Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Zimbabwe: Mugabe "funds" Opposition Paper's "Trillion Dollar Ad Campaign"

Back in January, the charge to park your car at Harare airport was 400 billion Zimbabwe dollars, which translates roughly to 1 USD. To put Zimbabwe's record breaking inflation out of its misery even the Germans have tried to force Giesecke & Devrient, the company that supplies Zimbabwe with the special blank sheets to print its currency, to stop doing with business with the regime. Maybe that explains why the country's mint was running out of paper last year.

Forced to introduce the 100 trillion dollar note (about 300 USD) or risk people dragging sacks of money in order to hail a cab, it is now beyond the obvious that the most damning evidence of the fall of Zimbabwe as well as Robert Mugabe's ineptitude is the now worthless Zimbabwean dollar Zimbabweans carry around in their wallets.

The idea to use this evidence of the collapsed currency against the present regime is the brain child of the South African advertising firm TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris. Using the worthless notes as its canvas, TBWA has launched a disruptive campaign to promote the The Zimbabwean, a newspaper whose journalists and operations Mugabe and Zanu-PF have not only bullied, beaten and driven into exile, but have also slapped an import "luxury" duty of over 55% on, making the newspaper unaffordable to the average Zimababwean.

"The note cannot buy anything, not even a loaf of bread and certainly not advertising," says the TBWA, "but it can become the advertising."

The advertising itself is aimed at the more affluent readers or supporters of the paper in South Africa.

According to the paper:
In Zimbabwe, the money is so worthless, that banknotes are cheap alternative to paper - meaning its cheaper to use the notes themselves for printing onto than buying the paper with the currency.. The Zimbabwean newspaper calls upon South Africans to “Fight The Regime That Crippled a Country”.

The call to arms is written on worthless Zimbabwe bank notes… using billboards, wall posters and via direct mail to South Africa’s top corporate executives. The creative and eye-catching campaign has caused a stir on the streets of Johannesburg and has been reported by media around the world...

While the publishers still import their newspapers into Zimbabwe, the number of Zimbabweans that can be reached is now limited by their ability to pay the duty. Meaning that the only way they can deliver the newspaper into the hands of those who it need most is by subsidising it with the copies and advertising sold in South Africa.

So, they ask South Africans to buy it, companies to subscribe to a bulk run for their outlets and offices and to consider the Zimbabwean as a powerful advertising medium to reach the millions of Zimbabweans living in South Africa who collectively wield enormous buying power. Zimbabweans in exile worldwide earn US$1.4 billion a month, and send home US$428 million a month

They ask this because they believe that The Zimbabwean is an excellent newspaper by any standards, but most importantly, because every copy sold in South Africa gets another two into Zimbabwean hands.

So when sanity returns to Zimbabwe, freedom of information will have played its part, and so will The Zimbabwean’s South African supporters.
In these ads, we see, visualized, a contemporary understanding of rhetoric. Form is no longer the container/style/surface or presentation used in smuggling content through. Rather, this ad reinterprets the advertising medium itself and shows that form is content -- in fact, form is all there is.

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