Orchids and Onions: From Japan with love

The carmaker gets our heritage right with a giant bead ad, but Tonneau King’s bakkie braaiers are just plain stupid.

This Heritage Day weekend, it was to be expected brands would try to capitalise by aligning themselves with the sentiments.

The problem with doing something like this is that unless it is authentic and has a net benefit for society – in a number of ways – it can backfire.

This week’s Orchid and Onion will honour a brand which got it right and one which got it not only wrong, but dangerously so.

First up is Toyota and, if any brand has a heritage in this country, it is the Japanese carmaker. From its arrival here in the ’60s – when, believe it or not, it was dismissed as “rubbish” by those loyal to American and British car makers – Toyota has grown to be one of the biggest and most trusted brands in SA.

Most trusted? Well, ask yourself: How often do you hear of a Toyota letting down its owner? Exactly.

It’s become such a part of South African life that I bet eight out of 10 people when asked about the Toyota slogan would say: Everything keeps going right. That hasn’t been around for decades, yet it is still top of mind for many.

One of the models which made the company great in this country was the Corolla, which was one of the first on the production line when Toyota started its factory in Prospecton outside Durban in the ’70s.

To honour the Corolla on Heritage Day is, by itself, a great idea. But the way Toyota and its long-standing ad agency FCB Joburg (another heritage of great work and great understanding between client and agency) have done so is remarkable.

They have erected a giant Corolla billboard alongside the M1 in Joburg … and the artwork is comprised entirely of beads.

I am told the beaded billboard measures 12m by 9m, weighs more than a ton, and contains more than 138 000 individual beads sewn together by 350 crafters from Woza Moya.

Toyota and FCB Joburg identified Woza Moya (Come Spirit of Change in IsiZulu language) – which is the economic empowerment project of Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust – as the perfect partner. Started in 2002 with five beaders making Aids ribbons at a local church, the project now supports more than 350 crafters, most of whom have five to 10 dependents.

“In the Zulu culture, love letters are traditionally crafted out of beadwork by Zulu women – each is a work of art and totally unique. This truly South African declaration of love seemed like a fitting way to celebrate South Africa’s most-loved car.” That’s what Toyota and the agency said when announcing the billboard.

And I must say I can’t put it better than that.

It’s authentic, it’s something which will help make a difference … and all the while it conveys a great marketing message.

So, in handing over Orchids to Toyota and FCB Joburg this week, I would repeat what I have said many times: this marketing partnership (which stretches for well over 40 years) has left South Africans with a heritage of real great all-local advertising.

Also jumping on the Heritage Day bandwagon (or perhaps I should say bakkie) was Tonneau King, maker of covers for load areas on bakkies.

Linking it with National Braai Day (which is what you do if you don’t care for the heritage hype), Tonneau King set out to make a funny ad.

We see two khaki-clad okes rolling back the load bay cover and anchoring a lit Weber-type braai on the back. They then sit on part of the cover next to the cab … and off they go, tailgate hanging open and a pack of Castle Lagers perched precariously there.

As they trundle down the street, they pick up pedestrians who want to hop on the mobile braai and share the sense of occasion. Why, there is even a domestic worker who can’t resist …

The punchline (in Afrikaans) is along the lines of: you don’t have to stand still to braai.

The ad has been noted by driving safety organisation Arrive Alive, which didn’t exactly pan it, but said that none of the behaviours shown in the Tonneau King video is good for road safety – or for burn safety.

I agree. Although I am not a great one for the “health and safety” restrictions of a nanny state – and even though I have done some dangerous things in my youth – I think this is reckless. Someone is going to copy your idea, Tonneau King. Braais, beers and bakkies can become a lethal mix.

For encouraging stupidity, you get an Onion from me …

Brendan Seery.

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