– 3 July 2013

The Ad

There was a time when food in South Africa was fairly simple and straight-forward. We were the land of tripe and polonyGourmet wasn’t a commonplace word, and fancy food was all about special Sunday roasts or hotel buffets, or if you were of another class, the stuff people ate in restaurants like those in the Carlton Hotel or The Mount Nelson. Masterful chefs were the preserve of a small elite – not the every man and woman.

Fortunately times have changed and gourmet foods, products and processes have become much more democratised thanks to television and the interwebs. As the media discovered that human beings love to watch other humans cooking, all things gourmet have seeped into our popular culture.

Another aspect that’s driving local and international gourmet markets is generational. Baby Boomers may have launched the cooking craze and nurtured it, but the Millennial generation (aged 17-34 ) are stirring the pot and taking over the kitchen. Global market research company Mintel says younger generations love cooking more than their senior counterparts, and make up for in enthusiasm what they lack in experience.

56% of Mintel respondents in the US survey who cook occasionally say cooking allows them to experiment and try new things and 27% say it helps them to explore foods eaten in other cultures. Meanwhile, 48% say cooking is a way to express affection to friends and family, and 41% enjoy teaching their children how to cook. And perhaps the simplest of reasons, 43% enjoy the process of cooking as much as eating and 40% find that preparing food helps them to relax.

“Younger cooks appear to be more interested in experimentation, with those in their 20s and 30s more likely to agree that cooking gourmet meals makes them feel sophisticated and smart, suggesting that learning to cook and cooking for friends is viewed as a way to establish credibility among their peers,” says Fiona O’Donnell of Mintel.

Locally this trend is being fuelled by the likes of online premium kitchenware store which has enjoyed massive popularity and growth since its launch, together with commercial television where consumers can enjoy a veritable visual smorgasbord of the likes of Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal, Nigella Lawson and the irascible Gordon Ramsay.

As a result of the rise of the epicurean phenomenon, people who wouldn’t normally go gourmet now ‘own’ it, as non-chefs learn that preparing cordon-bleu meals in their own kitchens is a whole load of fun. Even the laziest cooks have been inspired to try different ingredients in their meals.

The popular reality show MasterChef has epitomised this trend and features self-taught or inexperienced ‘home chefs’ competing for national honours in what is a nail-biting and highly entertaining televised affair.

So it’s hats off to Woolworths who made a great strategic decision by sponsoring the South African version of the much talked-about show. By doing so the brand sets itself up as the luxury food merchandiser of choice, and the go-to venue for ‘cuisine-quality’ ingredients, creating associations in the public mind of quality, variety and freshness.

In the run-up to the programme’s launch, Woolworths featured a beautifully-produced ad that showed deliciously shot slicing, dicing, splashing and drizzling, blending and cooking of gourmet food. It is a delight to watch, and smartly established the brand’s association with the project, which was much anticipated by South African foodies, ever since the success of the UK and Australian versions. In fact, it was the Australian version that really turned South Africans on to the series; it had better production values and was designed to be much more exciting than its precursor.

South Africa’s first series suffered from a few hitches, blamed by many on a poorly chosen ‘cast’. People felt that the Deena Naidoo was not up to the task, as his prize – a restaurant at the Tsogo Sun – was beset with problems and received negative reviews. Be that as it may, the show has continued, and to their credit, Woolworths has stuck with the sponsorship. Both MasterChef and Woolworths have strong enough brands to weather these sorts of issues, and I’m looking forward to an improved second season.

The latest spot was shot—as was the previous one—by Ian Chuter of Platypus Productions. This Cape Town-based production company is no stranger to filming food and beverages, having also produced spots for Robertson’s, Carling and Schweppes.

The photography and filming of food and drink is a specialised skill – anyone who has spent any time in a kitchen knows that preparing food can be a messy business, but a skilled food stylist and cinematographer can use lighting and composition to make the ingredients and process appear seamless, yet appealing and appetising.

In the launch spot, a white backdrop was used to fit in with the Woolworths branding. White also works well with food, signifying cleanliness and lightness. But in this ad, the backdrop was switched to a slate-black, which fits in with the programme’s design elements. It’s a more modern, edgy look and the dark background creates a chiaroscuro effect, making the colours ‘pop’.

As before, the food shots are mainly about perfect lighting and creative use of slow-motion. But the producers have gone a subtle step further with this ad, using a combination of slow-motion and jump-cut style animation techniques to create visual puns and micro-stories, supported by a rhythmical soundtrack that provides motivation for exciting edit points.

The simple take-out slogan is: “Recipes in-store and online” – a call to action that will inspire any foodie (or aspirant foodie) to get creative in the kitchen, with ingredients that can probably only be found at ‘Woolies’.

These spots were mainly aired during the MasterChef South Africa Programme, maximising their reach to the intended target audience: ‘foodies’ who would be inspired to try out a new recipe and be prepared to pay the premium for exotic, high quality ingredients.

Beautifully filmed, brilliantly edited, yet simple and uncluttered to watch – these ads are delicious! Plus the brand maximises its reach with targeted placement, which means all the perfect elements combine for an effective and masterful campaign – one where Woolies takes ownership of gourmet cuisine.