I don’t watch a lot of TV these days, so I only saw Vodafone’s ’3030 Love Story’ campaign last weekend, during a trip to the cinema. The ad is unlike your typical Ghanaian ad because two things have clearly been thrown at it:
I’m guessing Vodafone’s marketing team have a larger budget than your average Ghanaian advertiser.
When money is thrown at something, certain artistic standards are expected in return… unless the person throwing the money has no artistic sensibilities, which sadly explains a lot of our advertising.
I’m usually happy when I see creativity at work, but my enthusiasm was somewhat dampened after my companion drew my attention to… well, see it for yourself.
In case you can’t stream fast enough, here are a few choice lines:
Boy: “So tell me a little bit about you”
Girl: “Hmm. Well, I’m dark skinned… I’m not too tall. And I’m plump. Do you still want to meet me?”
Boy: “Yes, of course. True beauty is on the inside. And you sound nice too.”
Girl: “Good. Then meet me at that new restaurant in 30 minutes…”
Let me break it down:
The slim, light-skinned girl of average height – supposedly tired of boys throwing themselves at her for her good looks – describes herself as the opposite of what she is. Strangely perhaps, this is not my problem. I’ll give the advertisers the benefit of the doubt and assume she wasn’t implying that her opposite is ugly.
My problem is the reaction of the rest of the cast.
1) the boy’s friend/sister/whatever:
Jaw drops and she begs: “Pleeease! She’s really beautiful!“
Vodafone’s ad team decide they haven’t gone far enough (maybe they want to be edgy and subversive…) and get the boy’s dark-skinned friend – who should have known better – to imply that anyone described as dark-skinned, of average height and plump must be hideously ugly, hence the need to stress that this one is actually “… really beautiful.“
Everyone is entitled to their taste and it could well be that the boy’s character simply dislikes dark-skinned, plump girls of average height. Maybe his friend/sister/whatever has a long-standing crush on him and his persistent love of lighter-skinned girls has lowered her self-esteem.
2) the Boy:
“Yes, of course. True beauty is on the inside. And you sound nice too.“
The Vodafone ad team decide to push the envelope even further by having homeboy imply that if you are dark-skinned, of average height and plump, you are only capable of having inner beauty. Your only other possible saving grace is if you have a nice voice. You poor, poor thing.
3) the Girl:
“Good. Then meet me at that new restaurant in 30 minutes…“
After showing some intelligence by putting the boy (who clearly needed to be screened) to a test, homegirl fails by not recognizing homeboy’s stupidity and awards said stupidity with a date, failing to show solidarity with her darker-skinned, average heighted (although admittedly not plump) friend.
Now I have a problem with homegirl.
In a way, I do not blame the advertisers. Vodafone are a foreign company who arrived in Ghana just over a year ago and are probably still trying to figure us all out. The people I blame are the Ghanaians who were on the ad team. If there were any. They should have known better and should have said something. Unless they did and were told to shut up by a non-Ghanaian supervisor. Oops.
In a sea of annoyingly uncreative and patronizing corporate adverts, I have actually been mildly impressed with Vodafone’s track record. Their last ad – with a boy’s mom hearing the popping of champagne over the phone and accurately deducing that her son was having a house party in her absence – was inaccurate (no one has house parties like that out here. YOUR PARENTS WOULD KILL YOU… as in, actual murder…) but aspirational (even though you can’t have a house party doesn’t mean you don’t want to have one. God knows I did back then…) and, above all, it was well-executed and genuinely funny:
The Love Story ad is however not-as-harmless a piece of fun. In fact, it’s aspiration gone wrong. Why is it that whenever Ghanaians do something ‘middle class’, it always has to be pretentious, condescending, illogical and borrowed from elsewhere? You see it in our films (I won’t name names: I have sincere hopes that a certain someone’s material will improve…) and in some music videos too (I’m looking at you, ‘Borgar‘: great tune, slick video, but ultimately defeats the purpose of the song for the sake of slickness).
A for effort. F for execution.
Go listen to ‘Shades’ by Wale.