– 12 December 2012

The festive season is when advertisers traditionally tug at the old heart strings, and the commercial for Ster-Kinekor’s charity initiative in conjunction with Specsavers, which implores viewers to ‘share the gift of sight’, is no different.

This commercial movie (and yes it is a little movie in that it tells a beautiful story and has impressive cinematic production values) opens on an RDP-styled house somewhere in South Africa. The house has been built on to, so it appears that this family is moving up in the world.

A little boy in school uniform runs into frame, opens the door and tries to sneak past his mum with his head down (as we’ve all done, some or other time in our childhood). This lad is almost home free when guilt gets the best of him. You see him wavering slightly as he’s almost out of eyeshot of his mother, who is cooking dinner because night has fallen and supper time is fast approaching.

The young son, who is wearing the most awesome black hipster glasses, turns and walks towards his mother and looks her straight in the eye. It is then that the viewer clearly sees that one of the lenses of the glasses he is wearing is missing.

The mother is furious of course, because the shiny new glasses must have cost a fortune. She scolds him as he remains silent, and then she demands to know what happens. As soon as he’s mustered the word about who has the other lens, mum leaves the cooking and drags her son off to get his missing lens back.

With the setting sun they travel – two silhouettes in a township backlit by a glorious orange. The mother furiously striding forth and holding the hand of her son who is resisting every step as they progress toward some shacks.

The mother whips open the door of the shack and there by lamplight there’s another young boy whose face is beaming. He’s holding the lens of his pal’s glasses and reading with absolute delight.

The mother’s heart melts, and so does the viewer’s. What’s so different about this advert is that while it is asking us to part with our hard-earned money – as many of these adverts do, it does so in a way that is irresistible. The music is astutely chosen, and the short has all the hallmarks of a film. It is a complete story that is finely crafted, and because of that wins you over every step of the way.

What makes this advert even more special is that it is part of a remarkable project that benefits not just the sponsors of this initiative, but is an industry building initiative. Each year Ster-Kinekor and Specsavers, who run the ‘Vision Mission’ project launch a brief for creative schools with AFDA and look for young creative to work on the project. A major coup for any young creative is that they work with the same film company that’s home to the legendary Keith Rose. Velocity Films are responsible for the Allan Grey ‘Legend’ ad, as well as VW’s ‘Marvellous Machines’ and other superbly crafted commercials.

And Ster-Kinekor’s ‘Vision Mission’ project with Specsavers is such a worthwhile endeavour. The initiative is aimed at eliminating easily treatable eye problems in underprivileged communities, as well as raising awareness of poor vision as a major public health challenge. Thanks to the project thousands of children have been provided with spectacles, vastly improving their educational prospects and quality of life.

Vision Mission (which has been endorsed by the National Department of Health and the Department of Education) identifies primary schools in underprivileged areas, and learners at these schools are pre-screened by the Department of Health nurses or by optometrists in the area. Optometrists then conduct visual examinations in a controlled environment like the schools or a Ster-Kinekor cinema foyer, a local clinic or an optometrist’s practices. Once prescriptions have been documented and frames selected, everything is sent to the lab for completion. The children who need spectacles return to receive their new spectacles, and can now read or watch movies with clear vision.

Well done to Ster-Kinekor, Specsavers and Velocity Films for a truly remarkable campaign.