Orchids and Onions – Investec taps into our angst

The Onion this week – and it is for marketing stupidity and, more specifically, ignoring the Telkom brand warning signs – goes to … me.

Human history is characterised by crisis – that’s the way we roll. But I would hazard a guess that, since the dawn of the Industrial Age, there has not been as much uncertainty about the future as there is now. And I am not just talking about South Africa, where, just when we thought we could see the light at the end of the state capture tunnel, Eskom turned it off …

The rest of the world is topsy-turvy, too. Who, even five years ago, would have predicted Donald Trump as US president, or Brexit? Climate change seems to be getting worse and, as we drown in information, the digital charlatans are everywhere and it is almost impossible to tell fake from real. This is a world where fortunes – of vast corporations or the little people in the street – can change in an instant.

It’s a particularly stressful time for anyone thinking about the future, which you tend to do more and more as less and less of it stretches out before you. Are your investments safe? Will the SA economy implode; will the world collapse into another Depression?

It’s dark, it’s moody – and that angst is captured perfectly by Investec in its newly launched “Partner with Out of the Ordinary” campaign. As the tagline indicates, these are not ordinary times, so you don’t need ordinary people to manage your money … and nor do you need to rely on digital magic or artificial intelligence.

The TV ad to kick off the campaign is from a 60-second film, featuring British actor Nicholas Pinnock and directed by Tristan Holmes, a South African whose work won an Oscar in the honorary foreign film category. It’s very dark and gritty, as befits the tone of the idea, and shot in black and white.

Pinnock strolls through almost post-Apocalyptic scenes, with snow all around. There’s a sense of panic – as in what happens in stock markets, which destroys lives and countries in seconds.

Then Pinnock brings us to the point: in a world of digital ones and zeroes, what you need is a real relationship with the people who look after your money – real flesh, real bone, real blood. And that’s what you get from Investec – that is the promise.

Coupled with the film – and other executions across all media – is a website with the list of questions bothering anyone trying to save their cents. It’s attractive because it taps into the very real concerns people have, but it is written in a jargon-free, accessible way. All in all, the campaign works brilliantly.

So Orchids to Investec, Ogilvy and all involved in the project. Great to see South African-initiated “big thinking” marketing, which can go toe to toe with the best in the world.

The Onion this week – and it is for marketing stupidity and, more specifically, ignoring the brand warning signs – goes to … me.

I have whined here about Telkom on many occasions and swore I would never go fibre with them. But, like a battered spouse, I succumbed to the blandishments of the call centre and agreed to upgrade.

What they didn’t go into were the details. Details like that as soon as your fibre order is processed, they immediately cut your ADSL service. Seconds after the SMS notification popped up, my internet connection vanished.

Three days later the technician did pitch up to install the new equipment, but he didn’t connect the LAN cable, which I had to do, as well as get the WiFi links set up. Then it took an agonising 40 minutes (including waiting to get through to an actual human) on Telkom’s 10210 “Help” line, to get it all working. The last step was to get my Telkomsa.net e-mail back up. But there was nothing there. No problem, said the expert on the other side, “it will come in 10 minutes …”

Yep. You know how this ends. My entire e-mail history was wiped – as has happened to many Telkom clients who migrate from ADSL to fibre. And no-one has been able to rescue those mails. That was evident from the comments on the “community” part of Telkom’s website, where users help each other sort out problems – because clearly Telkom can’t.

I still find it bizarre that a brand would admit its own incompetence by allowing its customers to help each other … and then be quite happy that the site page turns into an angry “bitch fest”.

Still, in the Telkom circus, I am the clown …

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