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Cooler as ekke...

You need to speak Afrikaans to truly get what's so cool about it.
Afrikaans is a vibrant and dynamic language and things expressed in Afrikaans are difficult to translate. It can be hugely creative and is often full of double entendre that non-mother tongue speakers might not understand. Little wonder that 88% of the Afrikaans market, which is the second biggest market in South Africa, likes to see advertising that reflects their culture.

Cooler as ekke...
© Vinnstock – 123RF.com

The late John Farquhar wrote in 2012: "There is an old saying in communication which proposes a simple human truth, 'If you want me to listen to what you have to say, then speak to me in my language.' Unfortunately, the advertising industry, peopled as it is by English culture, had great difficulty in understanding the culture and psyche of the Afrikaans-speaking community. The result of this disconnect was advertising in Afrikaans media based on creative ideas, which were formulated from the perspective of English culture. These translations lacked sincerity, and their impact was weak. The few advertisements crafted by Afrikaans first-language speakers who understood their people stood out like a bright beacon. When the content of an advertisement becomes the topic of conversation amongst the public then it is resonating and doing the job of laying down the foundation of creating a dialogue with its target market, which is what all advertising should work to achieve if it wants to fulfil its economic task of stimulating sales." (Taken from a chapter contributed in a book, Marketing the Same Difference, authored by Louis Seeco).

The reasons for the lack of support for advertising being created in Afrikaans is unclear, perhaps it is a misconception that Afrikaans speakers are conservative and white. Out of the 5.2 million people who speak Afrikaans, the majority are coloured. The majority (60%) of the White population are first-language Afrikaans speakers and are certainly not all old and conservative. "Afrikaans in popular culture can either be very traditional or extremely alternative. Either way, with a catchy approach and a bit of guts, you can easily stand out and make an impression in the broader local picture because by being Afrikaans the 'unique aspect' is already included in the package, according to a couple of Afrikaans entertainers," says Jaco Nel, a journalist at Rapport in Ads24's trade newspaper, The Beat - The Afrikaans Reader Community edition.

Nel spoke to Francois van Coke of Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Kartel fame, who recently released a hit with Karen Zoid. "Afrikaans is a very abrasive language," said Van Coke, who regards his mother tongue as an efficient marketing tool for himself. "Lots of rough sounding Rs and Gs, very unique. English bands can't copy that. But honestly, I also cannot imagine how my language must sound to people who have never heard it before. I reckon it should be a very interesting sound if you are not used to it."

Popular rapper Jack Parow known for his hit songs, Hosh Tokkelosh and Cooler as Ekke, said to Nel, "Afrikaans as a language markets itself because of all the great-sounding words and great expressions. I love working in my own language." He attributes his popularity and ability to cross over to being unique, "I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I don't present my music in boring and traditional Afrikaans. My language usage represents the other side of things. It is an extremely alternative vehicle, even though some listeners don't understand a word that I am saying."

Traditional Afrikaans does still have its place, and this can also be seen in the popularity of Bobby van Jaarsveld, Kurt Darren and Patricia Lewis. The biggest boost in actor Neels van Jaarsveld's career was the iconic Klipdrift advertisement, where the statement, "Eish... met ys, ja!" became his catch phrase. The traditional Afrikaans route has worked well for him. Neels said to Nel, "I don't think people realise how much that ad meant and how many boundaries it crossed. People across the South African spectrum pulled into that one and I still get recognised in every province of my own country. By any age, race or culture. The moment something like that kicks in, people associate it with something positive, accessible and hospitable. You know, like the good old Afrikaans manners our mothers taught us. Something we are known for."

Nel concludes in the article, "It is more about the type of communication than anything else. It doesn't matter what you do in Afrikaans, there will always be something very unique to it."

Between press and online, Ads24's Afrikaans newspaper combo reaches over 3.2 million people, this includes Netwerk24 and Beeld, Die Burger, Volksblad and Rapport, reaches 51% of the Afrikaans market and is higher than the reach of any Afrikaans radio station.

South Africa has 11 official languages and there are sound reasons for this, yet local marketers appear to be baffled by the complexity of the socio-demographic landscape and tend to take the safe road and cater for majority understanding, creating all campaigns in English. Mondli Nhlapo, Research Account Manager at Yellowwood, suggests that perhaps they should instead be valuing the vernacular, creating campaigns in mother-tongue and cashing in on the ensuing return-on-investment (ROI).

Nhlapo says in his blog, "Good vernacular communication taps into cultural insight, nuance and context. It can help brands show that they understand and resonate with their consumers. It can build long-lasting and profitable relationships of trust with their market. Using vernacular languages in communication has the potential to add huge value to a brand. It can help global brands successfully localise and help local brands become more relevant to their target market. It highlights a high-level of engagement, respect and understanding of the targeted consumer. The emotional benefit that vernacular advertising brings to customers will have a positive impact on the overall brand equity."

For more information, visit www.adsman.co.za

About Daya Coetzee

Stone Soup is a public relations consultancy specialising in business to business communication and is a part of the Iconic Group which includes Wag the Dog Publishers (The Media, The MediaOnline, The MOST Awards and EASYDIY), Ideaology and Snippet Video.

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