Just yesterday I was talking to a friend of mine about the current adverts that are on our local television station. Me and this friend of mine (let us call him Mike) both agreed on the disappointing quality and lack of innovation that haunts these advertisements. Many of the works we have been exposed to as society, seem not to be thought through and lack the interpretation that a cogent message should convey.
In our philosophical discourse we found ourselves asking; what happened to the guy that came up with the Sun Jam advert? After the question that we failed to answer, our minds just began to spiral down to all the adverts we could recall from our days of innocence. Before you knew it, we were on Nostalgia Avenue headed for YouTube.
The Sun Jam advert was one of the first things that taught me about being my brother’s keeper. One character cycles for miles as he chases after a man (assumingly a stranger) in a bus who has forgotten his Sun Jam at the previous recess stop. I am sure those earnest levels are not even taught in class today.
The Perfection catch phrases “ibhavu lami”, “iSikisi mfowethu” and “Geza dzanyanya tsvina”, still echo in our society’s vocabulary even today. It is clear that the advert has gone to outlive the brand. What I liked mostly about this advert concept was that it was expressive of the communal versus the individualistic aspect of our social fibre. The protagonist was continuously chasing after his bar of soap that the whole community felt they owned. The male figure washing his own clothes was also an intriguing retrospect. On all levels, this advert was conventionally challenging what was back then a societal norm of women being more domesticated than men. The Perfection advert also comically expressed the multi-purpose use of the soap; with others using it for washing and bathing it was a darling for tight-budget families. Olivine did not need to directly tell the audience that, but involuntarily, the advert spoke volumes about it.
Speaking of the communal feel of these adverts, the same applies with the Chibuku concept; the character understands that he cannot join his drinking cabinet without the “Hari yemadzisawira”. Therefore it meant that he had to kneel down, listen and impatiently wait for the Chibuku delivery truck to arrive before he could join his crew that was already indulging on the product. The simple message one could get is that, to be part of the community you have to meaningfully contribute. Nowadays “kugcwele izimankani zodwa”, the reason being the message of contributing is not being preached in a stimulating manner.
The Buttercup margarine advert was reminiscent of the Charles Dickens “Oliver Twist” scenario where the character Oliver Twist of asking for more. Even in the advert the setting was gloomy and tensed up you could feel it whilst you watched it. Yet again the in the advert the students are all in unison asking for Buttercup margarine, showing the unified element our society was.
Toughees gave me the dream of one day owning a rhinoceros (I am still pursuing that dream). I mean which kid doesn’t dream of owning or being friends with a wild animal? The advert made a pair of Toughees school shoes look “cool”. Every kid wanted to own a pair so as to look relevant. I remember those days in the classroom, Toughees school shoe owners made a mockery out of Grasshopper owners and eventually drove them into extinction. Whilst captivating us the advert also portrayed how we as a people were in touch with our environment. We had pride in our Zimbabwean wildlife and landscape.
Speaking of landscape, the Ngwerewere advert went overboard in expressing that we were a Metropolitan country. The Rusike brothers brought style and swag to our screens. The colourful clothes, the dance moves, the dancing on top of buildings and on aeroplanes, all these were just intriguing. I can boldly say from a “swagged” up point of view, that the Rusike brothers’ swag was the last of it.
Who can forget the Bata advert with the traditional dancers dancing on a thorned and hostile terrain? It is one of the most comic adverts to ever hit our Zimbabwean screens. I am somehow convinced the advert contributed to the birth/spread of the Tommy wearing culture that still exists in dance groups up until today. The advert was clearly persuasive in expressing that traditional can also be modernised in a manner that does not intrude on its aesthetic elements.
The list is endless I could talk about the Olivine cooking oil advert that featured Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi (and the famous Olivine tin guitar) or the Jade advert with the bathing lady trying different soaps. All these were nothing short of creative genius.
With most of our blast from the past adverts, one cannot help but notice the Rainbow nation that Zimbabwe was back then. We had all races and colours beaming on our television screens. I am not trying to sound rhetoric, but where did our Rainbow go to? Yes we still have the nation but where did the Rainbow go to? Our screens have no colour (all pun intended); and if there is any it is just hints of colour and not the entire rainbow.
Advertisements nowadays are gruffly informative and have become less engaging in a creative manner. It feels like eating dry toasted bread without butter and other additives to go with it. Advertisers now play it safe…. too safe to be precise. If you do get any creative engagement at all, it leaves you cringing and praying for the Vic Falls gorges to miraculously extend into your living room and swallow your tormented soul. In most adverts after the 2000s what we got were Kapfupi looking like imitators in ragged street theatre attires dancing senselessly to some discorded beat. Our comic intellect still has not migrated from that set up. In Zimbabwe it is not an advert when there is no one dancing or behaving in an irritatingly weird manner. What we now see on television is bland on the style and street culture that our communities have evolved into.
I will go back again to ask where all the people who came up with such intellectually stimulating and entertaining ideas went to. Are we lacking the creative concept in our advertising models or is it just pure laziness? Why can we not compete with our neighbours in that department, what kind of brains do they have that we do not have? I guess these are questions to be answered another day. All I know is that as a consumer I need engaging adverts with added elements of creativity. For the time being you will find me next door at the #LandAppropriation Chicken Licken camp.