There are no tigers in Africa - Advertising 101

Really people, there are no tigers in Africa. And we don’t have lions walking in the streets of our towns in South Africa. And it doesn’t always rain in England. And Germans do have a sense of humor. And the baseball World Series really do include the best teams in the world. Okay, maybe the last three pushed it a bit too far. But I am really getting sick and tired of ad people getting it so very wrong when they try to paint a global picture. Or when they try to grab the ‘mysterious Africa’ in their ads. I don’t mind them trying to put an African face to it. Hey, I was born in Africa and appreciate it when people use the images of Africa to inspire others. But, really people, just get the basic facts right when you do include Africa or when you try to include an African story into your ad.

One ad that was so bad that I blocked the company name from my mind was up in Back Bay Station in Boston for a few months. (I know it was a financial company.) It tried to tell the story that they can turn the tables on conventional thinking and conventional actions. And one specific ad had a Kenyan Masai (or Maasai) warrior run across the Serengeti. Being chased by a tiger. The ad is trying to tell us that the sometimes the tables are turned, and that they can help you turn the financial tables. BUT the Masai is well known for hunting LIONS for their entry into manhood. LIONS people. NOT tigers. THERE ARE NO TIGERS IN AFRICA. Can someone hunt down the ad guy who had this moment of ‘brilliance’ please. And then feed him to the tigers. Wherever they might be - try Asia as a start…

Sometimes it is simple mistakes. Unknowingly trying to capture a bit of Africa into your product. And that is especially true when the product comes from Africa. Nothing wrong with that. Except when you associate the wrong part of Africa into the product. For example, Teavana recently opened a store close to where I work. (Or I just walked past them almost every day for the last year and never noticed them.) I really like the shop. Good and healthy teas from everywhere around the world. Problem - they have a rooibos tea from Africa. Well, to be more specific, all rooibos tea come from a small area about 100 kilometers from Cape Town. Right at the bottom of Africa. I know this because I come from that area and my brother-in-law still farms with the stuff. The logo that Teavana use is an elephant. You know, elephants are all over Africa. Hum, not really. No elephant at all in that area. None, nada, zilch, zero. Never had any elephant. Never will. But it doesn’t stop there. The bloody elephant they use is not an African elephant. It is an Indian elephant. The smaller ears gave it away, you see. Teavana’s slogan is ‘Opening the Doors to Health, Wisdom, & Happiness’. I am not happy and therefore not healthy. No wisdom to be found in their messy logo for their rooibos. And I’ll close the door with that.

From my blog at Angry African on the Loose

Views: 47

Comment by Ida Horner on May 19, 2008 at 15:52
Well Henk, I share your despair and it was partly because of such thinking that I set up Ethnic Supplies. I take every opportunity to give talks and re-educate people, that African women in particular are not hopeless cases, sitting at home waiting for handouts.

They are quite gifted and are willing to work their way out of poverty but need access to fair trading terms.

Re: Rooibos tea, I recently picked up a box from Twinnings and it says Rooibos tea from Africa!
Comment by Paul M on August 5, 2008 at 10:37
Thanks for the enlightenment . We share the same sentiments . The world should really change its mindset about OUR Africa !!!
Comment by Michael Blondino on December 19, 2008 at 4:54
Well intended dunderheads me thinks.

I was speaking with a micro-finance president about our corporation in West Africa. We need a pretty big chunk of capital, and I simply wanted to know if we might qualify with their biases. I among others run the corporation, we manage the farmers, we oversee production, we have offices in the countries of operation, and of the many people involved only two are white - if you couldn't tell, I'm one of them. It should be said, that our role is so vital to the success and profitability of the national's businesses if we weren't there the industry would die instantly (we hope for and are working to change that).

So I asked, "Might we qualify within your biases?" and he said, "Mike, we need to speak with the people involved." I replied, "I'm the president of the farmer co-op." "Yeah, but we want to speak with them... " "You're speaking with them right now..." "I mean," he said, "we want to speak with those that are actually doing the business." "I am doing the business, in fact, without me there is no business." It boiled down that they wanted to speak with people who did not have white skin.

It was an easy fix. I just needed to send out a message to all 80 members of our corp, and our chief operations director in the field. If I were a national doing the exact same job, they would talk to me. Of course the guy who walked with me through this journey in western logic was not African. Tigers in Africa indeed.

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