May 26, 2005

The Fun Zone on Ethiopian advertisements

I think I’ve been in Ethiopia long enough to make some strong statements about advertising here. Strong Statement #1: St. George Beer produces the best ads. The one with the Roman soldiers and the other one with the guy in Washington D.C. taking sips from George's bottles are without a doubt the best ads on television.

Some of my other favorites, though I’m not sure about their effectiveness as ads, are for V-Lion batteries, Shell Helix, Dashen Beer, and GP water tanks.

V-Lion I like just because it’s so strange. I’m not quite sure what the ad is trying to tell me by having those singers and dancers doing their thing while holding batteries. Maybe, the batteries give you energy just like the singers and dancers. Maybe if I could understand Amharic, I would have a better idea, but V-Lion – has something entertaining there.

[As I was a bit sick, lying on the couch, I happened to be watching the Oromia news hour and what did I discover? V-Lion batteries produces ads not just in Amharic, but Oromiffa as well. What’s more, to be culturally sensitive, V-Lion replaces Amhara with Oromo dancers. They’ve got the guy with the lion’s head and the stick and the woman dressed in simple cotton dresses. If I were to compare the V-Lion ad series with commercials in the U.S., despite not knowing Amharic or Oromiffa, I’d have to say they are most like “Crazy Eddie” ads where, “prices are insane”.]
Shell-Helix is another ad I find amusing. It’s a radio spot. There’s a revving car motor sound that I’m sure a person made with his mouth. I also like the exploding sound of the engine that is not using Shell Helix. Above all, and this is not in jest, I like the narrator’s voice. I think that if I ever meet him in the street, I will recognize the voice and offer to buy him a coffee.

The Dashen beer ad I find interesting because it takes an environmental angle. All the beer ads in Ethiopia cover some aspect of the technology that goes into making their beer. They include guys in white overcoats with beakers and pipettes looking like they're overseeing the creation of a new gene. I’ve got to say that when I drink a beer, it’s not because it’s scientifically brewed. I drink beer because it tastes good. After that, I go with coolness, and Georgis is definitely working on me on that level.

Back to Dashen – they’ve put in an interesting angle with the whole environmental thing. Dashen is an environmentally friendly beer. The television spot shows how waste water from processing the hops is treated and sent back out into fields. They also show how the solid waste from the hops, barley, etc., is used by farmers as a fertilizer. Like the scientific angle, I don’t think the environmental angle has much impact on the average drinker. I think all beer companies in Ethiopia would be well-served to think about how they sell beer to their distributors. What angle do they use when they sell to the local grocery or bar? Probably not that it’s environmentally friendly or scientifically brewed.

Here are some potential angles for each of the beers in Ethiopia. Bati – purity. Georgis – they know what they are doing (coolity). Dashen – your father’s beer, kind of like Budweiser. Meta – your mother’s beer. (I don’t know for Meta – that’s a tough beer to sell. I’d say it’s for people who like a beer that puts hair on their chest, so maybe not your mother’s beer.) Harar – like the Microbrew of Ethiopia, Harar is a unique taste from an isolated part of the country. Maybe tradition?

Thinking about the scientists gives me a good idea – maybe an idea that will allow me to be like my uncle, a radio advertising producer. How about a beer that is so scientifically engineered that it is in fact the perfect beer? It delivers alcohol’s pleasurable effects in perfect quantities to every drinker, regardless of size, age, water content in the blood. It is, in fact, the real-world equivalent of the Ever-lasting Gobstopper from Willy Wonka lore. This is going to sell.

There is one ad that I think actually works. It’s for GP water tanks, plastic water containers that sit on your rooftop (we didn’t buy GP, but next time, if this ad had any effect, we will). Anyway, there are a couple of friends going into their houses to take showers. One has a GP tank. The other does not. One emerges from the shower smiling and refreshed; the other emerges upset and covered in soap, after the water goes out on him halfway through his shower. That’s something I can relate to. It's happened to me! Plus, the guy that comes out covered in soap is really funny – I laugh every time I see the ad.


Post a Comment

<< Home