Advertising a city must be quite a tricky proposition. How do you sum up a vast and disparate mix of people and places in a 30 second timeslot on the radio or TV? It’s easy enough if you’re advertising Cape Town (“Shoo wee, look at the mountain, bru”) or Durban (“Look! Dolphins! Schweet!”). But Jo’burg?
The marketing guys did it. They put their heads together and came up with a catchy new slogan; “Johannesburg!” it went. “A world class African city!” They must have been quite pleased with themselves. We have no mountain here. No dolphins. We’re here because of the gold, and that’s all underground. Instead, they went for something that hinted at our role as the country’s economic powerhouse. Way to go, guys! There must have been high fives all round.
Until a chap called Steven Haywood heard the ad. In a remarkable demonstration of civic pride, he leapt to his feet and shouted “Bullsh*t! I live in a festering cesspit! And I won’t have it described in any other way!” And that’s not all he did. He took his contention to the Advertising Standards Authority.
And they agreed with him. “Yup,” they said, “Jo’burg sucks.” “Damn right it does!” grumbled the good Mr Haywood. “And don’t you forget it.”
To be fair, the case was just a little more complicated than that. In the particular advertisement in question, the city claimed to be financially stable, despite having received three consecutive qualified audits. They claimed to be environmentally friendly. They claimed to be creating new jobs. To cut a long story short, they took a rather liberal approach to the truth. And the ASA has told them to stop.
Did Mr Haywood pause for even a second to consider the consequences of his actions? There is often a yawning difference between being right and doing the right thing. Does he wish to bring South Africa’s political life to a complete standstill? What’s going to happen the next time the ANC claim to be cracking down on corruption? The next time Julius Malema claims the EFF is acting in the interests of South Africa’s poor and not Julius Malema? The next time the DA claims to be committed to BEE? These people have election campaigns to run. They can’t afford to go trundling off to the ASA every time they are caught lying.
Campaign slogans are going to look a little sad “The ANC; a better life for some!” “Vote EFF; Julius needs a new Breitling.” “Bugger the ANC and their food packages; Vote for the DA and we’ll organise you a country club membership!”
I urge you to reconsider, Mr Haywood. We need our lies. They make life just that little bit more bearable. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, and that truth and honesty seem like ideals to be fought for, but look at how happy children are, and they pretend all the time. And if you don’t believe me now, wait for our fair city to release their next slogan; “Forget Kimberley! Come to Johannesburg; the whole damn place is a hole.”