Mon. May 20th, 2019

Watch: South African election adverts from the Top Three [video]

South African ElectionsPolitical parties have become acutely aware of the importance of fostering a solid brand identity.

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With the South African general election around the corner, political parties, determined to win the hearts and minds of voters, are engaged in a war of adverts.

Election Day is three weeks away and for major political parties, which have both the budget and an active support base, the campaign trail has reached its digital climax, intersecting the world of advertising. Political engagements, spanning across social media, television and radio are exemplified by the latest advertisements, intended to succinctly summarise socioeconomic aspirations and promises.

Elections and the art of advertising

In many ways, South Africa’s political landscape is
experiencing a momentous shift, exemplified by the age of social media and the abandonment
of antiquated addresses. In this new era, access to information is prioritised.
Political parties are now, more than ever before, relying on digital expertise
in order to resonate with young voters.

Political parties have become acutely aware of the
importance of fostering a solid brand identity, employing marketing gurus to
further their political campaigns and, more importantly, identify vital avenues
of discourse. The considered approach to political campaigning – especially in
the digital realm – has become a fine art, fit with all the tropes of the modern-day
advertising industry.

Watch: EFF election ad focuses on land

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), known for their revolutionary rhetoric and radical political approach, have made a powerful impact on the digital world – especially through their strong social media presence. The party’s Commander in Chief, Julius Malema, is hyperactive on Twitter and has, subsequently, amassed a huge following – more than any other political leader in South Africa.

The party released its 2019 election advert on April 10. In
keeping with the party’s political ideology, the advert focuses on two main
motifs; what the EFF has done in its short existence and what still needs to be
accomplished. The advert, narrated by Malema, hits back at detractors who said
that the party “would never make a difference”, noting:

  • The party’s fight for free education
  • Pressure on institutions to insource workers and provide better pay
  • Support for the marginalised – particularly women and victims of abuse
  • Land reform – expropriation without compensation

Clever visuals, illustrated, in particular, by a scene which
shows a black landowner give instructions to a white labourer, encapsulates the
ethos of the EFF and its fight for uncompromised land reform.

Watch: DA election ad blasts ruling party

The official opposition party, which released its 2019 election advert on 15 April, pulled no punches. Naturally, the Democratic Alliance (DA) took direct aim at the dire state of national affairs, placing the blame directly at the feet of the African National Congress (ANC).

By far the advert with the highest production value, the DA’s offering is a hard-hitting look at the state of play, employing dark humour through a post-apocalyptic lens. The DA advert, which is narrated by the party’s youth leader, Luyolo Mphithi, is so multifaceted and intricate that it takes more than a couple of views to truly ‘get’.

From depicting the ANC as a bunch of cash in transit robbers, to cadres bowing down at the base of a massive Gupta ‘shrine’, the advert takes no prisoners. The DA even takes shots at the EFF, showing red-clad looters stealing cash from a VBS autoteller.

The DA sticks to its traditional brand of political
rhetoric, as is expected with an official opposition party, by insinuating that
the ANC has destroyed the hope which was experienced at the dawn of democracy. Well-considered
visuals point to:

  • Unmitigated corruption and bribery amongst ANC deployees (a Nomvula Mokonyane lookalike accepting braai-packs, whiskey and cash)
  • Failing state owned enterprises
  • A rise in unemployment

The advert, which is dotted with socio-political overtones,
ends in a stark manner. Taking a shot at Eskom, the scene turns to complete
darkness and silence, which is only broken by Mphithi’s final call to action.

Watch: ANC election ads, ‘voice of the people’

The ruling ANC, which has previously had a rough time in the digital realm – losing its website due to unpaid bills – has improved its showing on social media. The ANC’s Twitter account is active and up to date with the party’s latest political events, offering valuable insight on the campaign trail.

Instead of releasing one independent advertisement, the ANC
has chosen to release a mini-series of sorts, which relies on ‘ordinary South
Africans’ voicing their praise and appreciation for the ruling party. The aim,
ostensibly, is to portray the ANC, in the simplest way possible, as a party of ‘the
people’.

The advert campaign abandons big budgets and glitzy production
value for ‘organic’ appeal. The ads released, so far, seek to restore voter
confidence by focusing on people from different walks of life, including:

  • An elderly Bo-Kaap man who claims that the area was better governed under the ANC
  • A lawyer who claims that the ANC has ‘learnt from its mistakes’ of bribery and corruption
  • A woman, “Francina”, who says that the ANC has provided homes and social grants for her community
  • A young student who praises the ANC for implementing free higher education

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