Orchids and onions: MTN is on top of their game

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Publishers Tiso Blackstar get this week’s Onion for failing to resolve my subscription problem.

I’ve talked before about the mega-battles of the cellphone brands as they launch their end-of-year campaigns (why they focus on summer is a bit beyond me, given that summer’s already been under way for almost three months by now).

It’s good to see them moving away from those perpetual festive season clichés of party people on beaches (normally Durbs) having fun. Cell C got an Orchid from me recently for their colourful and energetic efforts to get the coveted “Millennial” demographic on board.

We’ve all really been waiting for MTN to see what they’d come up with. And the wait, in my opinion, has been worth it, because the company and its ad agency TBWA has produced a visual feast and some of the best animations we’ve yet seen in South Africa.

And using animation and CGI (computer generated imagery) is the way you target the game generation and those whose lives are lived through, and in, their device screens. What the ad does is take us into the heart of a computer “battle”, where the boundaries between reality and fantasy are not just blurred, they are blown away in technicolour explosions.

At the centre of it all is moving yellow (MTN yellow, of course) oval button which the two contestants keep tapping, as they would with a game console. However, at some stage in the proceedings, a mother pops up to ask: when are you going to be home, to which the only reply (you’ll know this parents) is: I’m busy … The characters in the game smile in mocking sympathy – a nice touch, again melding fantasy with reality in a seamless way.

The point is the MTN is inviting, through the oval portal-button, to “come over to the brightside”. It works well and is a visual treat – but at the same time makes a good marketing point. The concept is great, but it would be nowhere without the execution so, in addition to giving MTN and TBWA Orchids, I think the people from Wicked Pixels and Monkey Films (under director Daniel Levi) also need to step forward for their Orchids. It’s wonderful to see visual, marketing story-telling is far from dead in this country.

This is as good as you’d get anywhere else. Another quick Orchid this week goes to a PR person – and I don’t often hand out those because of the generally poor state of the business in this country … especially when it comes to being a cost-effective part of a client’s marketing machinery.

Hardly had the news hit the wires about Prince Harry’s engagement to American actress Meghan Markle, than Amanda Hardy of The Travel Corporation (TTC) in Johannesburg was putting out a news-driven press release to travel media punting her client Luxury Gold’s special nineday Royal tour, which includes all the highlights of the Windsor family’s way of life – from the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace to a tour of Edinburgh.

Hardy is an ex-journo and still a news nut and she knows the value of linking marketing material to what is happening around us. As I start the Onion award this week, I am mindful of two things: that we don’t normally criticise our competitors in the newspaper business; and that I am running the risk of getting complaints about lapses in our own subscription system here at The Citizen.

Also, one is not supposed to speak ill of the dying. However. Given how Tiso Blackstar (publishers of the Sunday Times and The Times) deals with its customers, I am not at all surprised The Times is being killed off as a print product.

My Sunday Times subscription expired last weekend so I tried to renew it online. There was a helpful link in the reminder e-mail, which I duly clicked and tried to pay using my credit card. However, I entered the wrong expiry date, so the bank rejected the payment – quite correctly.

But when I clicked on the e-mail again, I could not repeat the process. Instead, there was a message from Tiso Blackstar saying there was a problem and giving me what appeared to be an e-mail address to click on.

When I did so, I was told the link could not be opened and special software might be needed. I tried it again and, again, it didn’t work. In the meantime, I got a reply e-mail from Tiso Blackstar informing me the payment hadn’t gone through. I replied to that e-mail – and two others I have found on various e-mails. These included real people in the subs department. Five days later – no response.

Citizen acting deputy editor Brendan Seery.

Citizen acting deputy editor Brendan Seery.

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