A road traffic ad which is …fine. And a soap one which needs a clean-up

I know this is going to sound like a self-indulgent “house ad” but I must say that, since I have been working here at The Citizen, I have come to respect the newspaper’s independence and the fact that it really has not been “captured” by anyone politically.

Nor is there, that I have seen, any instruction that any particular company is out of bounds because it advertises with us.

So, this week for example, we ran a large ad for the Road Traffic Infringement Authority (RTIA) – and then the next day a prominent story revealing that the authority’s registrar, Japh Chuwe, had been given an eye-watering 93% increase in his basic salary.

This came at a time when the authority’s income was down 40% because municipalities are not issuing nearly as many traffic fines as they used to.

The negative story about the boss man notwithstanding, I must say I have chuckled at the agency’s latest advertising campaign, which has been put together by Blueprint.

The print ones are put together to look like an ad for a sangoma, promising everything from enlargements to better sleep, and, in the case of the one shown here, which ran earlier in the week, “No more bedwetting”.

It was so realistic that some people were taken in, including one or two not a million kilometres away from our newsroom …

The punchline, though, ties it all together: For real solutions, from real experts, on traffic fines, come to RTIA.


There was a bit of a row about the radio version of the ad, which drew criticism from some for allegedly mocking traditional beliefs and culture.

The RTIA responded that the ad’s intention was only to mock the fake practitioners who abuse traditional beliefs and culture. I agree with that. Sometimes people will argue about, and criticise, almost anything …

The RTIA ad certainly stands out, makes its point in a funny way and has started people talking … which means it has generated awareness. That is good marketing, so RTIA and Blueprint get an Orchid this week.

I know this sounds almost contradictory, having already noted that some people will argue about anything – and I know I risk being accused of ignoring this by those who believe the fuss about the overseas Dove soap ad is a storm in a wash basin.

But, without getting into the nitty-gritty, I will award Dove an Onion for not anticipating a possible outcry.

It is true that many who jumped angrily onto social media to denounce the racism of the company had not bothered looking at the whole video. In it a number of women were seen removing a top and then turning into someone else.

The first shot was of a black woman removing her top and turning into a white woman. That generated the outrage – despite the fact that when, in turn, the white woman removed her top, she turned into someone else, an Asian woman.

doveThe three-second clip was aired on Facebook as a teaser for a full 30-second TV commercial. The Nigerian model in the ad said people had jumped to conclusions and had made her the unwitting poster child for racism in advertising.

There are two lessons to be learned here. First, be very, very, very careful when your brand deals with issues of race which may be misinterpreted. I can’t understand how Dove didn’t put this through a confidential process of vetting, which may have turned up the eventual objection.

The second is: beware how you use social media. Very few brands in love with Facebook, particularly, realise that placing your material on the social media platform is playing marketing Russian roulette. It could seriously backfire, because you have no control over the medium.

Dove knows that now.




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