media update’s Nakedi Phala takes you through the five best Mzansi ads of all time.

There’s still huge competition among ad agencies to produce top-notch ads. And truly speaking, the secret to good quality, local ads is two-fold. It all lies in the content production, as well as how marketers are able to take Mzansi’s rich culture and diversity and mash it together with their marketing objectives.

However, in saying that, this doesn’t take away from ads that have made it big in South Africa without including elements of the country’s traditions. It’s really just pound-for-pound — and the best ad agency wins!

Let’s cut to the chase. Here are the top five ads from Mzansi:

1. Molo Mhlobo wam — Telkom

Remember this retro Telkom ad? You know, when phone booths were still a thing. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

Besides the nostalgic factor, what really makes this ad a cool classic? Well, let’s just start with the diverse title: Molo mhlobo wam. Originating from one of South Africa’s official languages — isiXhosa — this means greetings, my friend.

Not only is this ad reminiscent of times that have passed, but it’s also memorable enough to re-enter our current century. At the beginning of lockdown, telecommunications company Telkom swung it back from the archives, re-produced and re-issued this as its “new” ad.

The advert is in sync with one of the government’s regulations surrounding COVID-19 — social distancing. This is shown by a man greeting his friend from a distance. As time goes on, he then gets connected with a landline telephone that grants him the power to greet his neighbour by making a phone call rather than shouting all the way from his yard. Talk about repurposing content, neh?

2. Amaglug-glug — Sasol

Great content never dies — it just gets better, like wine! Much like the first ad that was mentioned, Amaglug-glug is a pure classic that features a number of Mzansi’s rich Kasi culture.

The ad features South African celebrity and comedian Desmond Dube, who narrates the original advert. Dube did this so well in the original ad that Sasol knew it needed to make version 2.0 — this time, with a twist. The second version features a little girl with the same tagline: Amaglug-glug.

The ad is based on sentimental values with a dash of imagination. It leaves you to think, “How much better life would be if only this was possible.” To understand a little better, watch the clip below:

3. A Vendor — King Price

This one is pumped with SA culture (and a pinch of stereotypes). To provide you with a bit of context, and for those of you who just didn’t know, there is a TshiVenda culture group based in the Limpopo province of South Africa.

So, what made this advert trend? Well, the character (who is a business practitioner in the ad) mistook the requirements to bid for business, assuming the forum wanted someone from the tribe. Meanwhile, they actually wanted a “vendor”, not a “Venda”. Catch the metaphor? We did! And, if you didn’t, here is the ad that explains it all:

4. Minister of inland fisheries — Nandos

Humour? Satire? And, pure Mzansi heritage? Yes, please! This particular ad by Nando’s has all of the above, and then some! Known for its cheeky and clever ads, the fast-food chain didn’t hold back this round.

The ad showcases SA’s politicians at work, depicting how differently they do things from other countries. It also gives audiences a glimpse of what it would be like if a ministerial escort unit would coincide with real trouble and then choose to ignore it, opting for debating politics instead. Doesn’t that sound like just another day in South Africa?

Here’s the ad to fire you up with laughter:

5. A nation with soul — Chicken Licken

In the midst of lockdown, some agencies had put some of their ad campaigns on hold, since filming required them to meet up in person, which could compromise social distancing regulations.

But, Chicken Licken made sure that it kept track of all the funny moments that unfolded on social media during level 5, all the way up to level 2. This included, for example, skits made by social media influencers — and just those hair-raising moments so beautifully depicted by fellow South Africans.

Believe it or not, the content and main character (skit creator Tyson Ngubeni) used in the ad all came from events that unfolded on social media streets! Pretty cool, huh?

There are more ads that have really influenced and dominated the marketing space; however, these are just some of the best ones that have built conversations at family braais, dominated social media trend maps as well as ad commentators’ conversations.

What other ads have made South Africans’ heads turn? Let us know in the comments section.

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The landscape in SA requires brands to be diverse in order to make a real impact. Learn more in our article, A marketing strategy to capture the South African audience.