– 14 August 2013

Newspapers have come under increasing pressure recently. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), circulation figures are falling year-on-year for most dailies and weeklies. The exception is, of course, the so-called ‘vernacular press’, with titles like Isolezwe holding firm despite economic pressure.

English and Afrikaans papers have to increasingly compete with digital, and at this stage many of them are in a fight for their lives. Lowe CT, Cape-Times_20130626agency for Independent Newspaper’s Cape Times, has produced a spunky radio ad campaign that does a great job (using humour) to market its brand.

Imagine getting people like Helen Zille, Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema to read news articles about themselves. Well, of course, that’s not going to happen, but with the help of impersonators, you can create the desired effect.

The choice of news article is key, and part of the humour is in hearing these voices referring to themselves in the third person. That, and the fact that these impersonators are really top-notch.

So we have “Helen Zille” reading an article that goes: “DA leader Helen Zille has sparked controversy with her party’s ‘Know Your DA’ campaign…”

Then there’s “Desmond Tutu” reading this Cape Times piece: “A furious Archbishop Desmond Tutu warned the ruling ANC to ‘watch out’ after the Dalai Lama was denied a visa to attend his 80th birthday party.”

And of course, there’s “Jacob Zuma” reading about Nkandlagate – punctuated with his trademark throat-coughs at odd breaks in the dialogue.

There’s a pretty convincing “George W. Bush” reading about the Iraq invasion in search of ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’.

Finally we have “Julius Malema” reading: “Former ANC Youth League President Julius Malema is homeless, penniless and carless…”

They all sign off with the Cape Times slogan, ‘You can’t get any closer to the news – Cape Times.’

The Ad

Considering the sound-assualt that is regional radio currently, these spots seem guaranteed to break through the clutter and create a humorous ‘lift’ for the listener. It’s the kind of ad that makes you want to turn up the volume, and they bear repeated listening. Especially the “Desmond Tutu” one, which I’m pretty sure is comedian Nik Rabinowitz – nobody does it quite like he does.

I’m glad to see Cape Times taking a chance on a humorous angle. Generally radio ads these days are dull, dull, dull, and it would have been too easy (and so forgettable) to do a “straight” CNN-promo style ad, with brassy music and a punchy male voice-over talking about “our uncompromising investigative reporters” and using phrases like “we dig deeper.” Thank goodness, because this is so much more refreshing and enjoyable.

And here’s to the papers, because they are the vanguard of good journalism. Much as I love digital, I’d hate to see newsprint disappear from our lives.