Sibukeli Ngcobo, Zibuyile Mchunu, Philani Mkhize, Nicholas Mchunu and Nomzamo Buthelezi, stood at busy intersections in Pinetown, west of Durban, this week carrying posters with the words “Imagine if I didn’t have to stand here” with an image of a purple Nguni cow.
The group piqued the curiosity of motorists and passers-by. It was exactly the kind of reaction, the agency, Brand Factor, driving the teaser campaign anticipated.
Ngcobo, 32, convener of the group, who is among millions of unemployed youth in the country, said they were excited to be part of the project.
Life for Ngcobo took a knock when his parents passed away. His father died in 2000 and his mother followed in 2011.
“All of us in the group are unemployed and struggling to make ends meet. Our stories are different, but the commonality is that we are all desperate to find work in order for us to survive,” said Ngcobo from Clermont, a township near Pinetown.
This week, the group was able to earn some cash for simply making their plight visible. They were paid for four hours of work, money they would have otherwise not had.
“This campaign is great because we get paid for standing at the intersections and are not begging and frustrating motorists. With the money we earn, we are able to buy food. A lot of people have asked about our posters,” said Ngcobo.
Sarah Britten, the communication strategist at Brand Factor who came up with the idea, said the campaign was designed to intrigue and get people talking about finding solutions to our challenges.
The initiative began in Johan- nesburg and was being run in the major cities.
“The brand essence is innovation, and that applies to the way we do advertising too. Instead of paying a media owner to do conventional outdoor advertising, we thought it would be interesting to pay people who are unemployed, to talk about unemployment,” said Britten.
She said the campaign was a win-win for the unemployed and brand.
“The people wearing the posters get paid for doing a job which happens to be something they would be doing anyway, and the campaign gets to be seen by passing motorists in an attention-grabbing way.
“By the time the new brand launches officially, we hope that the public would have seen that they don’t just say they do things differently, they really approach everything differently, including advertising,” she said.
However, the poster campaign was not the only solution driven project.
Purplecow mobi has also released a series of thought-provoking videos on social media platforms since last year. The videos highlight some of the country’s social problems and they offer solutions on how these can be fixed.
So what was the significance of using the image of a purple cow, apart from it being the title of American author, Seth Godin’s book on marketing?
“Cattle are the traditional symbol of wealth and prosperity in southern African culture. Cattle are also a symbol of the global financial system through the bulls and the bears metaphor.
“The campaign is ultimately about creating prosperity in South Africa and the cow is a really neat and memorable symbol of this”, said Britten.