Picture: 123RF/viteethumb
Picture: 123RF/viteethumb

The FM AdForum events, in association with Ornico Group, showcase a selection of recently frequently flighted commercials in a particular sector. In May, the telecommunications sector and broadband providers were under the spotlight. The commercials featured were flighted between February and April 2019 and voted on by members of the audience using red cards (implying it could have done better), or green cards (showing their approval). A panel of industry experts critiqued each commercial in detail, offering insights on both the category and the industry.

Great advertisers make commercials that sell products and services, said Phumi Mashigo, founding partner of Ignitive. In today’s world, consumers don’t have to sit through commercials they don’t like – which is why it’s so important that brands only flight advertising that resonates.

The audience reacted very positively to a commercial for Cell C, which the panel largely agreed worked. The storyline taps into a frustration most parents of teenagers can relate to, said Avatar creative head Grant Sithole, adding that it’s an easy story to follow.

A commercial for the Huawei P30 series, however, fared less well, receiving mixed reviews from members of the audience, who criticised it for offering only a list of features and for being an overseas commercial. “Mobile phone advertising doesn’t have to be emotive,” said Arye Kellman, co-founder and creative director at Tilt, a specialist social media agency. The panel agreed the commercial would have worked better if it had been localised.

An MTN commercial got mostly green cards, with audience members highlighting the fact that although it was a product advert, there was a storyline. “The commercial is telling a great story and seamlessly includes a retail message,” said Sithole.

Despite the fact that most brands push traditional advertising messages to social platforms, MTN capitalised on something that happened on social media and pushed it onto a traditional platform. “The result is a commercial that works very nicely and translates seamlessly onto other platforms,” said Mongezi Mtati, marketing manager at Ornico.

Both the audience and the panel were ambivalent about an MWeb commercial featuring its ubiquitous chameleons, which, they said, tries to be funny but misses the mark. “It’s not a terrible ad, but it clearly had a much lower budget. The commercial utilises a particularly Capetonian vibe, which doesn’t land very well in Johannesburg,” said Kellman.

Although a PEPcell retail commercial was criticised for not being particularly exciting, Natalie Katz, senior strategic lead at VML SA, defended it by saying it serves its purpose and gets the job done.

The panel agreed that the execution of a Samsung Galaxy commercial doesn’t work although the product’s features are beautifully shown. They agreed that in a different context the commercial could have worked, perhaps with the addition of a local track and local visuals. “It’s trying to be an iPhone lifestyle commercial and it just doesn’t work,” said Mtati.

A Telkom commercial received a unanimous red card and was criticised for not being memorable in any way. “To be successful, commercials need to tell a story that people can connect to. This could have been a print ad and could have been reduced to a six-second spot which only aired the offer,” said Mtati. Katz added: “In its current form this commercial is a waste of time and nobody is going to get it, which is unfortunate because it’s a credible offer.” 

A commercial for Vast Networks that utilised a superhero theme received mixed reviews, though the panel members were unanimous that the idea didn’t work.

“On a storyboard the idea of a superhero would work. However, the commercial didn’t have the resources to deliver on that theme because they have not invested much in the way of animation,” said Kellman.

The big take-out

Telecommunications advertising needs to become a little more progressive.

A Vodacom commercial showing a father and son camping out in their living room was similarly red-carded. It’s a commercial that makes some really poor choices, said Sithole, adding that he was uncomfortable with the tone the father takes when speaking to the mother. “Socially it just hits so many wrong notes,” he said.

Kellman agreed, adding that this commercial is not an efficient use of marketing budget.

Commenting on the commercials under review, Kellman said it feels as though the sector as a whole is not producing sufficiently progressive advertising. “Marketing managers need to be a little more edgy and creatives need to push a little harder,” he said. 

Katz agreed, adding that unless the commercial is useful, compelling or entertaining, it should go back to the drawing board. “Consumers will quickly forget forgettable brands,” she said.