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[Orchids & Onions] Spur sizzles with its All Blacks ribbing

I know it's been around a while and that it does get pulled out of the cupboard every now and then for promoting specific specials, but I couldn't help smiling this week at the Spur Steak Ranches TV ad which quietly ribs (ha ha) the All Blacks.
We see a father and his daughter, clad in Springbok regalia, sitting down to watch the match. The TV cameras cross to the All Blacks’ famous haka war cry. She asks: “What is that, daddy?” – which is almost as difficult a question to answer as the one which ends up talking about the birds and bees. Dad thinks a bit and then explains that the New Zealanders are saying they’re hungry: they rub their tummies and open their mouths wide… as well as wiggle their fingers to say they would love a juicy, sizzling steak. Just like you’d get at the Spur. Daddy, don’t they have a Spur there? No, my girl.

Shame. It’s sweet, it’s simple and it has a gentle poke at the All Blacks: you may give us a klap nine times out of 10 on the rugby field, but you haven’t got a Spur, have you, boet? The Spur tagline also, somehow, sums up the best of what makes us South African (although heaven knows it is in short supply these days): People with a taste for life. It’s a uniquely South African ad which, at the same time, conveys the mouth-watering taste of Spur but also points people to specials, as it did when we saw it, reminding us of the unique-to-Thursday offers.

Orchids to Spur and to the agency responsible, which I believe is Haas Collective in Cape Town. That’s the third Orchid from me in the past year. Well done!

Screengrab form the ad
Screengrab form the ad

One of the things which worries me a lot about the state of South African journalism – and of South African opinion and belief in general – is that, once a person or an organisation has been given a bad name, then you do not have to stick to the normal rules of journalism. You may libel and insult them as much as you like and nothing you write needs to be backed up by facts. We in the media have, over the years, demonised a number of people, such as Robert Mugabe, Jacob Zuma, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang (the late minister of health in Thabo Mbeki’s government). In the case of Manto, she was accused of being a drunk by the Sunday Times but the newspaper produced no evidence, relying on supposition and innuendo in its character assassination. I am not saying there may not have been some truth in the allegations, but nothing in the way of hard facts was ever produced by the paper. I challenged them on at least four occasions, publicly, to produce the evidence and there was a deafening silence. (Sadly, too, that story, despite its abysmal professional standards, won a local journalism prize…) Likewise, Mugabe also does not get the professional courtesy of being allowed to air his side in most stories.

Zuma has been the subject of quite a bit of this, too. Now, as you rush in to call me all sorts of names (bring the sticks and stones rather), let me repeat that I am not supporting the above-mentioned and have written negative things about all of them myself (either as opinion, clearly stated as such, or based on facts). In the case of Mugabe, I was one of the first to report the massacres in Matabeleland in the 1980s, something which had the then-information minister Justin Nyoka declaring me “an enemy of the state!”

So, when I tell you that I worry that the same thing – lack of journalistic balance or accuracy – is happening to the Gupta family, let me tell you to save your angry breath and heated e-mails. I hold no brief for the family or anyone involved with them. However, last week, the family did what I thought was an astute thing in reputation management terms (and reputation management, you’ll remember, is part of the art of marketing). They ran a simple, mostly unemotional, list of facts about them and their businesses here, across a double-page spread in their newspaper, The New Age. It made interesting reading. It should have been required reading for any journalist seeking to uphold the finest traditions of our craft, one of the main ones of which is fairness. The Guptas, via the channel of their umbrella company, Oakbay Investments, set out, in detail and with numbers, their history in South Africa since they arrived here in 1993. At all times, they emphasised that their companies’ books are audited by KPMG, a blue-chip accounting firm. They also provided figures to show their links with the government are less than some existing huge corporates.

Reading the pages, as I did (in detail), I was left with the impression that there was a side to the family which was not being revealed in local media coverage – either deliberately, or through laziness or incompetence. In that sense, the pages were a good piece of reputation management, a timely defensive salvo. Defending your brand, where necessary, is what good marketing is all about. So, an Orchid to Oakbay Investments. Right, hit the poisoned “send” buttons…

*Note that Bizcommunity staff and management do not necessarily share the views of its contributors - the opinions and statements expressed herein are solely those of the author.*

About Brendan Seery

Brendan Seery has been in the news business for most of his life, covering coups, wars, famines - and some funny stories - across Africa. Brendan Seery's Orchids and Onions column ran each week in the Saturday Star in Johannesburg and the Weekend Argus in Cape Town. Contact him now on moc.liamg@4snoinodnasdihcro

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