SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:
Though twenty-five years have passed since Apartheid, its effects are still apparent in South Africa today. During the Apartheid era, when black South Africans possessed names that were deemed too difficult to pronounce, they were often given common western names.
Creative director at FCB Joburg, Suhana
Gordhan, expands: “Imagine that your name was Bonganiokuhlekwamadlamane. Now
imagine that you grew up at the height of segregation in Apartheid South
Africa. Your name was a problem, and so was your native language. The
government decided it was easier to just call you ‘John’. This was the struggle
with identity that generations of South Africans faced under an oppressive
system. Twenty-five years later, the effects still linger and language still
FCB Joburg won the Coca-Cola South Africa
account in 2011, and kick-started their partnership with the soft drink by
printing South African names on cans in the global Share a Coke campaign.
a Coke with Bobby was the 2013 TV commercial and
campaign that saw Coca-Cola swap its brand name to feature 600 of the country’s
most popular names. Additionally, Coke ran a consumer-led activation campaign
which allowed ordinary South Africans the opportunity to have their proudly-African
names printed on a can. In the midst of its success, a can was found with a
profane Tsonga word written on it. The profanity slip prompted discontinuation
of the consumer-led element of the Share
a Coke campaign.
“The ‘slip’ was a very unfortunate incident
whereby one individual took it upon themselves to abuse the ability to put
one’s name on a Coke product. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of South
Africans losing out on the opportunity to enjoy receiving their name on a
Coca-Cola. There will always be individuals who deliberately try to deviate
from the norm, but the joy brought to the larger population is far greater and
more beneficial for the brand than the negative ripple that these acts create
in small circles,” comments FCB Joburg Business Unit director, Struan Bourquin.
Now back with an added educational element,
the agency presents the Coke Phonetic Can
campaign. “For me, this was a very special campaign because I think the subject
matter is especially unique to South Africa,” comments Gordhan on the new
campaign. “I love that a big brand like Coca-Cola can commit to using their
real estate on packs to help solve a social problem. In the past, Coca-Cola has
placed people’s names on cans. However, The Phonetic Can took it further by
adding the pronunciation to people’s names.”
To execute the campaign, Gordhan had an equally
dedicated and passionate team working by her side, namely senior art director
Jonathan Wolberg, senior copywriter Paul Frade, as well as art directors Jeremy
Miller and Yaseen Mahomed.
“Our vision was to introduce South Africa to South
Africa, by putting the phonetics of each name from all the different languages
and cultures on Coca-Cola packs, effectively teaching South Africans to greet
each other, by name, correctly,” Gordhan shares. “At its core, Coca-Cola aims
to bring people together, regardless of their differences. So, this campaign
felt like a perfect fit to do just that in the realm of Share a Coke.”
The FCB team worked with the Department of
Home Affairs to gather names from every part of the country. The list comprised
the most popular South African names in all eleven languages and across all
“We started with a list of over 12 000 unique
names and ended up with a list of 1 000 names to go on packs, which would give
us a high enough coverage of the population,” comments Bourquin.
When undertaking the phonetics challenge, the
agency consulted with linguistic professors from multiple universities as well
as professional writers who spoke the eleven official languages. Together with
these language specialists, the team worked to develop a simple, non-academic
phonetic system to help South Africans pronounce each other’s names better.
“The big idea or concept was that by adding
the pronunciation to people’s names, the Coca-Cola packaging became much more
than an acknowledgement of identity – it became a teacher, a change-maker.
Wherever there was a Coke can, there was an opportunity to learn, or at the
very least, to just try. The can became an invitation to say a name without
fear. It became a way to bridge language divides, an educational tool and a
symbol of cultural pride,” says FCB Joburg chief creative officer, Jonathan
Phonetic Can campaign commenced in November 2018 with just the name and pronunciation
initiative, but by the first quarter of 2019, it expanded with countrywide
activations on TV, radio, cinema, billboards and social media platforms. And,
excitingly, the vending machine model that was introduced with the original Share a Coke campaign made a comeback, allowing
many South Africans the opportunity to get their hands on a personalised can. “The
response was overwhelmingly positive,” remarks Bourquin. “It has shown us that
South Africans really embrace truly South African stories and executions.”
Produced by Johannesburg-based Bioscope Films,
under the direction of Fausto Becatti with DoP Fabian Vettiger, ordinary South
Africans were featured in over 30 pieces of TV and online content sharing the
story behind their unique names. “The brief from FCB was to focus on finding
real people, with real names, and to tell genuine and entertaining stories with
the knowledge that South Africa has such a diverse and interesting populace. A
big part of my treatment was to put an emphasis on the heartfelt or more
meaningful stories to balance out the funny ones, having had a personal history
with a name that is almost always mispronounced,” Becatti shares.
The stories were shot using three cameras:
the Sony Venice as the A-cam; the Arri Amira as the B-cam; and the Canon 8mm
camera as the C-cam. “The Venice was chosen because of its full-frame sensor
with the intention of shooting wide open, and giving us a sense of a medium-format
portrait look and feel,” explains Becatti. “We kept it very simple in the
set-up as our master shot, without too much movement, to act as the most basic
shot of documenting a story.
“The Arri as a B-cam would capture a bit more
movement and alternative angles to keep the edit interesting, and also to
capture more of the character’s mannerisms or quirks both in their way of
talking or their homes or rooms,” he continues. “The C-cam was simple but an
incredibly important choice in the mix because it acted as the purest form of
capturing our characters’ spirits. The 8mm film, not only rich with a sense of
nostalgia but also loose and gritty, meant that we got cutaways that were the
most raw and pure versions of the people.”
The Coca-Cola YouTube channel created a
teaching series titled Share a Sound to teach complex sounds such as the ‘q’
and ‘x’ click sound commonly found in Zulu and Xhosa names. The series has
since gained much attraction from viewers, including a school teacher who has
requested the use of the series in the classroom.
Bourquin expands: “We received a message on
our YouTube channel from a school teacher asking if she could use the content
as a learning tool. This is, of course, exactly the intention of the campaign
and led us to create specific sound boxes which could be used to further help
learners understand how to pronounce our names.”
Radio station hosts such as 702’s Bongani
Bingwa shared their support of the campaign with their listeners. Other
national radio stations went as far as changing their names and jingles for the
day to the most difficult names in South Africa.
In addition, out-of-home activations were
strategically implemented in different regions with deliberately mismatched
languages broadcast to introduce communities to other native languages besides
the ones spoken in that area.
“People who were featured on billboards even
shared pictures of themselves standing under their billboards. These were
shared to social media. I think it meant something for these young people to be
represented by the brand in such a personal way,” says Gordhan.
The project was one of the largest integrated
campaigns ever tackled by FCB Joburg and has been awarded internally amongst
FCB’s global creative executive committees. “Navigating the sheer volume of
content that we created for the campaign to ensure diversity and inclusion was probably
the biggest challenge. This was one of those liquid ideas that continues to
allow us to expand our content arsenal,” highlights Bourquin.
The campaign received two shortlists at
Cannes Lion this year, and Coca-Cola’s No Sugar offering, which featured across
all content during the campaign, has experienced an increase in sales.
“I believe that this campaign is relevant to
our times – a time in South Africa when social cohesion is more necessary now
than ever before,” concludes Gordhan.
Senior art director: Jonathan Wolberg
Senior copywriter: Paul Frade
Art directors: Jeremy Miller and Yaseen
Director and photography: Fausto Becatti
DOP: Fabian Vettiger
Editors: Daniel Mitchell, Tumi Ditshego, Joe
de Ornelas, Keno Naidoo, Jarryd Du Toit, Mohammed Chopdat