The diamond is being marketed by the ODC and will be made available for sale towards the end of 2019. The proceeds of the sale of the stone will go directly to fund hospitals, schools, infrastructure and conservation in Botswana.

Watch the commercial below.

‘The Light at the Start of Everything' is a visual poem written by Iain Thomas for The Okavango Blue, the remarkably rare and largest Deep Blue diamond that has ever gone to market. It explores the stone’s origin and the magical, unspoilt land of Botswana to which it belongs and reminds us that we all come from the first light that shone in the darkness. The Okavango Blue is a way to hold that 'eternal something' in our hands.