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FNB, Advertising, Small Businesses and the Next Economy

29 January 2013, 07:18

Congratulations to FNB on their somewhat crafty Ad campaign. The bank with the slogan “How Can We Help You” have masterfully created the “You Can Help Campaign” which has stirred up a hornets’ nest of controversy and passion throughout the country. On the one hand you have the ANC, highly critical of the campaign, because it is obvious that that the campaign, to a large degree, is pointing its collective finger in their direction, and on the other hand are the vast numbers of disgruntled members of society, sick of the state of the nation and its government, and all enthralled with FNB for saying so in such a manner.

And in the midst of it FNB is smiling all the way to their own bank. After all we must remember that FNB is doing this to promote their brand, and get more business. Yes, like many businesses, they are sincerely concerned with the state of the country, but they are not an NGO, nor a social institution, whose sole aim is to bring change to society, but a business seeking profits.

That is why I called it crafty advertising, and they are by no means the first to employ such craftiness in advertising, Nando’s do so quite regularly, although their content is not on such a wide and all encompassing front. What’s more this is not the first time that FNB has done so. Previously it was its anti crime campaign, which was pulled because of pressure from the then President Mbeki.

Although crafty, it is also brilliant. What better way to advertise your business then taking the desperate state of the country, finding kids who have hope that their future will be better, allowing them to speak their hearts out commenting on the state of the nation, telling it like it is, speaking out of their own lives, expressing that we can all help each other in the innocence of youthfulness and then stamping your brand on the whole thing. Consider this, FNB now owns the hope and desires, expressed by those children, of a better future for the country. By promoting the issues in such a way, FNB has taken ownership of the issues.

Has it worked for them? It must do! That is the goal of advertising in general, to get more business. All companies advertise, in order to promote their products and services, to generate more sales and thus get more profits. There is no other goal to advertising. Judging from many of the comments on News 24, many have expressed their intentions of moving their accounts to FNB. Whether they will actually do so is another matter, but it is well known that when a business becomes a hero, many will flock to do business with it. In this instance, a bank, which most people usually have a more sober relationship with at best is now loved and adored by many. It is doubtless that the former relationship will again become the norm when the enchantment dies down over time.

Which brings me to my next point – Small Businesses and the next economy. There was an article I read in the press called ‘the Search for the Entrepreneurial Spirit’ in September last year. The author stated:

 “ If South Africa is to create five million jobs by 2020 the government, big business, universities, banks and others must help more small businesses to start up and grow”.

He went on to say that the National Development Plan stresses that growing small business into larger business can create most of the jobs that the country needs, but that there is little or no support for small firms to do just that.

How many small business owners must have smacked their collective heads when reading that the National Development Plans encourages the Government, Big Business and the Banks to help small business grow.

As a small business owner who is trying to do just that, I find support of any kind nonexistent. I even train young people when I can in my business, which is online advertising and web development at entirely my own expense, so that one day they might find a permanent Job, either with myself or some other company.

Being in the online advertising business I have solicited advertisers, which would go a long way to helping me grow my business on our 600,000+ page view websites that have been doubling in page views every year, among the Big Businesses and the Banks including the prolific advertiser FNB, all to no avail. All I get when offering legitimate advertising space, to companies who are always advertising online with the bigger internet companies, is a door slammed in my face.

Big Business seem to refuse to do business with the little guys, we are either not big enough or too small, despite it being an objective of the National Development Plan. We as a country need to find legitimate jobs for the unemployed. Where are we going to find those jobs? The public sector is saturated. The mines, which are the biggest employers are going downhill, they are not going to be adding to workforces, in fact some are about to retrench thousands in the near future.

What of manufacturing, I can’t see them creating new jobs in a globally competitive world. What of textiles and clothing or other consumer goods? Not with the cheap goods coming out of china. What about building and construction? Not in a depressed world economy. Even a Public Works Program, though it would create some jobs, none will really be sustainable and will just be recycling tax revenues.

So who is going to create jobs in this country? Small businesses growing into larger businesses is the only alternative to prosperity in this country. Small businesses are the only ones who can employ people, one person at a time. Even the Sunday Times recognised this with the “Each One, Hire One” series of feature articles last year.

The sad fact is that the Raymond Ackerman’s of this world are gone. According to his book “A Sprat to Catch a Mackerel” he used to care about the little guy supplying good quality chickens. He was ruthless with what he paid for them, but he would also always go out of his way to take small business owners on as suppliers. He knew that a flourishing economy was not only about Pick n Pay but involved everyone in society, both his customers and suppliers.

And who are the customers of Big Business and the Banks. A good deal of them are small business owners and their families. Big Business and Banks love us as customers buying their products and services, but despise us as suppliers of products and services. Thus the failure rate of many small businesses is quite high, not because their products and services lack legitimacy or viability, but because the big boys simply refuse to do business with the little guys.

However every small business that goes out of business means another bank account closed, less fancy shampoos and costly foods bought, but most of all less jobs created.

Lastly, As the FNB ads have highlighted, and as we have seen over the past few years, SA is heading for a crises, if it hasn’t already reached one. Many in SA love to talk about African countries as failed states, yet many of these so called failed states are showing better growth than the wealthiest country in Africa, our country. And what of BRICS! All the other members of that grouping have good growth rates, particularly India and Brazil. They, like one of the most successful countries, tiny Singapore, have achieved economic success by taking care of and supporting small businesses.

What of the government! What the government needs is a kick on their collective backsides by the electorate, which is unlikely to happen. But should SA fall into a dismal future it will not only be the government to blame, but also Big Business for not doing the right thing at the right time. It is up to big business to nurture this economy. The government can’t do it.

The only right thing about FNB ads was what the children said, we can do it if we help each other. I think FNB should take cognisance of its own advertising campaign.


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