Commercials that care

Women in advertising are using professional savvy to create commercials that make a difference to local communities.

Working through the MultiChoice Vuka! Campaign, filmmakers have been able to give a face to real social problems. Since the start of the awards, filmmakers have embraced the concept of giving back to charities and NGOs, which rely on public exposure for fund-raising and support.

MultiChoice has donated more than R70-million of airtime to screen the Vuka! ads on its DStv channels and the film and advertising industry has donated about R30-million in facilities and expertise.

Judith Mofutsanyana, who works for McCann Erickson, has been a Vuka! judge and worked on a commercial for People Opposing Women Abuse.

“While I was judging last year I was concerned by the lack of vernacular entries. The Vukas hold workshops around the country before the competition is launched and I was told that this would be a platform for me to do something about the lack of entries in all South African languages. In this year’s workshops I focused on communication in the relevant language for the relevant target market.”

Just how significant does Mofutsanyana believe the Vukas are for the South African film industry? “They are a forum for anyone, from any walk of life and using any language, to express themselves, show their raw talent and have the industry as their captive audience.”

Caroline Switala from Net#work BBDO has also worked on a number of MultiChoice Vuka! commercials over the years – one of which, for the Rosebank Homeless Association, did well at the Loeries and in Cannes.

Last year she was part of the team working on Tar, an anti-smoking ad that made the finals.

Does she think women approach things differently to their male counterparts? “Women are better at multitasking. We are really are good at juggling a number of things at once … They also bring attention to detail, patience and rationality to a campaign.”

Women have often won the overall professional competition: Cindy Lee for a commercial for Women and Men against Child Abuse, Lizelle Mes for her piece for the Tobacco Action Group, and Annelize Bosch took the top newcomer spot for Lost Sons for the City Mission in 2005.

Their take is often sensitive and personal. Last year’s finalist, filmmaker Marina Germishuysen, was brave enough to document the life of her son Luke Germishuysen, who died of a drug overdose in the heart-wrenching commercial titled In a Heartbeat, for the drug charity Narconon.

“I made it about my son and I used my own collection of photographs of Luke. This is my reality that I wanted to share with whoever would listen. The last picture of my son is an actual forensics picture of him the morning they found him. If this PSA [public-service announcement] changed the life of one person who saw it, then I am happy.”

Entry forms for this year’s MultiChoice Vuka! Awards are available from, or from most major industry suppliers and post-production facilities. Closing date for entries is October 20. Winners will be announced at a ceremony in November

The Mail & Guardian is a MultiChoice Vuka! Media partner

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