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Louise Marsland

Louise Marsland
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Louise Marsland is an editor, journalist and columnist in the media and marketing communications industry in South Africa, who has been writing about the industry for over two decades as a former editor of publications: AdVantage, Marketing Mix and Bizcommunity.com. She currently writes extensively about industry trends and consumer insight.

Collaborate to win awards – and consumers

The main trend in the world today is collaboration. Particularly in the world of advertising. This was no more apparent than at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, France, earlier this year, says advertising industry expert and former Grey Canada and South Africa CEO, Ann Nurock.

Nurock was speaking at the Media24 Lifestyle Magazine Summit in Cape Town in September on creativity and trends in advertising. The theme at Cannes this year was ‘Thank you Creativity.’

“I liked the theme because creativity really can make a difference. It can change stereotypes, bad social norms, health practices… around the world… Never before have the lines been so blurred between traditional advertising and communications. Everything mixes together.”

What was particularly interesting was the increasing dominance of digital media companies – in previous years at Cannes, the global advertising networks dominated. Nowadays it is the digital and social media companies like Google and Facebook which have set up shop at Cannes and who everyone wants to hear from.

Nurock, who attended Cannes this year, reported back on the key trends and themes she observed for the South African advertising, media and marketing industry, while interspersing her presentation with the impactful and beautiful advertising that won big at Cannes this year:

  1. Technology:

Technology was the overriding trend of the Cannes Lions festival. Technology is bringing creative and brand ideas to life in ways that they have never been before, reported Nurock. She referenced an ad by ING Bank, ‘The Next Rembrandt,’ which used technology, data analytics and a 3D printer to create a replica of a Rembrandt painting, in his style. Everything was replicated after detailed analysis – from the dimensions of his subjects, his painting process, to his brush strokes. “Data was the painter and technology the brush.” Almost 100 million people joined in the conversation and the campaign went viral, reaching mainstream media. As Nurock explained: “Technology is becoming almost invisible, integrated into our everyday lives.”

  1. Virtual reality:

From Google to Samsung, everyone is talking about virtual reality, said Nurock. In a campaign with the 164-year-old New York Times, Google distributed 1.3 million Google Cardboard VR headsets to subscribers of the venerable newspaper to enable them to view a 360 degree short video advert on the plight of three refugee children on their journey to find a new home. It was described as boundary breaking storytelling and an unprecedented collaboration between brands. “What is important to remember about VR,” said Nurock, “is that it is not cinema, it is not an evolution of the video game. VR is giving people an experience, immersing them in stories, in a way they have never experienced before.”

  1. Collaboration:

“We are moving to a world of collaboration. As technology develops, we shall have to collaborate with people who know technology. And they will have to collaborate with us for ideas. Clients are telling us that our complexities are not their problems – they want agencies to deliver,” Nurock pointed out. She referenced a campaign that went viral massively by Burger King, which approached McDonald’s to create a “truce” between the two brands and  “collaborate” on International Peace Day to create a new burger, the ‘MacWhopper,’ with proceeds going to the worthy cause of peace. Of course Burger King’s invite was through a newspaper advert – and McDonald’s refused and suggested a phone call next time. This didn’t stop the internet from going crazy over the idea and other brands stepping up to collaborate with Burger King, which in the end created nine billion impressions for the guerrilla campaign and a successful activation for International Peace Day.

  1. Simplicity, authenticity and the big idea:

“Simplicity and authenticity ruled when it came to ideas at Cannes this year and this is what most of the judges were looking for. It doesn’t matter how much the budget was,” said Nurock, referring to a breast cancer advert for a charity in Argentina. The Macma charity created one of the most successful ads for breast cancer advising women on how to check their breasts for lumps – by using a hairy chested man’s “man boobs” to great effect and to avoid being censored by social media sites. #Manboobsforboobs trended and generated 193 million impressions for the campaign. The most successful breast cancer ad ever.

  1. Creativity can change the world:

As Nurock reiterated: “You can do well and you can do good. It is all about the brand with a higher purpose.” She referenced an ad from Cannes by Heineken, which has actually created a fuel from a by-product of beer, called ‘Brewtroleum,’ which it is actually now rolling out across fuel stations in New Zealand and the brewer has plans for the rest of the world. The campaign slogan of “Drink beer, save the world” was particularly apt and very popular with consumers, winning big at Cannes. Brands are changing the world, indeed.

  1. Stop gender stereotypes and the objectification of women:

Leading women in advertising and marketing and celebrities are calling on the advertising industry to stop objectifying women. Unilever is one which has decided to stop stereotyping women in their advertising. This is what brands must never do to women in advertising if they want to remain relevant to their current and future consumers, Nurock emphasised:

  • First of all, a woman mustn’t be seen as a body prop.
  • Women must not be used as body parts.
  • A woman mustn’t be so retouched so that she becomes unrealistic looking.

• And most importantly, brands must be empathic when it comes to gender stereotypes and measure their advertising against how they would feel if it was their mother, sister, daughter potrayed.

A legend and a car brand make music together

Storytelling is how great advertising has always evoked emotion for great brands. Call it branded entertainment, content marketing, or character-driven content; if it moves you like the collaboration between music legend Hugh Masekela and Mercedes-Benz, which has produced a hit song, it’s winning marketing.

As part of an iconic campaign by Mercedes-Benz South Africa to showcase its range of SUVs released in 2015/2016, a series of short films featuring various local celebrities driving around South Africa in the car brand’s new models have been released via social media over the past year.

The latest and fifth episode of the six-part series for the campaign, “Find Your Best – #EveryTerrain,” features trumpeter Hugh Masekela and MiCasa frontman, J’Something. Their task: to create a song inspired by their journey through the beauty of South Africa and their own interaction.

What has emerged is laden with emotion as Masekela recounts how, when he returned to South Africa after being away so many years, he took a drive through the country to familiarise himself with his heritage. The short film features the stunning scenery of the Garden Route as the two drive their Mercedes-Benz GLS, but also captures the emotion within moving interactions between the two musicians.

The result is a song released mid-August that immediately received airplay and accolades on South African radio stations and will feature on Masekela’s next album. The fact that they have a hit on their hands was not part of the plan, says Selvin Govender, marketing director, Mercedes-Benz Cars. But it is the reason they have now thrown some PR behind it.

The song “Heaven in You” by Masekela and J’Something, has at its heart, Masekela’s love for his homeland despite his exile during the Apartheid years.

Talented personalities

This Mercedes-Benz campaign is a range campaign, whereby all the new model SUVs are showcased during the short films, which are then released via various social media platforms. Each one features two celebs who have 48 hours to produce a “once-of-a-kind creation” which showcases their talents.

Says Govender: “The reality/documentary style offers a candid reflection of a mission to get somewhere, while making something of the experience. These films celebrate our culture and diversity superbly and also showcase the vehicles’ capabilities.”

He emphasised that this content direction was credible, character-driven and engaging and compelling to a broader audience. “We’re highlighting the encompassing beauty of our country and bringing home what South Africans love about our lifestyle while we position Mercedes-Benz SUVs as the best on every terrain.”

Episode 6 is the last in the campaign and will be released in October, featuring the latest SUV, the GLC Coupe and a concept still in the works. Episode 1 featured songbird Lira and comedian Loyisa Gola creating a Zulu song; Episode 2 was filmed in Namibia at the launch of three SUVs with presenter Lerato Kganyago and fashion designer Craig Jacobs on a 48-hour challenge across the desert;  Episode 3 centred on fine dining with Chef Marthinus Ferreira and sport star Mark Boucher on the Wild Coast; and Episode 4 featured lion whisperer Kevin Richardson and filmmaker Adrian Steirn, with a conservation message that went viral, reaching almost a billion people globally and featuring in the New York Times.

J’Something described his road trip with Masekela, saying: “Spending 48 hours with one of my mentors and someone I look up to in the music industry has been the highlight of my career. Listening to Bra Hugh talk about South Africa as his first love, witnessing the beauty he sees in everything – the land, the people, the endless opportunities – and then watching him translate this passion into music was awe-inspiring.

“‘Heaven In You’ is more than just a great song; I wanted to write a love letter from Hugh Masekela for South Africa that captured his relationship with the country and the respect, love and gratitude I have for this land. I hope this song will inspire people to love and appreciate every curve of this beautiful country.”

Storytelling

In an interview with Screen Africa, Govender says the range campaign came from head office in Germany, but that the storytelling concept putting local celebrities in the SUVs and sending them into some of the most beautiful parts of South Africa, was conceptualised with their local agencies, primarily Net#work BBDO and Gingko Agency, led by Adrian Steirn, who headed up the project. iProspects is the digital agency with OMG handling media buying.

Much of what was featured in the final films was story-led and what came out of the interaction between the characters. “Obviously we go through a storyboard of what we want to achieve, but the personalities and on-screen persona is very different and we tried to let it play out and kept it going if it fit the storyline,” says Govender.

“We had no clue we were going to get a hit song out of it. We didn’t ask J to go out there and create a hit song. We wanted him to create a song for Hugh Masekela. J then came to us and said he thought we had a hit there!”

Govender says each episode of the campaign focussed on a particular lifestyle aspect that the Merc brand touches on and by distributing the content to the right channels, they hoped to engage with future and prospective customers and invoke a sense of belonging, our heritage and help them find a match in the Merc brand.

“But more than that, engaging with the audience with local, authentic, great content, was important. Great content is what people are after. This was the reason we put money behind a campaign that people would relate to. And create a relationship with the brand through easily relatable protagonists,” Govender adds.

As far as the numbers go, Govender says the views and consumption of the short episodes of the campaign so far were excellent, and had led to a spike in the awareness of their products, leads and requests for more information.

“We are very pleased. The brand loved what it evoked out there in the world. We set ourselves a few KPIs and we are very happy. The brand is the strongest it has been and I like to think it is because we are able to connect with our audience through strong, relevant content, not just content to fill up the digital space.”

Govender hopes viewers will find the films inspiring. “The fact that our filmmakers were able to capture the essence of this country, the most amazing scenery… it’s a constant reminder of how great this country is.”

Start investing in programmatic video

While ‘programmatic’ is a word that scares media owners and media agencies alike, it’s slowly moving towards becoming a global standard in digital advertising around the world, and is now being touted as ‘the next big thing’.

It’s all about the data. Big data has been a trending topic for a few years now; and as marketers and advertising agencies start harnessing consumer data with the appropriate tools, clever digital folk have been streamlining digital advertising to reach the right customer at the right time using all that data.

Programmatic advertising is simply, the automation – using software – of the buying and selling of desktop display, video and mobile ads, with real-time-bidding. As Forbes magazine outlines: “Programmatic describes how online campaigns are booked, flighted, analysed and optimised via demand-side software (DSP) interfaces and algorithms.”

Programmatic video is when the software is used to buy digital video advertising. And the benefit of programmatic video above that of traditional video advertising sales, is that it uses real-time data to get your video advert in front of the right customer at the right time.

According to Harvard Business Review (hbr.org) in an article last year entitled ‘Is programmatic advertising the future of marketing?’, the first banner ad appeared 21 years ago with an AT&T campaign on Wired magazine’s previous website HotWired.com to showcase our digital future. This was actually the dawn of a new era for advertising and marketing, says HBR. I would add for media owners too.

With personalised devices on us 24/7 and the ‘always-on’ consumer, it was a matter of time before advertising was personalised for each individual. That’s where big data and programmatic come in.

This is what HBR predicted last year: “Soon, every display will be an addressable medium – that is, each will be individually targetable by device and, in many cases, down to a specific user; and interactive displays will not only deliver ad messages but also track consumer response. The result is a new era of marketing accountability, in which advertising ‘budgets’ will have turned into marketing ‘investments’. This sea change in mindset will transform marketing forever.”

When stats like ‘59 per cent annual growth’ and ‘digital media ROIs have increased six times’ are bandied about by major brands in the United States over the past few years, programmatic advertising cannot be ignored.

Demand

According to the Rubicon Project (buyercloud.rubiconproject.com): “Programmatic video has grown partly because internet providers now offer affordable high-speed bandwidth that allows almost every internet user to stream high quality video. This means that more people are watching video online, with some even choosing to ‘cut the cord’ entirely and get all of their video and TV online. To keep up advertisers have been consistently switching their TV dollars to digital, which has been driving up the demand.”

This is great news for production companies, editors and videographers, as their skills will be more in demand, although overall costs for video advertising will fall, because brands can’t afford to spend R3 million on a video/TV ad every time. There will be more call for flexibility and turnaround times will be cut right down to ‘immediate’ as brands respond with video ads or messaging to key issues/ breaking news/ events, as they do with social media messaging these days. Much like TV news crews do.

The biggest advantage to purchasing video programmatically, is efficiency, because unlike traditional television advertising for example, programmatic offers brands the ability to reach their target audience based on their “real-time intent signals”. With programmatic video, if someone is searching for or buying an item online, then programmatic signals the relevant advertising, connecting the real live customer at that moment, with advertising on that item.

Moment targeting

At a Programmatic 2.0 conference in Cape Town in March, the power of programmatic advertising in 2016 was described as ‘moment targeting’ by Steven Kaufman, executive vice president, Integrated Media Audience X, Los Angeles. His company has taken programmatic into real-time with their moments-targeting software which goes beyond profiles, segments and demographics and silo channel planning, to ‘supercharge’ the performance of all marketing platforms and customer relationship management (CRM).

“Think about the digital lives we all lead – the ‘exhaust’ we leave behind is becoming big data… five billion smartphones in the market by 2017; 500 million on social networks; 2.5 quadrillion (one thousand trillion) bytes of data… Now we can take that data and with real time bidding technology, every impression as it comes in has a certain value.”

Kaufman’s company targets specific moments in a day in an online consumer’s life, whether at work, home, the gym or out shopping – however they are interacting in real time during different moments in their day. “Big data doesn’t just inform media decisions, it should also be applied to creative conceptualising and development, including ongoing re-energising of the creative.

Stijn Smolders, the CEO of Sprout Performance Partners, based in Cape Town, believes that the game changer trend for 2016 is programmatic video because the quality and high-impact awareness of video advertising will accelerate the uptake of the programmatic advertising channel.

He believes a growing understanding and awareness of programmatic will increase the quality of advertising inventory and application.

His advice: “Start investing (both financial and time) in programmatic (display) media. There is a reason why programmatic is overtaking paid search in the US from this coming year onwards. Spending your marketing media budget in a fully transparent way where you are engaging with your online customer way before they start searching (pull versus push) for your service or product online, is the only solution to outperform competitors with unlimited budgets.

“The value of the data that you are gathering at the same time is priceless and will give you a huge competitive advantage against your competitors. Conversion data will always outperform and be of significantly more value than click data,” Smolders reiterates in his 2016 trend predictions.

The future of storytelling

Two key themes emerged from this year’s edition of the annual inspiration station, Design Indaba: empathic design and storytelling.

Design Indaba 2016 was back at the home where it started – the Artscape theatre complex in Cape Town, bringing a more festive and inclusive atmosphere to this dynamic event on the creative industries’ calendar.

It was fitting that on its 21st ‘birthday’, it reinvented itself once again:  bringing music, theatre and performance art onto the stage and outside the venue, where everyone congregated around Cape Town’s famous food trucks; becoming more ‘street’ and more unified.

Design Indaba founder and CEO, Ravi Naidoo, has big plans for the future,  to make Design Indaba – which has always attracted speakers from the best creative agencies, design shops, brands, arts and global influencers in various crafts – more experiential and more of a festival than a conference.

The expo is no longer in a hall. Instead delegates are encouraged to take to the streets on specific evenings to experience ‘open’ Cape Town at various galleries and art installations; through music, film and theatre; and various other events in the city linked to the future of design across many spheres.

Design Indaba has always been at the cutting edge of new design thinking, best of breed, standing head and shoulders above anything else in the world in this category of event (probably only the mega-SXSW technology and art festival in Austin, Texas, USA, comes close to the level of innovation and thought leadership).

I’ve been attending Design Indaba for a decade and there is always one speaker who changes your life with their work and their philosophy on changing the world – because that is what modern design thinking is all about, how to make the world a better place through developing global solutions to the world’s problems through creativity and empathic design.

Immersive storytelling

This year didn’t disappoint and for me, that speaker was Alex McDowell, an award-winning designer and immersive storyteller, who builds future worlds and global solutions. As founder and creative director of 5D Global Studio, he works at the intersection of emergent technologies and experiential media, building film sets for futuristic movies like Minority Report, Fight Club, and Man of Steel.

He is also a Professor of Practice at USC School of Cinematic Arts where he is the director of the USC World Building Media Lab at the California school, also leading the USC World Building Institute [http://worldbuilding.institute/], a renowned multidisciplinary knowledge space.

McDowell uses disruptive narratives to imagine – and build – tomorrow’s world today. Storytelling is a way to make sense of the world around us – it has been that way since the first humans used stories to aggregate experiences for future generations.

The problem with current storytelling, is that through books and movies, we have become used to the narrative coming from a single individual at a time, who steers us in a directed way, says McDowell, rather than from our collective ‘tribe’.

He is enthralled with this new ‘post-cinematic’ era we are going into, where virtual reality tools will transform our narrative through immersive storytelling.

“Virtual, mixed reality tools do something more than provide a new gimmick to sell hardware, they fundamentally change the narrative space. We need to pay attention to the entire world space for the sphere of opportunities around us. This is as big a disruption as the beginning of cinema. And it will fundamentally change how we feel about storytelling.

“The tribal stories that were told to help us survive are back in our hands. We probably need these kinds of stories to help us survive the current craziness. (Immersive storytelling) is specifically to do with how the narrative is embedded in the world around us,” McDowell recounts.

“The origin of storytelling is now at the centre, it is no longer linear narrative. The world space is constantly informed by the human story at its centre. We all inform each other and the world evolves and becomes more and more informed.”

A brave new world

When he conceptualised the world for the movie Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise, there was no script. The story evolved from the world that McDowell imagined – as did several dozen inventions that we are exposed to today, like driverless  cars, drones, gesture-led communications devices. All imagined for the movie, and now part of our real world.

“The design of the (Minority Report) world preceded the telling of the story. The world became a container for the telling of hundreds of stories, if we had wanted. World building stimulates complex systems. We looked at mobility, time and space, the individual and his or her environment, large scale wearables, transportation and how it would change through a new language for vehicles… We could have looked into the future of urban planning, the effects of the environment on the consumer, how it changes the future of shopping, for example…” he explains.

And herein lies McDowell’s contribution to society – using his creative skills and knowledge to help imagine real-world solutions to society’s ills through the same techniques he uses to for these Hollywood blockbusters.

“Poverty is a social construct, a design flaw. We can undo it. To extrapolate and imagine (a new world)… We use storytelling to create the disruption we need… to powerfully change the world. It is something in our hands today,” says McDowell.

It is a special blend of traditional practice and new technologies to apply his craft to design a new world for the human race. His presentation was mind-blowing, but his impact on our human narrative will most certainly leave a superior legacy for future generations.

Five trends for SA advertising

For the advertising and marketing communications industry this year, there are five distinct trends that every creative and strategist need to focus on, to be prepared to deal with the tougher economic times predicted for 2016 and 2017.

  1. Content: The way we strategise content, present content, produce content and distribute content has changed the entire communications industry. While media downsizes, ad agencies and PR firms are establishing newsrooms and 24 hour teams to manage client content channels. It’s not just about content marketing and how that has changed marketing communications, but the way consumers consume content. Video is the big focus this year and everything needs to have an interactive, visual element, incorporating multiple social media channels.

    The fact that we humans now apparently have an attention span of eight seconds – less than that of a goldfish – also leaves marketers scrambling to get and keep our attention. The way to do this is through authentic content, storytelling, giving brands a purpose and tapping into the values that consumers hold dear. What are brands doing to enrich their lives, and add value? This will be even more important as the drought and poor rand result in steep increases in food and basic necessities prices during the year. It will be a tough year. Brands need to empathise with the consumer and help ease their hardship to keep consumers loyal.

 

  1. Integration: Advertising agencies have been searching for a new business model for a good few years as the digital revolution made every consumer an opinion waiting to be aired and changed the marketing communications landscape from a communications channel influenced by marketers, to a “demand-based media system” led by the consumer (Source: David Smythe, FCB Cape Town) . The move to true integration of all services, including business services, for clients, will position advertising agencies as innovation shops to guide brands in new product development, brand strategy, and mapping their future strategy based on mega-trends. The leaner, meaner, more focussed agencies will be able to deliver business and product solutions to clients, at the faster turnaround time demanded in this digital age.

 

  1. Africa: Africa remains the continent with a middle class showing growth to rival India; the youngest population; and abundant resources. Lacuna Radar reports in its ‘African Foresight and Trends Radar 2020’, that Africa has the potential to construct more wealth in the next 35 years, than the $1.3-trillion that it has amassed in all of history: “This impetus will be driven by technological innovation that is enhancing intelligence, reducing costs and accelerating performance capability to create value 10 times faster than 100 years ago.”

    Africa may double its economy every 12 years to reach $2.6-trillion by 2027; and $13-trillion by 2050, predicts Lacuna Radar, citing the following reasons: “A forecast of 5.2% growth, an estimated $13-trillion in extractable energy, a comparative advantage in solar energy, a young and fast-growing middle class, the rapid absorption of mobile connectivity and communication technologies enabling sophisticated tracking and interpretation of big data.” This is certainly the place to be!

 

  1. Youth: From the Millennials to Generation Z, the youth are influencing consumer culture and brand decisions at a rate faster than their parents and the baby boomer generations before them. The Millennials, also referred to as Generation Y, are the first truly digital generation, living in a world with the internet and instant communication devices that their parents (my generation) only read about in sci-fi novels when they were young.

    They have given us a consumer-led generation that is comfortable with seeing their own identity and aspirational values tied up in a brand’s image. Social media has become their ‘social life’ and they are embedded in technology to the extent that their platforms are an extension of their personality. Because their brands are so tied up in their sense of self, authenticity is demanded from brands across the board. Be true, don’t ‘manipulate’ or they will destroy you (Source: Brian Mitchell & Evan Mitchell, Love & Wine agency, Australia).

 

  1. Purpose: Purpose-driven marketing and sustainability. It is no longer a paragraph in the annual report or a scorecard imperative, but a consumer-led, brand enabled, revolution. More and more, consumers want to know product source; product ingredients; and how the community which made or sourced the raw materials for the products, have benefited.

    This will become even more important as a weak rand, coupled with our worst drought in decades, sees food prices and many other consumables rising dramatically this year. Cash strapped consumers will be influenced largely by price and value as food shortages and high prices bite. So in order to keep consumers loyal, brands need to be seen to meet their needs and those of the communities they serve. This is a time for honesty and authenticity in brand building, for brands to show their purpose in aiding consumers and their families during these tough times.

Feeding reality TV

Cooking shows have been on trend and among the hottest shows on television in recent years and a big trend for next year is fire and traditional, open-air cooking methods, says local TV reality star and cook Justin Bonello of Cooked in Africa films.

“Fire interests me. I always try to take on something for me too – two years ago I did the Karoo, this time it is fire, Bonello told Screen Africa. “Fire is such a primal thing to me; I’m interested in what drove us as a culture of using fire. We used it as protection, warmth.

“Whether you are in South America, India or South Africa… it’s hot wired into our DNA. But what is it that makes us all gather around it when nights are long and friends are few? We all use it. I want to turn back the clock a few hundred years to when everything was cooked on fire. I want to go back there for a bit.”

Reality TV shows are gaining ground in South Africa and our content is being noticed by the world, with a series of recent successes charted by Cooked in Africa, which is celebrating selling the rights to its Ultimate Braai Master to global format rights giant, All3Media.

Cook-out

 Cooked in Africa films is led by executive producer, former Ogilvy adman and founder, Peter Gird and Justin Bonello, creative director, TV celebrity cook and founder of the ‘Cooked’ series. They have produced Ultimate Braai Master for four seasons now, premiering currently on e.tv, with the fourth series firing up a weekly TV audience of 1.7 million viewers (4.4 AR) on Sundays. The Saturday repeat brings in another 500 000 viewers.

All3Media has secured options for the replication of the franchise in other braai-loving locations such as America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and even Poland and Sweden. Of course in some regions it is called a barbeque. ‘Ultimate Barbie Master’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it though.

Ultimate Braai Master, the local version, has also gained international fans after it was broadcast on international food channels, and Bonello says it is airing on Discovery Channel soon too. UK-based distribution agency TVF has also recently sold the first two seasons’ broadcast rights to Latin America. It will start airing in 2016.

Gird said the strategy to move the show to a weekend off-shoulder slot locally had paid off, with a massive increase in viewers from the average 600 000 prime-time viewers SABC3 brought in on the first two seasons.

Cooked was Bonello’s road to reality fame and entry into the television production industry and after a successful 10 years, Bonello is launching Cooked: The Reunion with his original pack of friends and travellers, on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.

The format is a two month road trip across the island with his friends – who, like Bonello, have ‘grown up’ and married, had families, built careers – joining the production for a week or two at a time.

“We’re still the same people, the same group of friends. I’m fortunate. But how we live now is different. We own homes, have debt, kids… It will be special… a trip down memory lane.”

Grilled not fried

In the decade since he conceptualised, starred in and produced Cooked on a limited budget with this  same group of friends as extras and helpers, Bonello admits he has learnt a lot about movie-making and production and the reality of reality show budgeting.

“I love reality. There is something so amazing about it, you have to construct stories around it, but reality allows you to have a construct where you can get people as they are. Reality TV is exploding, it is phenomenal. But no matter what genre you are in, you have to produce good stuff.”

Bonello’s new show Fire is still in pre-production and feeds into the current cooking trend: ‘fire’ will see him exploring how cooking has evolved through the ages from when man learned to cook with fire, to how people currently cook with fire all over the world, latest fire recipes, traditions and culture. His love for this ‘umami taste’ will take him from Argentina spit fires to American barbeque culture, Asian street fires, Mediterranean tastes, and of course the Australian ‘barbie’.

Apart from looking at the various cooking methods, with Fire, Bonello will also be looking at the ritual of fire, the origins of cooking with fire and modern man’s advancement with fire. It is that storytelling that Cooked in Africa is so good at portraying and a key reason why their productions are so successful.

“There’s a point in our history where we were all hunter gatherers, but fire enabled us to manipulate our environment and we strolled out the jungle. For me, no fire is the same. I want to tell this story,” Bonello adds.

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