SPECIAL REPORT: South Africa

Offering great value and locations, South Africa has enjoyed several years as a filming mecca. But is it still pulling in the international crews, and is the local creativity still hot? We went to find out for ourselves ...

As well as being a popular destination for international shoots, South Africa also has a burgeoning local creative industry. But with the emergence of cheaper locations elsewhere in the world, can the country keep its filming boom going?

Martin Cuff, head of the Cape Film Commission, believes measures need to be taken to remain competitive, but for him, cost is just one aspect. While prices need to be controlled by individual companies to ensure the industry thrives, he stresses that new regulations and a centralised authority is needed to replace the previous 'free-for-all' style of filming.

One of his most important initiatives is an economic impact assessment which aims to prove the beneficial impact of the film industry on the local community. Cuff, who is interviewed on our accompanying tape, hopes that once the Government has firm figures, problems with location permits, unhelpful legislation and lack of funding will be addressed.

Oliver Nurock of Reel Africa also concedes that there are many issues affecting the future of the industry. He believes there is a need for greater co-operation between the industry's key producers, crews, talent and local and national authorities if the increasing level of competition worldwide is to be met.

Meanwhile, the local industry, although not as strong creatively as it was, is still producing some innovative campaigns, some of which are featured in our Best of South Africa galleries, overleaf.

The recent ICC Cricket World Cup gave agencies a wealth of creative opportunities. Established director Kim Geldenhuys got the proceedings off to a fine start with a stirring campaign for MTN featuring Nelson Mandela. The director creates a feeling of intense anticipation, despite the fact that the opening consists of shots of an empty stadium.

Greg Gray at Velocity produced some hilarious spots for the ICC which aimed to broaden cricket's appeal by explaining its jargon.

"It's a very simple campaign explaining key cricket terms but it educates in a fun way," says Sue Anderson, creative director at TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris.

"It's like a 70s-style education film that uses the voice of cricket we all grew up with," she adds.

The agency's other work for MTN is also notable. 'Lift' played on fans' superstitions, showing the nail-biting prospect of a batsman scoring 111. The belief is that by lifting your feet, you'll stop him from being bowled out.

'Taxi' took a very different approach and features a simple love story between two people as they journey through the city. Newcomer Gray, a former assistant director, believes the ad best demonstrates his style.

"I love slices of life, real moments, they are more honest and true, especially in today's cynical climate," he says.

Another talented new director is Dule Anicic at Freshwater Films who has produced an amusing campaign for the specialist magazine, Popular Mechanics. The ad is through one of Cape Town's most creative agenices, Ogilvy & Mather, who have also produced unusual ads for Audi. Ogilvy is also behind another impactful car commercial, this time for VW. This action-packed spot features a steamroller wreaking havoc through the streets of Cape Town with the protagonist responding in typical fashion for a VW driver.

It is Johannesburg, however, which is the real creative hub of the ad industry, and is home to top creative agencies, including TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris and Network BBDO.

Network's TV output has been huge this year. In the past month alone, it has shot for 20 days on a range of commercials.

One of the agency's most popular campaigns is for Chicken Licken. The campaign is interesting both creatively and for the fact that it touches on social phenomenon in South Africa.

The Chicken Licken brand has existed for several years, but according to creative Julian Watt, it became uncool to eat what 'my parents' used to eat in the townships - so the brief was to give it a sense of 'cool'.

Its old strapline was 'soul food', but Network felt this had not been fully exploited. The newly created protagonist - a really soulful guy - dedicates his life to helping people who've lost their 'soul'.

Watt explains: "We believed having 'soul' to be a crucial part of being cool. Also, South African demographics had it that people were embracing a more suburban lifestyle - kind of 'selling out'. It didn't take much time before we arrived at our new strapline: 'Soul'd Out?'"

Judging by this collection of work, that's one thing the local industry hasn't done.

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