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Some of the Best South African Digital Marketing Campaigns

Some of the Best South African Digital Marketing Campaigns
digital marketing sa

South Africa has some outstanding marketing and advertising agencies. The country’s adverts and campaigns often claim international awards.

We consider some of the best South African digital marketing campaigns of recent years, along with key reasons why they were so successful.

In this article, we look at:

What the best South African ads have in common

The adverts that really stick with us for years afterwards always manage to capture that special South African culture and spirit. One thing all South Africans have in common is an unwavering sense of humour that transcends the problems we face as a country.

Campaigns that tap into that spirit through our unique South African humour, storytelling with relatable characters and relevance to current affairs always do well.

With that said, trying to pander to your audience by mocking or pointing fingers seldom pans out well. Campaigns that can poke a bit of fun but also offer solutions and a sense of unity feel genuine to consumers.

Trying to veer too far out of your brand’s comfort zone is also a big risk. It has been done before but too often consumers may find the concept amusing, but the lack of connection to your brand will leave them feeling puzzled.

Best South African ads for 2022 and 2023 so far

Already in 2023, some adverts have stuck out and sparked widespread conversation on social media. Here, we look at some examples and also cover the top ads in 2022.

Checkers’ international print ads

Expats in Australia and the UK were probably doing a double take when they spotted a Checkers advert in their local newspaper in February 2023, but it wasn’t a mistake.

The advert pointed out how much more value for money expats would be getting if they were still in South Africa by comparing local grocery prices to the prices back home.

checkers international print ad

Image source: Checkers

But the advert also had another purpose. The adverts also promoted Checkers’ Sixty60 delivery app as a way for expats to send groceries to their loved ones who still live in South Africa.

For many expats, sending money home can be expensive and time-consuming; sending groceries online is simple and instant.

What we learned

The advert definitely ruffled some feathers, but it didn’t cross the line into being offensive. And with everyone talking about it, Checkers and the app got the boost they were looking for.

The advert also highlighted the power of printed media in an age where digital seems to be dominating the world of marketing.

Lekkeslaap’s viral advert

Everyone was talking about Lekkeslaap’s advert in January 2023 after it went viral. The advert took the old advertising adage, sex sells, and turned it on its head.

The couple in the ad certainly did “Lekkeslaap” a lot on their travels, as demonstrated by their nine children (and another on the way) each named after a town in South Africa where they had holidayed nine months previously.

The advert is funny without punching down and also doesn’t need to explicitly state what Lekkeslaap is advertising. It doesn’t even show any of the locations the couple travelled to.

This kind of subtle advertising has become more popular with consumers. It doesn’t feel like the advertisers are assuming they’re too stupid to make the connection.

What we learned

Adverts don’t need to be obvious to get their point across. With clever writing, the consumer knows what’s being advertised without it being spelled out.

The advert also managed to be accessible even though it was entirely in Afrikaans by being relatable and referencing places that most people recognise.

Carling Black Label #NoExcuse Bride Armour campaign

The #NoExcuse Bride Armour campaign in 2022, in association with LifeLine, called attention to gender-based violence (GBV) in a startling and harrowing way.

The campaign features a bridal gown, created by award-winning fashion designer Suzaan Heyns, that utilises various forms of body armour to protect the woman wearing it.

In the advert, the gown protects the bride from the most common types of physical assault experienced by intimate partners. The gown also toured the country to spark conversation and raise awareness.

Carling Black Label then printed their cans with the words “I Vow to Love, Protect and Never Abuse”, acknowledging the role that alcohol abuse plays in GBV. The campaign won the Grand Effie at the inaugural 2022 Effie Awards for South African adverts.

What we learned

Some brands are wary of speaking about a sensitive subject like GBV because it can come across as opportunistic and profiting from someone else’s suffering.

But brands can delve into these topics by remaining sensitive and collaborating with relevant, informed people and activists, as demonstrated here.

MTN 5G Your Life advert

One of 2022’s top adverts from Springbok sponsor MTN utilised the game in a way every rugby fan can relate to – the horror of missing out on the game due to a poor connection.

The buffering we’ve all experienced when streaming our favourite TV shows came to life as the whole stadium comes to a standstill when the fibre of one viewer is being slow.

The advert featured many familiar faces from the world of rugby to highlight the speed difference between fibre and 5G.

The advert was also the MarkLives.com number one advert for 2022. The editorial team cited the “strategy and creative storyline, humour and production quality” as reasons for their pick.

What we learned

Being a sponsor, MTN was clever to utilise the Springboks in a relatable way instead of just having them endorse its services in a wooden speaking-to-camera piece.

The advert also addresses a modern trend that can’t be overlooked. Streaming live sports is more and more popular but requires a strong and reliable connection.

Favourite and top-performing ads from 2021

These familiar favourites from 2021 had tongues wagging and performed really well for their respective brands.

Eskort #ILoveEatingRussians viral campaign

In late 2021, there was supposedly a big story about a Russian vlogger being outraged by the fact that South African’s are eating Russians.

At the time, there was no branding tied to it, so many people were wondering if it could be true and it sparked widespread conversations on and offline.

The campaign won gold in the Performance Marketing category at the inaugural 2022 Effie Awards for South African adverts.

What we learned

By starting this viral campaign as almost a rumour and using realistic footage of the so-called vlogger, many people bought into it and immediately started talking about it.

Also, by not immediately tying the brand to it, Eskort did a good job of launching a viral campaign that generated its own momentum because no-one knew it was an advert.

Spur Freedom Day advert

The 2021 Spur Freedom Day was a heart-warming and very relatable advert on the heels of the hard lockdowns of 2020.

Not being able to go to Spur, or any restaurant, for your birthday was a sore point for many people throughout the worst of the pandemic.

In the advert, Spur staff members celebrate Freedom Day by singing happy birthday to our country, something that many of us have experienced at Spur on our own birthdays.

What we learned

Relatability doesn’t have to be contrived. Spur knows it holds a special place in the hearts of South Africans and it used that connection to say we’re all in this together.

Viewing Freedom Day as our country’s birthday is also a positive and hopeful way of looking at a national holiday that is often viewed as sombre.

Castle Lite’s #HoldMyBeer campaign

When radio and TV personality Dineo Ranaka tweeted about enjoying a Castle Lite, many men on Twitter took issue with the idea of a woman drinking beer.

This sparked a discussion about misogynistic advertising practices. Beer is generally marketed only at men and beer ads often feature women chiefly as “eye candy”.

Using the #HoldMyBeer hashtag from Dineo’s original tweet, Castle Lite created a campaign in which they promised to stop advertising practices that degrade or objectify women.

The company acknowledged its problematic adverts of the past, while promising to “do better” in future. The campaign was timed appropriately for International Women’s Day.

What we learned

This campaign touched on a very relevant issue in the #MeToo era. It also showed that big brands can admit to their flaws without damaging their reputations.

Also, the campaign successfully engaged a demographic that had previously been ignored in the company’s advertising – the estimated one million women who drink Castle Lite.

Nando’s #RightMyName campaign

Nando’s is known for its provocative adverts, with campaigns often referencing topical or political themes in an irreverent manner.

With its #RightMyName campaign, the company focused on something a bit more personal to South Africans – their names.

The goal was simple enough – to create a dialogue about spellcheckers’ tendency to underline non-traditional English names, marking them as “incorrect”.

With the simple Your Name is Not a Mistake tagline, Nando’s managed to engage thousands of users on social media. This included many influencers and celebrities, tired of their non-Western names being labelled as incorrect by spellcheckers.

What we learned

The campaign focused on a concept that most South Africans could identify with and feel strongly about.

Marketing campaigns that aren’t an obvious bid to sell something but address an important issue, especially a personal one, get more engagement.

Omo’s “Father’s Day” campaign

According to a recent statistic, more than 60% of South African children grow up without a father in the home.

In response, Omo launched a campaign for Father’s Day, to give thanks to those who fill the role of fathers in children’s lives. The campaign emphasised that father figures don’t have to be actual fathers and that these caregivers also deserve thanks on Father’s Day.

It’s not just absent fathers that the campaign wanted to highlight. Unconventional family dynamics are becoming more and more common, with children being raised by same-sex couples, aunts and uncles or grandparents.

The assumption that most children are raised by a mother and a father is still prevalent in advertising and excludes large numbers of less conventional families.

What we learned

Campaigns that address social issues are bound to encourage conversation online. However, brands need to be careful not to be insensitive or exploitative.

Omo’s campaign acknowledged a significant problem in our society, but chose to focus on the positive aspect of giving credit to unsung heroes.

Digital marketing with Gnu World

At Gnu World Media, we draw on many years of experience and the expertise of a multi-disciplinary team to craft effective South African digital marketing campaigns for small to medium businesses. Contact us for more information or to discuss your digital marketing needs.