– 19 June 2013


A good ad has to achieve a simple, but almost illusive task: it has to communicate a brand’s message in a way that stays with the viewer. In doing so it more often must compete for the viewer’s attention with other messages and other media that are also vying for the audiences’ attention. Sometimes this is achieved by the massive repetition of advertising messages on a variety of channels. But the problem with that approach can be saturation – the feeling that if you see an ad just one more time it is going to drive you insane. I guess that’s throwing money at the problem – going for reach and penetration, instead of being smart.

But every now and again an advert will achieve memorability by creating clever little ads (or series of commercials) that give one that ‘warm, fuzzy feeling’. Those are the ads that make you feel good, make you smile or even have a little laugh. I’ve often talked about humour in this column because it is so often used in local advertising, and rightly so because South Africans love nothing more than having a good belly laugh. But achieving the humorous ‘sweet spot’ is a tricky balancing act. Brands can run the risk of getting things wrong and creating ads that are either cringe-worthy, sadly unfunny or horribly offensive.

Autopage, which is part of the Altech Group, is a cellular service provider that is not tied to any of the major networks. Rather, Altech Autopage Cellular acts as a ‘broker’ or agent of sorts for MTN, Vodacom and Cell-C, which—it claims—gives clients more choice. The campaign created by new kid on the block King James II (part of the King James group of companies), to promote Altech’s mobile offering consists of three ads to date, (perhaps in time they’ll produce more). Each ad contains the same basic message, but the context for each commercial puts a slightly different spin on what the promise means.

In the first ad, we see a basset hound looking out of a window, obviously waiting for its owner. The theme of the voice-over is that nobody likes to be kept waiting. This is a truism, sure, but what Autopage promises is that they have cut down on the time it takes you to get the right package, by having all the packages from the three main networks (sorry, Virgin and Telkom!) available all in one place. The simple tagline is “Less of what you don’t want, more of what you do.”

This isn’t a laugh out loud ad, but who doesn’t love dogs with droopy eyes. The basset hound in the ad is perfectly cast – his forlorn expression is endearingly cute, and the more you watch the ad, the more it grows on you. The ad is perfection from a cinematic perspective – which only adds to the watch-ability of this ‘mini movie’. And there’s something appealing about the simplicity. This is an effective ad that’s short, sharp, yet entertaining and which drives home a compelling message.

The second ad features a granny in an old-age home who uses her cell-phone to find out how to program the microwave – she simply looks up the answer online, to the amazement of the other residents crowded around her. The tagline here is, “The right package for you, whoever you are.”

It’s a charming, because everyone’s got a parent or grandparent these days whose life has been liberated by the interwebs. It also nimbly communicates the fact that internet connectivity is a major consideration when purchasing a cellular package, implying that Autopage will assist with this (even if you’re a nana).

The third spot had me smiling largely because of the casting and styling. The camera starts on a mid-shot of a petulant teenage girl sitting at the dinner table. Her arms are folded: it is clear that this girl’s rather moody and won’t be eating her food anytime soon. She is perfectly cast, as are her middle-class parents who are studiously ignoring her bad attitude. As the camera tracks back to reveal more of the scene, the voice-over explains that Charlene has ‘fomo’, because all her friends have new phones. As we all know ‘fomo’ is the ‘fear of mission out’ on everything that’s happening on social networks when one is forced to part from Facebook, Twitter et al.

“She needs a new phone. End of story. Now, we don’t pretend to have any parenting tips for you, but we can suggest some packages that may just keep your little princess happy. For now.” As with the granny ad, the tagline is “The right package for you, whoever you are.” In this case, although the slogan is the same, the overall message is targeted slightly more explicitly towards the younger demographic, which is—after all—a key SA market for mobile products and services, and especially for new technology. (Who’s teen isn’t desirous of an iPhone 5 but wondering when the iPhone 6 will make its appearance in SA?)

The Altech mobile campaign was created by King James II, the new Johannesburg agency of the Cape Town-based King James Group, formed by Rob McLennan and Graeme Jenner (who recently parted ways with Net#work BBDO). Even though the agency only opened its doors on the 2nd of March, they snagged the Altech Autopage account within a few days. Says McLennan: “What was unusual was that that the work we produced was pretty much the work that we presented in the pitch.” This speaks volumes for the client’s trust in the agency and its understanding of the market – far too many brilliant campaigns have been destroyed by committee.

This campaign wins by keeping the message simple, while interpreting it in different ways that are endearing and on target. The casting of very ordinary people in very ordinary settings is also effective, because it’s more ‘relate-able’ and enabled South Africans to see themselves in the campaign.

In a crowded space, where cellular companies are competing with each other in what some describe as a ‘war’, Altech Autopage Cellular looks like it’s very cleverly carving a niche for itself, as a brand that’s warm, fuzzy and consumer friendly. Hats off to King James II for positioning Altech Autopage Cellular as a brand that’s all about you and me – ordinary folk looking to get a better deal from an often complex and baffling market. Perhaps for their next trick they can do something about the brand’s name, and help Altech lose its outdated ‘Autopage’ moniker.

Watch the ads on YouTube:

Basset Hound:

Internet Granny:

FOMO girl: