Of Hope and Hate Speech…different approaches by South African marketers

Over the long weekend, I did something I had sworn I never would: I watched the movie of the book “The Bang Bang Club”. I didn’t want to because I knew I would be angry at the distortion of the story of the news photographers who covered the township violence in the 1990s.

When I did watch, I was angered by the strange, American accent of the man playing Kevin Carter, a man I worked with during that time. Other parts of the movie were pure, and silly, fiction.

But when I saw the scenes of newspeople cowering behind walls in the midst of a Tokoza or Katlehong firefight, I was transported back there, to when I was trying my best, as a reporter, to make sense of the violence and chaos that was South Africa lurching towards democracy.

On some of those dreadful days – and again after having three of my ribs broken by an angry white, right-winger in a small Free State town – I despaired. The country looked perched on the brink of a bloody civil war.

The ghosts of assignments past brought some diverse memories which intersected for me over the long weekend. April 27 is our anniversary so there were all of those happy, and not-so-happy, times to remember and to give thanks we’re still here.

And April 27 was the also anniversary of the birth of the New South Africa. Given the state we’re in at the moment, it takes a very brave soul to even mention the word Hope.
That same feeling of pessimism I had 25 years ago creeps up at moments now, as the gulf between races looks wider than ever, and as anger becomes our national anthem.

So it was interesting to see the new #HopeJoanna campaign, also launched over the weekend. Set to the tune of Eddie Grant’s iconic anti-apartheid anthem Give me hope Jo’Anna, the video features a seamless blend of actual news footage and re-enacted scenes from our turbulent – but also triumphant – past.
So there are the police Land Rovers spewing tear gas from big fans, the kids throwing petrol bombs at Casspirs; Mandela’s fist in the air as he walks free from prison; the war on the East Rand (also very accurate, at least as I recall it); Chris Hani’s assassination; the triumphs in the Rugby World Cup and African Cup of Nations; our own World Cup pageant; the #RhodesMustFall campaign.

The video closes with footage of President Cyril Ramaphosa promising a “New dawn” and we see the little girl who was in the opening frames, now grown up with her own child, her own Joanna, and her own new Hope.

The timing of the release of the campaign – the video is on YouTube and may well appear elsewhere – can be questioned, given that we are in the midst of a collective national mood of near-hate and the realisation that the “Rainbow Nation” was never anything more than a comforting political mirage.
Yet, because of that, perhaps now is the time we need to sit back; assess where we have come from, how close we came to disaster…and make sure we again steer ourselves away from the brink.

The video is a collaborative effort from a number of people but they can pass along the Orchids – people like Grid Worldwide, The Bomb Shelter (which produced the video), Rob Roy Music (which was responsible for the music) and Freshly Ground, for putting their unique signature to Eddie Grant’s classic.

As you all say in the video: When we have Hope, we have everything…


When you tout yourself, and your agency, as being right at the top of the happening digital pyramid, then you shouldn’t do a Helen Zille on Twitter and post things which lead people to seriously question not only your judgment but of the prospect of doing business with you, given your political beliefs.

Such was the position VML’s head honcho, Jarred Cinman, found himself in last week after Tweeting that he hoped Afriforum’s Ernst Roets and Kallie Kriel – off overseas to gain support for allegedly beleaguered white South Africans – would die on the way.

Cinman deleted the Tweet chop-chop and apologised, but got a roasting anway. And rightly so. When you are involved in any form of marketing, dude, Rule Number One: You are not the target market. You should keep your views to yourself, because not everyone will share them…and those who don’t won’t do business with you.

You are a brand, just as your agency is – and you have just badly damaged it with your juvenile hate speech.
In the end, this is not even about Afriforum, it’s about marketing recklessness, for which you (and because you are so closely associated the agency), VML, get our Hate Speech Onion.





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