Sello S Alcock
Sello S Alcock

The war of the newspapers?

I have been meaning to put this down for a while but kept procrastinating until yesterday afternoon, when I again drove past that billboard on the M1 South that reads “We’re ahead of the times”.

Now normally I would not give a rat’s you know what at such an advertisement, except this one is courtesy of that newspaper called the City Press.

You see, friends of mine a long time ago warned me about the dangers of the advertising industry where I was once a citizen.

You see, unlike normal human-beings, advertising types constantly spend time thinking about how to outwit, outplay and sometimes on that odd occasion, even stick it to the opposition.

A tough ask if there was ever one, because unlike in that land of that malaprop Bush, comparative advertising is not really allowed in these turbulent shores.

The Americans say that it is acceptable to stick it to the opposition in your advertising messages, and even ridicule the opposition, such as the well documented Cola Wars between Pepsi and Coca-Cola.

You must be almost catching my drift.

Anyway, so there I was driving in the company’s jalopy (and trust me, this is a real jalopy, unlike in the case of one respected newspaper scribe I deeply admire, who may or may not hail from the Zulu Kingdom) flashing back to my advertising days.

I remember that almost mythical story of how once Sonnenburg Murphy Leo Burnett capitalised on the experience of some middle aged fellow, if memory serves me right, who had survived a fall down Chapman’s Peak and he happened to be driving in a Merc. Leo Burnett’s opposition Hunt Lascaris, who happened to represent that other German marque pounced.

I am told within a short space of time the creative people at the agency had put together a TV commercial which would stretch the rules of the ASA a bit, and it would strategically flight over a weekend when the offices of the ASA would be closed.

I still remember the commercial: it showed a magnificent and sporty BMW driving where? You guessed Chapman’s Peak and it was shown negotiating the curves at high speeds. The title at the end read: “We beat the bends”

I am told that, as expected, the Merc people complained, but alas only on Monday, and at that time the Hunts crew was ready to voluntarily pull the commercial.

Now the fact that I am writing about it now should tell you the impact was already felt.

I digress.

So back to that advert by that Auckland Park based newspaper. Anyway I started wondering if indeed I was a creative person in an advertising agency, say one that represented the Sunday Times and/or The Times, what would I think?

I decided that I would, in my youthful smart Alec arrogance, declare it was on!

I would run to my art director and tell him that we have declared war on the advertising agency that does work for City Press.

“We have to do something bra! I mean dude we must. Stuff it, let’s just conceptualise and get it done. We will flipping convince the suits (adspeak for advertising executives) and client later bra,” I would say to my now psyched art director.

“Totally, dude,” he would answer emerging from a haze.

And then my art director has put together some layout with the usual corporate identity, I would apply my stamp with my one eye on that Loerie Award.

“Definitively more than just some city press,” my words would read on my mock-up for presentation to client.

PS: I spot these for fun and sometimes I smile to myself, like the time I was driving further on the M1 South and saw a string of billboards filled by advertising from the big banks. Incidentally they were lined up one after the other: ABSA, FNB and Standard Bank.

But interestingly ABSA’s advert just read “Where ABSA leads, the rest follow”. I only clicked after seeing the other bank’s Adverts. And I have reliably learnt from a high-placed source at ABSA that it was all planned. Part of some tactical campaign. Eish!

  • Lyndall Beddy

    Whatever the faults of advertising in democracies, they are one hell of a lot better than the propaganda of the authoritarian states!

  • CRaig MIllar

    Further to your digression (about the Hunt Lascaris Merc / Beemer tiff) soon after, Landrover came out with an add that had one of theirs driving up onto the road from where the merc landed to where it left the road.

  • Siphiwo Qangani with kangaroos

    We hav a new lad on TL, Welcome aboard Sello!
    Fasten-up your belts we are heading for a bumpy ride…

  • Kit

    Ag, Sello has been around before this, Siphiwo, don’t demonstrate your relative Thought Leader youth. :)

    The KFC/Chicken Licken thing is probably my favourite of these of late, although also sadly overshadowed.

    In advertising terms the pulling of the ad was probably actually better than the flighting of it (you know the one where the chicken is so good you’ll be licking your whole hand or whatever?).

    Within minutes of the ASA pulling it, the news story was flashed around, the cunningly devised press release scooting around the ether to any media owner who would listen. Amusing, I say.

    KFC’s ad agency were put in such a bad place with this one. It wasn’t offensive, it was just a slightly tainted bit of brand hitting. But if they didn’t put a case against it, the ad would continue to flight and it made their brand look bad. If they did lodge a complaint, CL’s agency would make sure that ad was headlined and people would talk about it.

    So much talking even went on that my daughter was asking me the next evening (whilst standing in a KFC outlet, yes I’m a terrible parent) why they pulled that funny ad that made her laugh and could we get Chicken Licken anyway? I’m damned if I know where my nearest CL franchise is in CT but I should find out.

  • Siphiwo Qangani with kangaroos


    “…Don’t demostrate your relative TL youth…”, stuff you

    Sorry Sello, maybe it’s because you are scarce in the Blogsphere world.

  • Kit

    Well, it wasn’t vaguely meant in a tone that merited that response but hey, if it makes you feel better.

    But yeah, Sello’s pretty scarce. I like this media angle so I wish it wasn’t so but I guess people have lives outside these pages.

  • Nelson

    Hey Chief you belong to that world.when are you making the return?