This Emirates airline print ad (pictured) is refreshingly different… and clever and pragmatic in marketing terms.

It’s not the normal young gorgeous models in exotic places that you’ve come to expect with many brands these days, but it’s particularly in evidence in the travel industry.

The reality, though, is that the “silver foxes” – the older, perhaps retired people – are the ones who travel because they have the money to do so.

It’s also a refreshing sign of a rowback from the prevailing ad wisdom of about 10 to 15 years ago, which had it that the future belonged to 18- to 24-year-olds.

We ourselves fell victim to that, trying to make the Saturday Star for funky young kwaito fans. We probably annoyed many of you in the process before we realised the reality that people in that age group don’t read newspapers.

They do return to us later in life, when they mature, have kids, get a house and general responsibility (and clearly some wisdom, I would add).

Normally, we see older people in ads for retirement schemes, or even, horror of horrors, adult diapers. An Orchid for Emirates for breaking that mould and fishing where the bigger fish are.

Anywhere else on the planet – except North Korea perhaps – a CEO who handled a brand launch as badly as Sanral’s Nazir Alli has with the Gauteng Free Improvement Project, would have been fired. Or resigned in shame.

(And, dear readers in other, non- e-tolled parts of the country, don’t think you can smirk: they’re coming to build new highways for you too… and someone’s got to pay for them. So what happens in the next two weeks in Gauteng also affects you.)

Alli was in fine obfuscating form on radio this week (he won’t talk to newspapers like us) when he blustered on about journalists on some publications which “have an agenda”.

Yet the whole of Sanral’s “marketing” campaign – if you can glorify it with that label – has been based either on untruths, misleading information, evasion or, most worryingly, intimidation.

Which brings me to the subject of this week’s Onion which goes, funnily enough, to Sanral for its latest print ads which continue the theme of its recent intimidatory tactics.

Print ads have been running all over the province which say, in big print, “Don’t get caught”. Less prominent in font size, and more difficult to read because the white type washes into the orange background, is the next line, which says “in traffic”.

The first-glance impression is, deliberately I think, that you wayward motorists will get caught – and we’ll do something nasty to you.

And, even if you read the “in traffic” bit, the message is: we’ll get you.

It’s heavy-handed and, in the current climate of anger among Gauteng motorists, does nothing to help Sanral’s campaign to get people to buy e-tags.

So, Sanral and your boss, come and get your third Onion from us.

But to show I don’t have an agenda, here’s a little tip about what could have been a highly effective way to get people to buy e-tags.

Make a campaign which centres on the fact that, with an e-tag, your vehicle is safe from the horrors of number plate cloning.

That’s really positive.

Oh, and if you use it, please make my royalty cheque payable to the Arrive Alive campaign…