Home Authors Posts by Net#work BBDO Press

Net#work BBDO Press

Net#work BBDO Press
As an agency born in the same month as the new South Africa, a crazy kind of optimism is part of our DNA. 22 years later, this belief in the possibility of new ideas and the alchemy of creativity has stood us in good stead.

Bold new leadership move for Net#work BBDO

A breath of fresh air just gusted into Adland, courtesy of the recent announcement of Net#work BBDO’s new leadership structure. TRACE TV Southern Africa regional head – and former SABC executive – Leo Manne assumes the role of MD joining the recently stepped up new guard of chief executive officer, Boniswa Pezisa, and  chief creative officer, Brad Reilly. With founding partner and former creative chief, Mike Schalit moving into a Cheerman/Careman ‘not chairman’ role.

However,  South Africa’s merry band of mavericks hasn’t found much favour with Home Affairs who unfortunately clanged the door shut on intrepid global wayfarer, former MD Gautham Narayanan, who reluctantly departs our shores after four dazzling years at Net#work’s helm. Narayanan, who joined the Johannesburg office from AMV BBDO in London in 2014,  will be taking up a new role at Wieden + Kennedy in New Delhi.

Moving forward in their inimitable, pioneering  Net#work style, Pezisa said the management team had deliberately looked outside the ad industry for someone to help drive a disruptive, innovative business approach.

“Leo is renowned for shaking things up, and given the need to change the advertising business model and deliver true integrated ways of working, management and delivery, we approached Leo to come and help take us to the next level,” said Pezisa. “His drive, business acumen and global digital media experience brings a compelling new dynamic to our team.”

Manne, a Wits graduate, was consumed by the world of radio, first as a DJ on the campus radio station, he then helped to drive the success of the countries first community radio station, the Voice of Soweto, setting up its newsroom. He’s also spent time carving out paradigm-shifting new platforms for the likes of YFM, METRO FM and SABC 1 as channel head, where he delivered a successful and memorable World Cup experience on the channel in 2010.

Manne steered TRACE into a significant brand and business in Southern Africa across its TV, Digital, Events and Mobile business verticals.  TRACE has grown into the leading media brand for the connected Afro Urban youth in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a handful of international markets like France, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean.

In the three years at TRACE under Manne’s leadership, the youthful brand launched the OTT platform TRACE Play taking the TRACE content proposition beyond music videos and beyond linear television, into the digital space. Even more exciting, was the launch of this country’s first youth focussed Mobile Virtual Network Operator in the popular culture space by a media brand, called TRACE Mobile.

Manne’s values, love for great creative work and understanding of how to deal with digital disruption and access to talent across Africa was instrumental to his appointment. He was one of Net#work’s early pioneering partners of breakthrough ideas whilst still at Metro FM, in its heyday of creating some of South Africa’s most memorable and effective, integrated campaigns.

“I go back a long way with this iconic SA agency, so I’m incredibly excited about this new opportunity,” said Manne. “Like many other industries, the media and advertising environment is in constant flux, and our challenge is to find the balance between creativity, innovation, being a responsible social change agent and doing good business. I look forward to making a real difference with the Net#work BBDO team as well as our current and future partners – our clients.”

Schalit concludes, “How exhilarating to see Leo as the Manne to write the next exciting chapter for Net#work.”

Inside the making of the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class ad

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: In 1990, Mercedes-Benz released an iconic commercial aimed at showcasing how its vehicles are engineered like no other. The ad told the story of how Christopher White survived a crash that saw him lose control of his Mercedes-Benz after a moment’s inattention and plummet the equivalent of 30-stories onto the jagged rocks below – a crash that he survived only because he was wearing his seatbelt and driving a Mercedes-Benz.

It has been thirty years since White’s almost fatal accident but he remains devoted to the car brand that saved his life.

Mercedes-Benz recently launched its new S-Class – the brand’s latest foray on the road to autonomous driving. In the new commercial, which takes the form of a documentary-style content piece, White revisits the route that nearly ended his life, this time driving hands-free in the new S-Class.

Advertising agency, Net#work BBDO has been working with the Mercedes-Benz brand for ten years now, says creative director Tim Beckerling. “We’ve created so many great campaigns with Mercedes-Benz over the years, and this one certainly stands out for the whole agency/client team, as it is steeped in so much advertising history and heritage. What a privilege to revisit one of South Africa’s most iconic advertising stories, with the future facing ambitions of the brand right at the heart of it all.”

While the original 1990 spot was a re-enactment of White’s incredible story of survival; Beckerling says that it left the viewer unsettled and wanting more. With this in mind, Beckerling and his team decided to delve deeper into White’s story in the new commercial.

“We sold Mercedes-Benz a simple idea in the form of a newspaper headline ‘Famous Crash Survivor Returns to Chapman’s Peak in Autonomous S-Class’. We asked them to take the leap and imagine those very words on the front page of a newspaper, not only as a description of the idea but as the ambition for the project. To create something newsworthy, not advertising but rather a rich, dramatic story that people would be transfixed by, with the brand at the heart of it. They instantly saw the potential and gave us their full support on the project,” Beckerling shares.

As the starting point Net#work BBDO hired a private investigator to trace White’s whereabouts. Efforts were also made to find the production team that was involved in the original spot. “We spoke to a number of people involved in the production of the original ad but as you might guess, many of them have moved on and since retired. We managed to get Willie Sonnenberg on a radio interview recounting the filming of the original ad, done by Sonnenberg Murphy Leo Burnett, in the early 90’s and the impact it had on the market at the time. We also had chats with Keith Rose, the director of the original piece, very early on in pre-production,” informs Beckerling.

Cape Town-based production company, 7 Films, shot the new spot with Lourens van Rensburg directing. “Tim and myself go way back. We both love anything that is fast and has wheels. We’re passionate about motorsport and cars. We are proud to call ourselves petrol heads. We’ve been wanting to work on a project together for a while now and finally I got a phone call from Tim telling me that he has an idea that we can collaborate on. That’s where it started,” comments van Rensburg.

Beckerling briefed van Rensburg on the concept, while the private investigator managed to track down White: “We managed to locate him in East London and explained the concept to him. He is a loyal brand ambassador and absolutely loves the brand. He was keen from the beginning to be involved in this project,” says van Rensburg.

During pre-production, Van Rensburg and his team soon discovered that shooting the ad would come with its fair share of challenges. “Our greatest challenge was trying to close off Chapman’s Peak Drive. Thirty years ago when the first commercial was made, you were able to lock off Chapman’s Peak easily. Today there are bylaws and restrictions that we have to adhere by. The Parks Board were incredibly helpful and so was Schalk Bloem and his team. We had very little time that we could be on the road. We were not able to close the road completely. We had a rolling lock off which meant we had to keep moving and we couldn’t stop. That made it quite challenging having other cars on the road.  We had to stay within all the safety parameters and obey the rules of the road. Normally when we lock off the road, we don’t necessarily have to obey the rules.”

Beckerling conducted on-camera interviews with White, while art director Steven Tyler gave White driving lessons in the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class. “We wanted to achieve something real and believable. We didn’t want anything to be overdone. We wanted the audience to experience this like Christopher did,” tells van Rensburg.

“Chris was happy and eager to be involved, but he thought we were just making a film about the old story in slightly more detail. He had absolutely no idea that the car was going to be doing the driving for him until just moments before it actually took place. The film is a real representation of his shock and fear around the prospect of this as it happened in the moment and his trepidation really come across on screen,” adds Beckerling. After much convincing, White finally lets go of the steering wheel and the new S-Class drives him safely on the route that nearly cost him his life.

The new commercial was shot on the Arri Alexa Mini, with aerial shots captured by Timeslice Photography. “We wanted it to feel like a modern day Netflix documentary or series… We decided right up front that we were going to do everything on camera. No post-production, no nothing. That obviously made it more challenging but I believe the end result was worth it,” comments van Rensburg.

Additionally, archival footage was acquired from White along with a few others, as well as from the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI). James O’ Sullivan was responsible for editing. “We managed to secure James as our editor. He is an unbelievably young and talented editor who comes from a film background. We wanted an editor that could tell that story in a specific way and he was the perfect choice. The amount of archival and raw footage he had to go through was a great challenge. We believe that we could not have done it without him,” shares van Rensburg.

The spot was released toward the end of May 2018 and by the first week of June it was awarded Creative Online’s Editors Pick and the Best of the Week title on BestAdsonTV.com. The commercial was also featured as a Cannes Contender on Shots.net and popular SABC3 lifestyle show Top Billing did a behind-the-scenes feature on the ad.

“If there is ever a measure of success for a piece of carefully calculated creative work it is to go all the way back to the start and remind yourself of the objective. Ours was to make headlines and we have achieved that with aplomb. We’ve had kind words from people all over the world, from those who remember the original spot and those who weren’t even born when it first aired,” notes Beckerling.

“Hopefully the take out for the everyday South African is that the technology available in every Mercedes-Benz is designed with one critical thing in mind, their safety,” he concludes.



  • Camera: Arri Alexa Mini

The new S-Class commercial was shot on the Arri Alexa Mini, with aerial shots captured by Timeslice Cinematography


  • Director: Lourens Van Rensburg
  • DOP: Lourens Van Rensburg, Mike Ellis, Luke Van Rensburg
  • Sound: Zahir Isaacs
  • Editor: James O’Sullivan
  • Executive producer: Nina Van Rensburg


Net#work BBDO wins Primedia Broadcasting account

Net#work BBDO has been awarded the Primedia Broadcasting advertising account for flagship radio stations 702 and 947. In addition to these, Net#work BBDO will also be doing work for the transversal brands – Lead SA, EWN and parent brand Primedia Broadcasting.

Boniswa Pezisa, BBDO South Africa Group CEO, says working with Primedia will add to the group’s repertoire in the broadcasting and channel marketing space. Having previously partnered with SABC Commercial & Public Radio to turn its flagship brands around such as Metro FM, 5FM, Good Hope FM and SAFM just to name a few. Pezisa says that this relationship with Primedia is an exciting opportunity to tap and build on our radio credentials for the current marketing challenges.

“We are also excited by the opportunity to leverage Lead SA for  Primedia Broadcasting, giving brands a purpose is something that we revel in. As an agency born in the same month as the new South Africa, Net#work BBDO delights in the crazy kind of optimism that exemplifies South Africa two-and-a-half decades into democracy. We love work that celebrates and uplifts the human spirit, that has a selfless edge to it; demonstrates entrepreneurial courage and radio is part of the fibre of the South African story,” says Pezisa, “so we look forward to rejuvenating the category and giving it relevance.”

“Our brands are bold, energetic and dynamic and we look forward to partnering with an agency that has these traits as part of their  DNA and can amplify all of the exciting things we are doing with our brands and platforms,” said Primedia Group CEO, Omar Essack

Net#work BBDO’s strategist to undertake 1-year volunteer programme away from creative duties

Net#work BBDO strategist Kerry Hibberd has been selected from 5,000 applicants to be part of Vodacom’s Change the World programme, which sponsors volunteers to work at an NGO of their choice for a year.

“For the next 12 months I’m swapping creative strategy for volunteering, for a NGO that makes maths make sense to school children,” says Hibberd. “This is an incredible opportunity to make 365 days of difference, and is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Boniswa Pezisa, Net#work BBDO group CEO, says it’s not often that a staff member’s resignation fills her with pride: “I’m so proud that Kerry is going to be making the world a better place for South African school children. But, it’s not surprising that Vodacom sees in her what we’ve all seen over the past few years as colleagues. Our door will always be open!”

Over the past year with Net#work BBDO, Hibberd masterminded the Vagina Varsity campaign for Libresse, which has won 15 awards local and international creative and effectiveness, and counting.

Every year, Vodacom calls on young South Africans who are keen to volunteer their time and skills to their communities, to apply for a place on the Change the World programme. The criteria is strict and only the most passionate volunteers are chosen for the chance of a lifetime to work for the NGO of their choice for a year, fully funded. Hibberd is one of just 20 successful applicants for 2018.

Kerry Hibberd will be working with OLICO Education, an NGO based in Diepsloot, that uses a mix of tutoring and technology to help township school learners improve their maths skills. Specifically, Hibberd will be helping OLICO to develop and promote their completely free and CAPS-aligned maths content to as many school-going youths as possible.

OLICO currently has programmes and resources for learners from grades 1 to 12, and will soon also offer training to education providers and other partners who are interested in helping learners in their communities.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Pin It on Pinterest