South Africa May Want To Rethink That Commercial

23 Apr

April 23, 2013

I was watching The Apprentice on Sunday and the contestants had to create an ad for South African tourism. Lil Jon was excited because he wanted to do something exciting about safaris. After all, that is what most people think of when they consider going on a vacation to South Africa. However, the South African Tourism people did not want to focus on that. They wanted to focus on things people don’t immediately think of, like vineyards and golf.

Personally I think that is a mistake. If I want a wine and golf vacation I can stay in the United States and skip the twelve-hour international flight. I can also skip the jet lag, the language barrier, the twelve-hour international flight home, the jet lag on the trip home, the lost luggage, etc, etc, etc.

And there is this: During The Apprentice, Gary Busey repeated ( and repeated and repeated) to the South African executives how years ago, when he was shooting a film in Johannesburg,  he heard some people being murdered right behind his hotel.

That did not go over well with anyone.
sa logo

South Africa has been spending a lot of money lately to promote their part of the world. Here in NYC, they sponsor the traffic reports on the all-news station I listen to during my drive to work. However, I am not their target audience. They are aiming at an upscale (and specifically white) demographic that has never considered traveling to South Africa. The attractions they focus on are:

– Golf
-The Nelson Mandela Museum
-Beautiful sunsets
– Street festivals

Take out the Mandela museum, and what is on that list that I can’t do in almost any other country of the world? To be fair, one of the people in the radio ad does say there is nothing like hearing a lion roar up close, but on the other hand, I heard lions roar in The Bronx Zoo, The London Zoo, and The San Diego Zoo. And what is a nature preserve in Africa but a bigger zoo?

However, although I think their focus may be misguided, there is a particular part of the radio ad that I truly believe the South African tourism board really needs to rethink. I can’t find it online, and I have not managed to make a recording of it, so I’ll have to describe it to you as best I can.

The premise of the ad is that a man and a woman are describing their recent South African vacation, but there was so much to do that they only have time to talk about their top five favorite things. The couple’s voices and their interests are very, very, stereotypically white. You just know they are the kind of people whose idea of rocking out is to put on some James Taylor and then fall asleep to his sonorous tones. (I’ve seen fire, I’ve seen rain….sssnnnnnzzzzzz.) For an exciting evening they drink an extra glass of wine, watch John Stewart, and phone in a donation to PBS. They may even read a ribald article in The New Yorker.

Anyway, they list the first few things they loved: golf, wine, sunsets, The Mandela Museum. You know, all the stuff people want to see in South Africa, not the wild animals or nature preserves. Not the savannah or native villages. You know, stuff like golf, which I can do right here at home, and wine, which I can get right here at home, and sunsets, which I can see right here at home (or anywhere else in the world- they have the sun in the North Pole too, just not every day.)

I do admit that I can only see The Nelson Mandela Museum in South Africa, but truth be told, I wouldn’t go there anyway. There are plenty of museums in NYC I haven’t been to either.

(And just as an aside, did you see there is a reality show about Nelson Mandela’s family?  What a way to honor your family legacy, Mandelas. You should be so proud. They fight and argue and act stupid like every other stupid reality show. One granddaughter says “when I spend money it has my grandfather’s picture on it!” Ladies and gentlemen, brains like that do not come around every day.)


But to get back to the radio commercial, there is still one highlight to go. I’ll try to recreate it as best I can.

VERY WHITE SOUNDING MAN: You know, you really impressed me when you joined the Soweto Street Party and learned the latest local dances.
VERY WHITE SOUNDING WOMAN: You weren’t so bad yourself. I didn’t know you had moves like that.
VERY WHITE SOUNDING MAN: You didn’t know you married a Zulu Warrior, did you?

Does anyone else see a problem here? Did you catch it?

Go back and reread it.

And now I will rephrase it for you.

WHITE WOMAN: You weren’t so bad yourself. I didn’t know you could dance so well.
WHITE MAN: You didn’t know you married a black man, did you?

Get it? When she compliments his dancing and his rhythm, he compares himself to a black man.

And never mind the fact that the proud history of the Zulu Nation has been dumbed down to them simply being great dancers.

BTW- until I googled it for this post, I was sure he said “Sweater” Street Party.

This could all be attributed to some dumb USA ad agency at work. God knows they create enough dumb ads, but as seen on The Apprentice, the people in charge of the tourism board are a pair of South African women. They really ought to have known better.

Donald Trump with the brains behind South African Tourism.

Donald Trump with the brains behind South African Tourism.

4 Responses to “South Africa May Want To Rethink That Commercial”

  1. dj April 25, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    I googled the line “you didn’t know you married a zulu warrier, did you?” because something about that ad really rubbed me the wrong way. I am glad to find I am not the only person who did! Reducing a culture to “moves” in a street fair in an area with the history that Soweto has just seemed so much slumming, for one thing.


    • bmj2k April 25, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

      The first time I heard it struck a sour note. And overall, I think the entire ad campaign is ignoring what Africa is really about in favor of generic, non-cultural pursuits.



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