MTN: Smugly shirking service

Day12You’ve heard this story before… because this is the world we live in.

Monopolised. By mongrels.

However – and the irony is – that which sustains this system is us. The money earners, money spenders, account payers… Sadly though, when that which we are paying for is derailed, our querying and solution-seeking reveals the starkly substandard, defective and senseless approach that brand custodians employ in order not to do their jobs. On a good day and with sense of humour in tact (now absent altogether), I view my musings with MTN like a badly-produced soap opera – albeit far more painful and without the excessive sex. On a bad day, seeking resolution from MTN feels like it would if you were drowning… and someone handed you a baby.

MTN Drowning

Just like any good soap opera, this crisis has more than one storyline running concurrently: Incompetence renders new iPad inept and The Vacuous Value of having MTN handset insurance.

The Vacuous Value of having MTN handset insurance

Monday, 6 October

My iPhone 5S was damaged in an unfortunate car-swapping driveway accident that left it looking like this:

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 10.10.09 PM

I went to the MTN Service Centre in Morningside, Johannesburg to proceed with the claim, where I was advised that it would be better to call 083 123 6084. That they would come and collect the phone from me in order to process the claim and issue me with a loan-phone in the meantime. Sounds great, right?

Try calling that number. The waiting time is longer than Katherine Kelly Lang has been Brooke on The Bold and the Beautiful. Hint: it’s a really long time. She still holds the role she first kicked-off in 1987.

brooke-logan-beautiful

Without a cellphone, I decided it would be a good time to get a new iPad on a 3G contract – so as to stay in contact that way and then have that too once my phone was up and running. Now pay attention, because here’s where the Incompetence renders new iPad inept storyline kicks off – and the two run concurrently.

Sunday, 12 October

Upon completing and submitting my ID that was copied and attached to the application1 – and successful vetting of my details – I was handed a new iPad with a credit card-sized SIM holder and shuffled on my way (it was the weekend and the store was closing). At home, I realised I had been issued the incorrect sized SIM for the iPad… so I would have to go back and get that sorted…

MTN April 13

I work. So doing that is not as easy as it sounds. It comes down to trying during lunch which, coincidentally, is when everybody else is at the Service Centre too.

Monday, 20 October

I went back to the MTN Service Centre in Morningside to attempt strike 2 at the insurance claim and to table their simple-minded-SIM-issue, with the hopes of getting the correct sized SIM for the iPad applied for and issued. There, I also raised the issue of not being able to get through on083 123 6084 for my insurance claim…  The consultant called into the helpdesk from her MTN-issued phone. We spoke to Patrick Mfelang (Patrick.Mfelang@mtn.co.za) who assured me he would email the insurance claim form to me and we could try that route.

After (re)submitting my ID that was copied and attached to the (re)application2 for the correct SIM (but without any apology for the inconvenience of the incorrect SIM issue, nor the time or petrol used to make them aware of their error), I was issued with the correct-sized SIM card for the iPad issued.

Back at the office, I had in fact received Patrick’s email; completed, submitted and received a response apologising for the potential delay, and that I would be contacted within 5 days.

5 days

Monday, 27 October

In the coming days, it was clear that no data was available (on the iPad), even with the second SIM issued. The MTN-SA icon appears in the top left corner, but without a signal and no internet connection available. Based on an application process that was “approved” on Sunday, 12 October – but one that had resulted in a 0% success rate and therefore no usage of said device – it was brutally clear that the employees appointed by MTN who work at the MTN Service Centre in Morningside are uninterested in / incapable of performing their roles.

So I tried the Social Media route:

SM post 1

And… with no Yello from the insurance department, I sent this email, to the insurance queries email address:

27 Insurance Qry

Responses: 0 

MTN April 14

Tuesday, 28 October

With still not a Yello from the insurance department… I sent this email, to the insurance queries email address:

28th Follow-up
Responses: 0 

Wednesday, 29 October 

I try social media once again, regarding my handset insurance claim: SM post 2 - 29 Oct

I also reply directly via my inbox message, hoping to have some luck that way: 29th Follow-up Both

After much, painful answer-seeking, I was told that my contract was on hold for a RICA issue: they needed a copy of my ID to effect the final approval… My ID (yes, still the same one) that they had taken, copied and submitted twice so far.

Further to furnishing the required details for the iPad SIM activation, and only to compound the issues at hand because I am obviously a) nuts, and b) a complete sucker for punishment, I further requested that my iPad contract be credited for the pro-rata charges from Sunday 12 October to when it would come online – for obvious reasons.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 8.33.32 PM
Responses regarding that query? Take a wild guess.

Thursday, 30 October 

Hallelujah Houston! We have a Yello! The iPad situation was resolved – a mere 19 days after the application process began – and thus concludes our Incompetence renders new iPad inept storyline.

30th iPad SIM resolution

Traction seemed infectious. On that same day, I received this (well written) communication from the insurance department:

30th email from insurance about call
I replied, just to confirm (further to a note on the actual claim form and through correspondence on Facebook) where they should reach me:
30th reply with landline number

Sadly… that traction was short-lived.

No response regarding the credit note, and no call regarding my insurance claim have yet been received.

But… then this………

*drumroll*

Saturday, 1 November

I received this message (via Facebook) from Devan regarding my insurance claim:

Phone off

I’m not quite sure what else to say or do at this point. I’ve provided my work number to them three times, knowing full well that they wouldn’t be able to reach me on my cellphone…

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 12.14.40 AM

Thanks to the inefficiency of people who don’t (have to) think further than what they’ll do with their hair on the weekend or how what they do in a role that pays them a salary, affects the men and women whose custom keeps them there, I am now literally at the end of my rapidly frayed rope.

Jules

Ergo, I am smart. I am a writer. And creating work that builds brands is my playground.

So here we go… Today, this blog goes out and its link gets sent to one Paul Norman (to name but a few), Chief Human Resources and Corporate Affairs Officer at MTN.

Let’s see, shall we?

MTN Speechless

Stay tuned for more from this beguiling albeit completely pointless soap opera. Pointless because if consultant #1 had done what they were supposed to do… we would not be here.

1 First time ID was successfully received by MTN
2 Second time ID was successfully received by MTN

© Dylan Balkind

Concept is dead

Originally written for and published on BizCommunity.com.
For engagement details, click here

Never mind potholes, rampant crime or corruption, what we really need to expend our energy on is the fact that more and more mediocre pedestrians are being allowed to stumble into roles they have absolutely no clue about. So the scheduling clerk for a bicycle hire shop can become the marketing person for the brand you thought you’d die to work on. And die you will. Bit by bit and a little more each day.
4886172-in-loving-memory-of-words-chiselled-into-a-wooden-bench
Let me introduce you to Sally. Sally loved to colour during her early school days and was ever so good at staying inside the lines. She wasn’t sure what to do after high school so she worked in her father’s corner shop weighing butternut and manning the till. Then her uncle poached her to help run the front office of his car repair shop and in just a few mediocre minutes, she was bored of that too. With her eclectic mix of ‘FMCG and retail expertise’ coupled with being the ‘brand custodian’ for her uncle’s shop, Sally found herself mincing in to the first of many corporates in no time at all.

She hopscotched through half a dozen roles, careful not to stay anywhere long enough to ever actually learn anything of substance, and then – with a stroke of right-place-right-time-luck, and enough bullshit to baffle some very distracted brains – she secured herself the role of making some medium-weight marketing decisions on a brand doing itself proud.

There wasn’t an agency presentation or creative review where the words I don’t get it didn’t waft from her pouting, lip-glossed lips. Imagine how brilliant this imaginative doyenne was for the conceptual prowess of the creatives whose paths she crossed… No challenge was too big as this fierce game changer would design by numbers and rewrite copy at the drop of a hat – no questions asked… So die they did. More and more each day.

Mindless ads

Sure, “mindless ads” have their place. I once bought a fat busting apparatus from one of those if-you-dial-now-but-wait-there’s-more places. With a series of battery operated contractions, it promised to work all the unnecessary lard away from my stomach. It did. I lost so much weight I was kidnapped by a helium balloon at the Rand Easter Show.

People have brains and an imagination and despite popular belief (albeit brand specific), aren’t completely against having to think. Simple doesn’t mean you got smarter. But it may mean Sally gave you a budget of R2.50 with the disproportionate insistence that you address every shopper and consumer group out there. So you did… but at what cost?

The over simplification era

We’re living in an era of over simplification. Brands have a wider cross-section of people to talk to while clients shamelessly play agencies against one another for the work. This reduces the creative mettle by people who then have to spend more time tap dancing through ludicrous demands than being conceptually brilliant… And somewhere between the brief and the output, someone convinces everyone to put all their eggs on the semantics of the big idea and none on the magic of the journey that takes you there. Rest in peace, concept.

As much as agency creatives need to learn about strategy and the tangible differences of our audiences, so marketing professionals should be required (and driven) to have a semblance of creative vision. This way, the creative interpretation of a brief can be viewed at any point in its evolution; to be understood in the context of what informed it.

The movement away from waffling is not what I’m on about. I’m on about the unnecessary over simplification for audiences that aren’t simple. We get told so often to be sure the box is far away from our thinking yet, time and time again, we end up back inside it anyway.

Makes you wonder what our Sally would say to these three examples:

Okay… so concept isn’t completely dead, but it’s definitely looking pale. Something needs to be done soon or our dear friend should get its affairs in order and tie up any loose ends.

Let’s not forget the thinking man’s story… It is the magical vortex of the interpretation of creativity where talkability comes to life.

How’s your Sally?

© Dylan Balkind

Creatives critiquing creativity

How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb? One and a chorus of whingers to point out that someone else has – somewhere in the history of the planet – already changed a light bulb, so changing another one would be unoriginal and therefore completely pointless.  

Creatives are an odd bunch. We work inside the silos of the sanatorium called an agency, being a part of the tug of war between our central creative pull and the client’s same when it comes to their brand mandatories.

We know the drill. We know that to get a campaign out involves a dozen meetings where the idea that has been presented, critiqued, reworked, re-presented, reconsidered, re-tweaked and re-presented is then put through some real paces and eventually given the green light. It is (almost) never the case of a good idea sold and preproduction briefed, because a good idea inside my head for example, may make no sense to the others at the table and the same may be true of what comes from them.

So then why are we such a bitchy bunch? I’m no saint when it comes to opinion – I can’t handle bad advertising and my candour when I see it is palpable. But bad advertising is often very clear about how bad it is. Like when two women who obviously travel with their washing machines are seen standing in a kitchen talking about how concerned they are that their husband’s shirts don’t look bright and new. I always travel with my washing machine so that’s not the part I hate. No wait, it is – because that’s just stupid. It sets feminism back a hundred years and has been responsible for more eye rolling than Julius Malema or Marie Straub.

Dunce

There is so much to consider when making a quick, uninformed quip about an ad on a social media forum: a) Are you the target market? If you are not the target market (believe it, not everything is aimed at you), it was not intended to resonate with you anyway; b) Does it successfully speak to the target market? c) How would you rate the production values? Because there are cheap shit ads, and there are cheaply made but very effective ads. The list is long…

I made the senseless mistake of engaging a silly sally on Twitter recently who evidently has no awareness or skills on the above measurables. She is an editor in chief which means that she must have some common sense, somewhere. But on a scale of one to Lindsay Lohan, it’s quite clear that not everyone who has it, uses it. She hates stereotypes but has become one in the process: a tightly wound, self deified strawberry who hears but does not necessarily listen – let alone think.

They say you can’t put people in boxes. Wrong. You can if you want to – even with creatives. There are those that have to have five different colours in their unwashed hair – simply because they are a creative. There are those that take long, dramatic moments to pause, deep in thought before sprouting their pearl – simply because they are a creative; skinny jeans, aloof and emotionally unavailable – or flowing cotton, open shirts and a self-created quirky lilt – simply because they are all, well, creatives.

You can also put people in boxes as to whether they are, for example, a features writer, a copywriter, a script writer, a blog writer, a vapid content creator, or a twitter update writer. Where your talent resonates is what you live to be proud of. Sure, it’s been said that good work shouldn’t need to be defended, but then does that mean you shouldn’t be passionate about what goes on your porti? If so, be sure then that while you sprout this cliché, your own work is at an infallible level for all the world to see and bask in.

I hear there are shock collars for dogs that need testing. I can think of two people who should sign up.

 

© Dylan Balkind

SAB Anti-Rape Billboard

So… there’s so much (informed and uninformed) opinionaters on Rape in South Africa – and ways in which these conversations come alive among your (anti) social networks. One fellow thought he would weigh-in on the Rape-rant by voicing his disapproval of the South African Breweries (SAB) Corporate Social Responsibility billboard that pushes all the right buttons for underage drinking, women abuse and rape.

Screen shot 2013-02-19 at 11.40.44 AM

“Hey SAB! Were you OUT OF YOUR MIND putting up a billboard intimating that girls who get drunk are somehow choosing to get raped? Last time I checked, it was the RAPIST doing the deciding. In one fell swoop, you’ve managed to uphold rape culture AND lay the blame on women. Do you have any idea what kind of message this sends out to the countless women who’ve had to endure what you’re calling a ‘decision’? Congratulations. I wish I could simply call you imbeciles and be done with it, but that’s too innocent a word for what you are.”

I picture him in his skinny jeans, non-prescription specs and a plaid shirt with some or other morning’s Pronutro crusting on a buttonhole. He likes what he sees in the mirror and fancies himself quite the intellect. Before we go any further – to safeguard his potential embarrassment while allowing him his democratic right to continue on in his blinkered state – I will from this point onward refer to (beep) as Mr. Igno Rant.

Mr. Rant has gotten way too carried away with his very own self-congratulatory effort to cause a commotion. As an Advertising geek who has had a look at the Brand and Social Responsibility message by SAB, I suggest you consider this:

SAB:

a)     is not diverting the blame from these bastards who take matters into their own hands
b)     is highlighting the already-ablaze epidemic of rape in this country, and
c)     is admitting – from a CSI vantage point – that alcohol may play a role in contributing to victims.

Alcohol doesn’t for one moment give men an easy-out excuse for rape, citing for example that the victim was drunk and therefore to blame. It simply highlights the obvious: when inebriated, women may not have their wits at hand – something that these loser predators undoubtedly count on. Furthermore, Rant has neglected to appreciate the message for underage drinking and the perps that do nothing about it but fill their cash registers. Let those who sell alcohol to minors see this billboard too, find their conscience and stop contributing to the problem.

You may raise an eyebrow at my silly-man-bashing and accuse me of what I myself deplore so vehemently: bullying. No. I am not being a bully. I am disturbed and horrified that those who choose to make a noise about something they have given absolutely no thought to still have the dangerous power through the viral message in social media to incite enough other non-thinkers to make a noise and flap to that side of the fence.

Let me be clear: there is never a bad time to talk about Rape.

Also, I speak from my heart and soul when I say that a man who can’t comb his hair in the morning shouldn’t be taken too seriously – but rather that it is the lack of response of a nation to an issue that should have mobilised us years ago… now that’s what I really care about. Still, Ignor has meticulously highlighted the issue that people would rather suck their teeth and shake their empty heads in disgust at, because of the distaste of a brand to bring such attention to a very real problem. Truth is Ignor, this is an industry that has the potential to shine a very bright light on an issue that our useless government is far too quiet about, every single day. Don’t you think that that’s something you should embrace?

I congratulate SAB and the creatives at their agency who have shown that, in South Africa, a pair of balls can still be used for good.

#makeanoiseSA

© Dylan Balkind

Shall we take a shower?

What could be more refreshing than a brilliant idea?

The talkability of more than 1 500 servings a day is priceless and how this goes viral by handheld devices from the beach – well you can just imagine. Then there’s the added bonus: watching sunkissed bodies get refreshed in the shower.

Complaints? I’d say there were none!

The ultimate refreshment machine by Ogilvy, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

(Even Implied) Sex Sells

Axe Deodorant proves that sex sells time and time again. And it does. Whether you are gay, straight, bisexual or even just ‘easy’, provided you have been through puberty – imagery that responds to the source of your attraction is going to have a positive effect on how you relate to the brand’s image. Sure, this is a target market that is an easy reach; it is very definitely easier when you have a product like deodorant that appeals to – and is used by (hopefully) a wide scope of people. And by wide scope I mean men, women or anyone with a pulse!

What makes this print campaign for Axe Deodorant even hotter is that they have taken all the abovementioned hormone-driven ‘theory’ and represented it without all the skin, thighs, cleavages, biceps and six packs. They are leveraging the fact that you are a human being with some sort of drive, and that you know, play, participate or at the very least understand the dynamics between – in this case – men and women. Above all that – they make you think. It’s not a long shot because you get it quickly, but they inevitably made me smile, nod and all in all I think these print ads work well. I don’t think they are trying to win new customers; they are doing what Nike and Coca Cola do so well: they remind their brand-loyal customers that they are part of something cool, current and edgy.

With an execution like this, you also don’t have to argue morals or negotiate territories where showing skin is taboo (like the agency who had to create this set). It’s a straight-forward play on a tic-tac-toe game and, for the guy who uses Axe? Well, he always gets the girl(s).

Other ads (Volvo, Lavazza and PS2) have taken it further and pose a different argument. These go straight for the… let’s call it “heart strings” for the purpose of this family-friendly blog, and appeal to a whole different sense of physical attraction and sexual drive.

How do you feel about these different ads? Which do you prefer?

Credits for Axe Deodorant: Advertising Agency: Lowe Mena, Dubai, UAE | Creative Directors: Mark Lewis, Marwan Saab | CGH / Art Director: Mansoor A. Bhatti | Group Account Director: Tej Desai |Senior Account Manager: Prashob Ravi

Pigs can’t fly. Purina Puppies can!

Clever Ads are clever because, without trying too hard, they make you step back, have an ‘ah’ moment and with a bit of extra luck, start conversations about themselves that last long after the ad itself does. Publicis Montreal does exactly this with this print execution for Purina; a puppy so happy with his food that he is about to take flight. Because what do happy puppies do? They wag their tales! So enough said!

It’s clever without trying too hard. There is no copy because conceptually it is strong enough without any and, for any pet owner looking for a new brand for man’s best friend, you are going to remember this one and no doubt be convinced to spend some money on it.

Advertising effective: ka ching!

Credits:  Creative Directors: Nicolas Massey, Carl Robichaud | Art Director: Julien Thiry | Copywriter: Florence Majérus | Photographer: Alain Desjean |

I like! What do you think?

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