– 15 May 2013


The origins of hip-hop culture date back to the urban minorities of 1970s USA, when ‘battles’ were introduced as a way of settling neighbourhood scores. Instead of having a gang fight, two crews would face off and compete, either in breakdance, rap, ‘turntablism’ or even graffiti.

Probably most exciting were the breakdance ‘battles’ where different crews would face off and take turns in showing off their breakdance moves. The tradition continues today and can be experienced at hip-hop events, even here in South Africa – mainly in Cape Town, but also in other cities.

DStv’s promotional ads have a history of humour, and of using cultural genres to make a point about the brand and the strength of its content, and the latest ad which features a gangland type face off is no different.

View The Ad

This “Dance Battle” ad for DStv takes place in a suitably dingy downtown environment. It starts off with close-up shots of what seems to be two crews facing off to do battle. There is a DJ in the background, warming up his scratching and mixing.

“Yo, where your crew at?” asks the leader of one crew.

“They’ll be here,” replies the other, with bravado.

Cut to a wide shot as he glances over his shoulder. There’s no-one there but a dog. Now he’s not so sure.

There is an awkward moment, and the second crew leader looks decidedly uncomfortable.

Cut to what is obviously his crew, sitting in front of DStv, completely engrossed in what’s popping and locking on the box. No it’s not a nostalgic rerun of the John Singleton cult-classic “Boyz N The Hood”, nor is it one of the ever-popular CSI series… The gang have stood up their ‘homie’ to watch the latest from the cooking channel.

The inversion is delicious! Tough ‘hip hop types’ completely enthralled with baking is an absolute hoot, and it’s a brilliant punch-line that in my case delivered a fully belly laugh.

The payoff line? “With over 100 great TV channels on DStv, everything else can wait.”Cut back to a high wide-angle shot of the deserted basketball court as the crew leader slinks off, possibly to watch DStv.

The home entertainment space is owned by DStv in South Africa, and this ad consolidates the Multichoice brand’s position solidly. But then DStv has always been very inventive with its bright, entertaining promos that are flighted across all the channels.

Sometimes these take the form of the obvious trailer-style promos showing scenes from popular movie or series; while other times they are the generic montage-set-to-music pieces that hark back to the early days of M-Net. Remember when Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” was used as the channel’s anthem? Who didn’t sing along to that campaign?

Every now and again DStv or M-Net produce a concept campaign, like the hugely popular, award-winning Gary the Tooth Fairy series, featuring comedian Bevan Cullinan…and in these instances, comedy always seems to work. Comedy has been a strong mainstay for building both the M-Net and DStv brands over time, a tactic that’s worked well for both brands.

Getting back to the “Dance Battle” spot, humour is used to great effect to sell a product that speaks for itself. The “Everything Else Can Wait” campaign has also been extended to other geographies where the digital television bouquet offers its content: for instance, in Tanzania, a bride keeps her groom waiting while she pays her DStv subscription in time to get a 10% discount.

The campaign has been tied in with an on-air competition, which uses a pop-up ‘Rewards Box’ device to get subscribers to enter via SMS; it’s a competition that’s appears to be running throughout Africa.

It’s a clever campaign, but one that’s predicated on DStv delivering on its promise – which of course is screening content that’s worth making everything else worth waiting for. Compulsive viewing that stops ones world.

With TopTV flailing and DStv literally owning the paid-for digital television market the gorillas in the market might be tempted to rest on their laurels. That would be a massive mistake – nothing attracts attention to an inferior product or service quicker than good advertising. DStv would do well to ensure that its content offering is better than the promise advertised in its promotional campaigns.