Orchids and Onions: Absa ad is on the money

Orchids and Onions: Absa ad is on the money

Brand advertising - especially when it is of the "go big, or go home" variety - tends to be upbeat and positive. And, when going for upbeat and positivity as your motif, there can be a tendency to chuck cliches at your executions ... like cute kids or animals.

That's what Absa appears to be doing in its latest ad for its Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) division.

One would have thought that hard-nosed investors or analysts would be capitivated by numbers and projections, not by cutesy. But clearly Absa doesn't believe so, because the latest ad for the CIB business goes quite a way down the cliche route.

We see a curious young girl, apparently fascinated by light and energy and capturing it - dreaming big. She imagines things which will help save the continent, Africa, which is her home.

The voice-over speaks - in classic rose-tinted, hold-hands-and-sing-kumbaya optimism - of what makes us here in Africa different from everyone else. This is the "bravery to imagine and the will to get things done".

That all adds up to Africanacity, Absa's clever little word play which blends Africa and tenacity.

The problem, though, is this: Look around you. Do you see much in the way of the will to get things done? In Eskom? In state-owned enterprises? In municipalities?


I am also not quite sure what the brand message is in there for the money crunchers which will persuade them to entrust their money to the bank.

However, if that all sounds like a build-up to handing out another Onion, let me disappoint you. Despite all the flaws and questions it poses, this ad has a simple charm which is infectious. I think a lot of that has to do with exactly that positivity, something which has been in short supply in South Africa for a long time.

There's also an innocence about it all.

But what saves the ad from middling is the superb production, the responsibility of Director Dule of Chill Pill Films. The colours and the images throughout have a luminescent, almost dreamlike quality. It's like being caught up in a fairy tale.

You watch it and wonder: Maybe, just maybe, the world could be like this one day ...

Orchids to Absa, its ad agency FCB Joburg and to Chill Pill Films.

Brendan Seery.


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