Ad Critic – the Telecommunications Version

So today on Twitter and Facebook the debate has been about Safaricom’s new ad which started flighting on TV yesterday night. The conversation has been about the ad with alot more people saying that its a nice ad. If you haven’t seen it here it is…


I like the ad coz over the years Safaricom have prooved they can do very emotional very Kenyan ads unlike alot of the other Telecommunication companies.  This ads have endeared Safaricom to kenyans and it does show with more than 15 million subscribers and 7 million people currently with Mpesa lines. If that aint a great company I dont know what is. So from a great company of course you expect great ads like the one above. This ad does what Kenya Tourist Board Should be doing, Selling Kenya to Kenyans in an interesting way infusing music with Kenyan scenery. The ad features a choir who sing the ads score in Kiswahili making the ad even more Kenyan.

a bit of digging online and i came across this ad for Qantas with a similar concept…



A good ad too but the question is there a place for originality or was the Safaricom ad done from inspiration derived from the Qantas ad? I think it might but i dont think it matters, you see the guys who do the Safaricom ads know they need to be relevant in this market unlike everyone else who thinks creativity first. And i agree with them in this market if you are an advertiser you need to be relevant first then creative, unfortunately alot of Agencies get it wrong, having very creative ads which are not at all relevant.

Kudo’s Safaricom, for a job well done. Maybe we should use your ad as a teaching aid for KTB on how to market Kenya to Kenyan’s…KTB thats how you do it.

19 thoughts on “Ad Critic – the Telecommunications Version

  1. I love the Safaricom ad.

    That said, if you decide to compare the Safcom ad to the Qantas ad, as brilliant as it is in every way, it starts to fall short in relevance.

    Relevance from the perspective of what the ad is about, what the ad is selling, what the ad is saying. The Safcom ad’s lyrics are quite endearing. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking. But compared to Qantas ad, it seems like just that – a breathtaking, endearing ad with little relevance to the brand or even to the content of the song.

    The Qantas choir sings about being everywhere in the world and still calling Australia home. With almost every line in the song, you see how well thought out every shot was.

    But that opinion still doesn’t take away from the beauty that is the “Niko na Safaricom” ad. I still give it a big thumbs up.

  2. Funny, we are all talking about it. Safaricom has got us talking!

    And my peeps in the village cant pronounce Qantas and will vote Safaricom anytime!

  3. I love the Safcom Ad and have loved the campaign from the very first scenic “Niko Na Safaricom” TVC.

    I also love the Qantas Ad but as you said it was relevant to the market that it was targeted at just as the Safcom one is relevant to me (read Kenyan).

    I’ve shared with guys in my office (read Lagos, Nigeria) and someone put it very nicely when he said that how these two Ads have been done is mainly because they had the same type of brief presented namely: How do we endear a National product to a National target market. The Answer: Stir up nostalgic feelings filled with pride for one’s country.

    As someone said on twitter: Proudly Kenyan! Lifted from Australia. But I say Proudly Safcom/Kenyan INSPIRED by Qantas/Australia because at the end of the day aren’t we in the business of being inspired and inspiring others?

    Art Director

  4. Wambui and Shiro, you may be right about relevance and endearment. But you may be wrong about ‘inspiration’ here. I believe if you cannot be relevant as well as creative, then you have no business being in an agency. The Quantas ad is relevant as well as ‘ownable’ to the brand. The Safaricom ad evokes emotion, but that’s about it. Any mobile service provider, bank or other business could take it and run with it. the song at least, should be re-written in a way that makes it ‘ownable’ to Safaricom. But personally I’m a believer in fresh ideas.

  5. enyewe, it’s well shot….can’t say the same for “well thought”…beautiful country we have…with the money that went into that ad…many many many (say that many more times) millions…wangefikiria tu zaidi…kidogo tu…

  6. I love the Safaricom ad. The fact that I do not reply to blogs – that simply shows how moved I was by the ad. I agree with Wambui – ie we are in the business of inspiring others.
    It does not matter whether the ad is original or not. What I have fallen in love with is the song. It is uplifting and most importantly it is in Swahili. That appeals to me as a Kenyan.
    Trust me, I am a Safaricom fun; not because of the ad but because Safaricom has executed their marketing objectives in a way that no other telecommunications company has in this country and the ad just reminds me of where we have come from as Kenyans. The Mpesa service as well as other Safaricom products have really improved the lives of Kenyans and the ad somehow brings the main objective of Safaricom of appealing to Kenyans’ aspirations come to life.
    Niko na Safaricom!

  7. For some reason, I wish the music director gave viewers “closure” by musically blending the end of this new song with the now-classic “Niko na Safaricom” tune.

    A little like how Coca-Cola’s five note melody at the end of its current Open Hapiness adverts was aptly captured in the “Oh oh oh oh oh” part of their Wavin’ Flag rendition.

  8. i think we’re losing focus here. what happened to creativity? And though some people are of the opinion that nothing is original, wasn’t everything at some point in time?

  9. “MJ @michaelj2 tells me that Safaricom’s Niko Na ad IS BASED ON THE QANTAS AD & they didn’t copy. Same creative director.” From @LarryMadowo on Twitter

  10. Oh didn’t finish commenting before posting: Meant to ask does saying BASED give you leeway for copying? Meaning that you can either COPY or BASE ON or GET INSPIRED by someone else’s work…

    Also the question begs: Does a CopyWriter or ArtDirector who worked or came up with the concept for a TVC or Ad campaign for one client have the right to use the same idea/concept/campaign on another client just because it’s them who came up with the idea? Because this seems to be the case in this situation.

    @Douglas I hear what you have to say about being Creative & Relevant and I’m also a believer in fresh ideas, that’s why I always fight for more time on briefs before executing because fresh ideas don’t just grow on trees, one has to think, imagine et al.

    But you also need to remember all the ideas that are lying bleeding on the cutting room floor because Client didn’t want to be daring enough to have ideas that are “ownable” to them or their brand; I mean how many times have we heard the statement, “That’s a good idea but I saw this thing in a London Ad where… I was wondering if we could just ADAPT that?”

    I believe in an Advertising industry where we talk to our clients and explain to them why we need the time and resources that we are asking for to achieve great things for their brands. If a company is willing to spend Kshs 60M on an Ad BASED on another, then clearly we are not communicating well as an industry. In the same way we never question why our Doctors recommend or prescribe what they say then our clients should be removed from the school of thought that THEY are the experts and that we are the laborers of their whims…

  11. @ Wambui, i agree with you that sometimes our clients aren’t daring enough to go with the best ideas. For this reason, i think we as an industry need to “grow a pair” and tell them – when we think an idea is strong enough – that either we go with it or we do nothing at all. If we feel strongly enough about an idea, then we should be ready to lose a client if they don’t agree with us.
    That said, i believe we as agencies do jobs halfway as far as coming up with satisfactory briefs is concerned. We don’t do enough research. We should find a way to do better, e.g. we could use focus groups. This would go a long way in convincing clients that the ideas we have for them are the best. Even if it is an idea based on someone else’s. This is because the more i think about it, the more i agree with some people that the safaricom ad hit where it needed to hit. The ‘watu’, who still have no idea and never will, that it was STOLEN.

  12. @Douglas Wow! it’s amazing that the topic of “research” was just being discussed at work like 2/3weeks ago; and yes if we beefed up our briefs with enough insights to inspire 1,000 ideas per client/campaign then that would be the best way to go. The obstacle that you’ll come across however is the cost of research, so can we come up with ingenuous ways to get the information we want from the masses without affecting the client’s costings/budgets?

    I just think if we did a series of seminars & group forums for a week or month or year where the Ad industry’s objective would be to educate agencies & clients alike on what the role of the other is, then our dream of undertaking comprehensive research, rejecting flaky/funny briefs and firing client when they overstep their boundaries would fall right into place.

    However, there still exists things called “operational overheads” and “annual bottom lines” because at the end of the day Ad Agencies are businesses that have to show profit to their shareholders or close shop. So how can all these things balance – keep client happy, generate great briefs, excite daring clients, execute creative ideas, have affordable budgets, pay everyone their salaries et al – without affecting our relevance to the people we communicate to (the very same people who couldn’t care less if the Safcom Ad was copied through and through).

  13. Well, Wambui, seminars & group forums are all well and good, maybe even necessary. But have you ever noticed how much agencies charge clients in the western countries? I believe it’s because they factor in the cost of research. I honestly don’t see a way around it, though i stand corrected. Greed may be the problem here. Do you know that the agency i work for charges Kshs. 70,000 for proof-reading a one page document? From that i probably get 5,000 or less!! Where does all the rest of the money go? And that’s just one example.
    So basically, it’s about priorities and if we all got them right, everyone would be happier in the end. The client will get the best possible work, the agency will get the best possible reputation and creatives will finally get to do what they really want to do and what they’re really capable of. So, more business for everyone, translating to more money for everyone.
    What do you think?

  14. See for Western Countries to charge those large bills you are talking about because they have factored in research it means also that the client appreciates the need for research in the first place. So part of the reason for these local seminars need to happen is to explain to client why research is necessary in the first place, and from there we can then all understand why we are doing what we are doing.

    I quit my Agency job two years ago to work as client because I couldn’t quite understand who these “clients” were and why they thought the way they did. I was lucky to get a good job in an industry that was a little removed from Agency or the life I knew – hospitality. I did learn about overheads and how they affect the pricing of something as small as a cup of tea and it was a arduous & painstaking process.

    Granted that the 70k charged for proof reading vs what you would get in the end is ridiculous and we know that money will furnish the directors with their perks, benefits and dividends but it’ll also contribute towards your salary & benefits, the salary & benefits of everyone else in the room, your tea girl, the driver, the milk, teabags, and sugar that constitute the tea you are drinking as you read this.

    Basically, overheads are killers and when you have to produce the much expected end year bonuses on top of handsome annual profits (this after paying everyone and everything for the last 12 months and having some clients not pay up at all) to be fair there is a minimum Agencies can charge per client/project to survive.

    So yes it’s about priorities but also about everyone understanding what everyone else does and why… as much as we are in the creative business we are also in the business of making money, and clients will only pay money if they believed in the process and they would believe in the process if we made them understand it… and so on and so forth.

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