Friends & Friction: Careful what you ban – it can backfire

2014-04-24 10:00

The first rule of competitive advertising is to never give anything to your competitors, not even a cold shoulder.

So when a competitor launches an attack, never respond and never ask for its ad to be banned. If you do, you’ll draw free attention to the competitor in question.

Take, for example, the DA’s Ayisafani campaign, which was banned by the SABC.

By all accounts, the ad is poor advertising.

It is, in effect, free advertising for the ANC. It acknowledges the good the ANC has done over the past 20 years then says it all changed in 2008.

The ad would have been “wallpaper advertising” but it now stands out, thanks to the banning. It has also painted the ANC as puppet masters with a free speech phobia.

There are few countries as vociferous as South Africa about their presidents and government.

If you tried “embedding” our journalists with those in power, as happens in the US and UK, they’ll tell all. So why obliterate those enviable qualities with a 30-second, forgettable advertisement?

The ANC might actually have absolutely nothing to do with the banning of the ad and this might be the action of overly enthusiastic or genuinely nervous bureaucrats, but the fingers will always point in the direction of Luthuli House.

The problems of the ANC might be caused by “others”, but it can’t walk away.

It has to face up and fix them because it has the most to lose. As the party that will return to power, it needs an untainted victory to maintain its credibility in the world if it is to continue to attract foreign investors to South Africa.

Its gain is not in giving the DA’s advertisements a cold shoulder, but in defending its rival’s inalienable right to campaign.

After all, not a single member of the DA ever lost a limb fighting for our freedom. So why make them martyrs now over a 30-second advertisement?

If the ANC defends the right of every party to campaign, it will be saying: “You criticise me courtesy of me.” And that, my friends, is the peak of greatness, and it is the right thing to do, as the SABC always reminds us.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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