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#OrchidsandOnions: Comparative advantage

Marketing space: Online used car sales brand has go at competitor; Ad positions getWorth cleverly as the operation that won't buy any junk...
#OrchidsandOnions: Comparative advantage

One of the touchiest subjects in South African marketing is that of comparative advertising. Our agencies and brands are so thin-skinned or lacking in confidence that the industry has banned all forms of such promotion.

Even the most famous comparative ad of them all, the legendary BMW “Beats the Benz” TV spot, done in the early 1990s, was flighted over a weekend and then pulled almost immediately early the following week, following the outcry from Mercedes-Benz.

Many an ad has been banned because the brand being ragged or compared has taken offence.

That’s a great pity for two reasons. First, allowing consumers to compare apples with apples (assuming there is no falsity involved) adds to choice. Secondly, when the comparison is more in the nature of a little cheek, where’s the harm…unless you’re very insecure?

I was quite amused, therefore, by online used car sales brand getWorth having a go at its largest competitor, We Buy Cars.

getWorth maintains that, although the companies cater to different markets, they regard We Buy Cars as a major market contender. So, they found an existing We Buy Cars billboard which has that company’s well-known payoff line “Big or small, we buy them all” – and then put up their own nearby, trumpeting the getWorth promise “Clean and cared for, we pay more”.

The ad positions getWorth cleverly as the operation that won’t buy just any old junk – they buy cared for cars… and they pay more.

I think the juxtaposition – at a site in Cape Town – was clever and, far from damaging the We Buy Cars brand, it would, certainly in my mind, push both brands to top of mind if I was thinking about selling or buying a car. One has a large variety, the other promises good money and quality cars.

The ad was developed in-house by Steph Teixeira, getWorth’s marketing manager and the company’s designer. That, in itself, shows you don’t always need a fancy – and expensive – agency to get creative in the marketing space.

So, an Orchid to getWorth.

I once butted heads with Hilly Kahn of Continental Linens after giving him an Onion for the radio ad where he himself did the voice-over and which I said was one of the most dreary ever to hit the airwaves.

The monotone delivery reminded me a lot of the dull delivery by various members of the Hirsch family doing their radio ads. Kahn made the point that he didn’t care whether I liked the radio ad or not, the sheets were flying out of his store.

I then realised that annoying advertising can work, in the same way that a nail in the sole of your foot can to get your attention.

I have to presume that that is the motive behind the latest Democratic Alliance (DA) advertising on social media, promoting its 22 May national rally, which will be livestreamed on YouTube from various locations around the country.

The main execution features party leader John Steenhuisen standing in front of a lacklustre group of nicely colour-balanced young people (the future, geddit?) waving South African flags.

They look about as enthusiastic as if they had just been informed they are about to be given an enema. And Steenhuisen himself looks, as someone unkindly said on Twitter, like a Durban North pastor grifting for coins in the collection plate.

Just as bad was DA federal chair Ivan Meyer, who made Steenhuisen look positively animated, so wooden was he and so earnest trying to convey his sincerity. The sad thing, from what I can see, is that the ads generated mainly mirth from the twitterati, which ranged from nasty messages to a clever little dubbing of Desmond Dube’s voice from a Clientele Life commercial over Steenhuisen’s voice. It matched perfectly.

Now, the DA may well argue that the social media “clevers” are not their target market and that, by keeping it simple, they were speaking the language of ordinary South Africans, not the “intellectuals”.

But why, oh, why, did you not at least try to get advice from an actual advertising person – and there must be plenty of them down in Cape Town who have semi-grated away from Joburg and whose very presence indicates they love the way the DA does things?

So, DA, you get an Onion for this amateurish effort. I wait to get blocked on Twitter by Steenhuisen...

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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