Columns 25.11.2017 07:01 am

Spar’s feel-good factor

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Online shopping site OLX gets an onion for a search engine that seriously misfires.

It has been a long, hard, stressful year and South Africans have been at each other’s throats for most of that year. So, maybe it is time we took a collective national chill pill as we head into the holiday season.

Let’s forget about the tensions of race, gender, religion, even sporting allegiance, and ponder that we might have actually more in common than we think.

That’s the premise behind a new, eye-catching TV ad for Spar, the supermarket chain. As the normal crowd of shoppers is moving through the Spar, the intercom crackles to life, asking “all grandparents to join us at the front of the store”. There are pleased smiles all round as the various grannies and grandpas wander forward.

Then it’s the turn of “all those who believe in Santa Claus”… groups of kids rush forward. And, as you watch you can already sense what is happening: from being disparate groups of people – different races, ages, interests – they are realising that despite the differences, they have something in common.

Then come those with tattoos, followed by the single parents, the “newly in love” (and, of course the hand-holding elderly couple prove that love is not only the preserve of those with unlined skins) and, finally, by those who will be alone at Christmas.

They come forward grudgingly (no-one likes to admit they’re lonely, after all) and are welcomed by the others. Suddenly, all the different pieces of that fascinating jigsaw which is South Africa are standing up front, united in ways they did not think of and, of course, united by the fact they do their shopping at Spar.

It’s a sweet, feel-good ad from the brand which has positioned itself as the sweet, feel-good shop around the corner. The Spar near us is exactly like that – smiling faces, spotlessly clean and efficient. So, Spar gets an Orchid for reminding us, at a time when we so need reminding, that the things which make us different are much less than those which unite us.

It looks to me, though, that the concept was slightly modified from a thought-provoking video done by a Danish TV station a few years ago. In that work, people are separated into their little group boxes and gradually lured out of them by the things they have in common – from being bullied, to being the class clown, even to being bisexual.

What they all have, proudly, in common, is the fact that they love Denmark. Memorable piece of TV that was and no bad thing Spar borrowed the concept and gave it a South African flavour.

I must say I chuckled a bit when I heard the online shopping sites of a number of local e-commerce operations crashed yesterday under the pressure of the Black Friday onslaught.

While that proves the power of online as a purchasing medium – and a research medium, although I still have my doubts about it as an effective marketing communication me dium – it also proved once again that the techies got caught out. Surely someone anticipated there would be a tsunami of orders and increased capacity?

In the past week or so of using web sites to do some research on used cars (I am helping my gardener buy the first car he has ever owned; he has a modest budget and I will not see him ripped off), I have been frustrated by a number of sites with illogical functionality.

This ranges from clunky search facilities – where the parameters default to the first one used, regardless of what you do – to search engines which simply don’t work at all. And I am not talking now about the deliberate scams you see on used car sites – the ridiculously low prices for cars whose photos have been nicked from somewhere else which are meant to lure you to a place where you can be scammed or robbed. I am talking simply about the digital infrastructure.

But the prize for techie-driven illogicality and inanity goes to OLX. I clicked on an ad for a car in the R25 000 price range (where all of my searches have been centred) and was told the ad had expired. However, the site gushed, it had found some “related” ads for me to look at.

First one up? A used MercedesBenz ML 55AMG for R480 000. Seriously? The rest were similary stupid – including from the other end of the spectrum, with ads for components. So much for your search facilities OLX; so much for any claims you might make about using your data to understand your users.

Fail Onion for you.

Citizen acting deputy editor Brendan Seery.

Citizen acting deputy editor Brendan Seery.

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