Open letter season: Here’s mine to Jani Allan

Jani Allan. Until last week, few people my age (and around) knew who she was. My parents recognised her name. They’re in their mid sixties. Allan is 62 so the shoe fits. On the 14th April, 2014 however, Allan entered the Oscar Pistorius fray with an open letter on her blog.

It’s hot topic – Oscar and the trial he’s on for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, so it didn’t take long for what she recorded there to go viral. It was what any blog (including this one) presents: opinion. Hers however leveraged its newsorthiness with the juggernaut allegation that Pistorius has been taking acting lessons for his courtroom appearances in order to deliver a testimony by-design, to both advocates for and against him – Barry Roux and Gerrie Nel respectively.

It’s hot topic because, as is the case with any celebrity, we feel they are ours. His wrong is a wrong to us. He abused his power… he is reckless… he is a monster… whatever. I’m not here to defend Oscar Pistorius. He stopped irritating me a while ago. Jani Allan has taken that place and, I put it to you, she has had you all on.

Wikipedia lists Jani Allan as a South African columnist, broadcaster and animal rights advocate. She became a household name through her work at the Sunday Times (1980 to 1989) and, at the height of her fame in 1987, commissioned a Gallup poll to find “the most admired person in South Africa”.

She won.

Her open letter picks up the story and depicts her as ‘the other woman’ in Eugene Terre’blanche’s life whilst his was falling apart. After much tumult and an assassination attempt on her life, the most admired person in South Africa decided to go west and, from 2001, found a new vocation in the PR and restauranting industries in the States. She also tried her hand at astrology, but you knew that already, didn’t you?

It’s now being said that Jani has returned to the media frame. But… in all fairness – and just like me here – the Internet gives anybody a voice. Ergo, eight full days after her blog went viral, she is still tweeting the clincher from it with links to equally authoritative media leaders like Perez Hilton and – under a section called “Odd News”.

Odd. News. Indeed.

Jani Twitter 1

Do you remember 2009’s MTV Awards? Where one Sacha Baron Cohen – dressed as Bruno in just a thong and angel wings – flitted from the ceiling and landed, ass-all-exposed on Eminem’s face? Three years before that, the same actor was stopped by Secret Service personnel at The White House, when he attempted to invite George W. Bush to the screening of his then movie ‘Borat’ in an effort to promote ‘Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan’.

It’s called a publicity stunt, aimed to garner fever-pitch interest and do work for your brand that paid or owned media – with the same amount of time – could only dream of achieving. Want a success story? Think Felix Baumgartner’s edge of space jump to earth for Red Bull. Jani Allan’s story? Not so much.

Online, this seasoned journalist is quick to highlight / remind / reprimand re: her viral success and commits to statements like this for her brand:

Jani Twitter 2

We all have. Clearly. But post slumber, have a listen to her speaking to Fox News here.

It was the interviewer’s question at around 04:48 that really woke me up, but it’s her cavalier response that makes me think perhaps she and Oscar got a two-for-one special at this acting coach she knows so well. And “…when the steel horses came down…” – as she puts it – she professes innocent simplicity in her motives and that her open letter was just opinion.

No. No it wasn’t. It was a cheap shot by someone hanging on to the ass-end of their fifteen minutes who has plans to release a memoir. The clincher? Society has handed her the Soap Box she was so angling for and now, apparently, even her opinion on Oscar having a new girlfriend is deemed worthy of the forum?! Who are you Jani Allen, when it comes to adding value to a case that has our nation in a catatonic state? You were the other woman to a man our history is embarrassed to include.

May you have an opinion about Oscar Pistorious? Yes. Is the link between that opinion and your experience with Eugene Terre’blanche tenuous, at best? Yup. Is this a PR stunt to drum up rent-a-crowd interest before your book “Just Jani” (…sigh…) is released? It most definitely is. You could have saved us all the hassle and added a badly lit, homemade sex tape of you and who-cares-who to the carte du jour available already.

If that’s how the righteous, hardworking nobility like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian had to sweat it out to get their genius got, who are you Just Jani to think you can fast track your way to a best seller? I’m not buying it.

And I’m definitely not buying it.

1987 was a lifetime ago. Reinvent yourself Jani which means boldly letting go of that most admired person in South Africa title. Spoiler alert: you’re not it.

I’d think that, with all the stamps in your passport and the lessons that life should have taught you, you’d have gone about this with a lot more wisdom and finesse than you did.

Move along. Nothing more to see here.


© Dylan Balkind


Why Oscar is still better than Zuma

What a week it’s been. The Pope has given up all that free drag because he is tired. A meteor shower hit Russia and injured 900 people, our turtle President said some more bullshit about the things he sort of plans to do in the coming year… but no one listened to that rambling because a national hero shot and killed his girlfriend through a bathroom door at 4am on Valentines day.

I’m left with such a hollow, slack-jawed feeling. Not about the Pope or any of the other stuff but Oscar Pistorius specifically. It’s just such a tragedy of epic proportions and I think we all feel it’s okay to have an opinion about it because these super humans who represent us on a global platform become public property, right? Whether that sense of entitlement is appropriately due to us or not is a whole different story. Still, the nation is gripped by this ambitious character flaw that has revealed a dark side to a man that seemed so brilliant in every other way possible.

I started a gas on my Facebook page when I remarked on the irony that the two men in the news all day were Oscar Pistorius and Jacob Zuma, and that despite whatever really went down at Oscar’s house that morning, he is still ten times the man Jacob Zuma will ever be. Naturally, this shocked many and they made it known that they felt I was wrong because any man who raises a hand to a woman should not be put on any sort of pedestal. Agreed. But in the context of my statement? Not so much.

My angle is that Oscar has given boys and girls hope and taught them that anyone can achieve what they work hard for. Zuma has taught people that you don’t have to work hard, show integrity or live up to your position as a public figure to deliver for anyone. I do not condone violence – I have been the victim of it myself – but if the ideals that each man stands for earned them a roster of points, there would be one clear winner.

Jacob Zuma has had more than 750 corruption charges against him. Still your hero? He also clearly has a well-functioning penis – represented by the 18 children he has spawned. Most men and women the globe over have a moral awakening when they have kids, to want to leave the earth in a better state for the sake of the young. Not Jacob Zuma. He knows full well the facts of strife around education, poverty and HIV in South Africa and yet thinks it’s a good idea to go and build himself a R250million home. What’s wrong with a R50million home? God, what’s wrong with a R2million home? In between planning all of that and not to be outdone by Tiger Woods, we know his penis got busy a 19th time when he raped a woman in his home. He got off those charges like he did the ones about the arms deal and his cahoots with Shabir Shaik. And now? Is he still your hero now? If you’re nodding, I’m genuinely surprised you could read this far.

Furthermore, as a flaming homosexual, I also find it diabolical that the man who got elected through a democratic process describes same sex marriages as a disgrace to the nation and to God, and said that when he was growing up, any gay person that stood in front of him would have been knocked out. Stellar. This is the man that runs our country every single day – albeit badly – but people get all self righteous about a sportsman they watch half a dozen times a year.

I’ll say it again; I do not condone violence in any form. No one has the right or the emotional capacity to take someone else’s life. Violence against anyone is never the answer – women, men, gays or straights. We have an overwhelming epidemic of rape in this country that is more out of hand than anything we have ever faced before. Yes, anything! There is so much hate, everywhere, yet we expend our energy with uninformed opinions about a sporting legend that allegedly murdered his girlfriend.

Grow up South Africa.

Where are your opinions about all the other murders that occur in this country daily?

If only people would have as much to say about the absolute state of our nation because of who is running it… Well, what a fine place this beautiful country would be.


© Dylan Balkind

Zimbabwe’s hope for 2011

It was an unforgettable image – the Pulitzer award-winning photograph by Kevin Carter from the Sudan famine of 1994, where a little girl was hunched, starving, as a vulture lurked nearby. She was trying to get to a food camp 1km away while the vulture was waiting for her to die. Kevin took the photograph and then left the area.

The world threw its arms up in furore while journalists and artists argued for the role of a photographer and their right, will or obligation not to interfere. Whatever your stance, you have to respect the power of an image to evoke interest and create awareness. As advertisers, we live to do the very same; seldom as intense, but never indifferent. It’s when it’s not about the sale of a product that things get really interesting.

The convenience of a commodity is fascinating, especially when you think it might be taken away from you. Then, compared to something more than that – like your voice or your human rights – even more so, right? Right. This is the reality that TBWA Hunt Lascaris leverages to create awareness in their campaign for The Zimbabwean – a newspaper published in South Africa and the UK by a network of Zimbabwean journalists. These professionals have no place in Zimbabwe’s current state due to forced evictions and fear for their own lives. Their plight to bring news to Zimbabweans (and the world) about the truth of what is going on there comes alive via what I interpret as one very poignant question: when was the last time you had something taken from you?

‘Give a voice to the voiceless’ aims to uncover and expose exactly what they are looking to keep silent in Zimbabwe – atrocities on her people. To fight the deafening silence on the potential for change, TBWA sent requests to journalists for their photographs from the last two years, added an empty speech bubble (in the shape of Zimbabwe) and the payoff line to each of the images received and selected for the campaign.

Shine a light on the issue and you may help to heal it – even if just a little. Look at the awareness that Kevin Carter’s picture ignited for what was happening in the Sudan. There are a lot of naïve people out there but it doesn’t mean they don’t or won’t care. A little coaxing may help them make the jump, and if these images help some people do at least that – then it has been a very good day for advertising.

You too can help. Click here to find out how.



What happens in the forest… could become an issue…

Picture the setting (insert own 80s score here): A lush wooded area filled with trees that were tall when your grand parents were small. The cool, fresh air is textured by the sounds of baby birds as they implore their mothers for food, fluffy squirrels that scarper across branches and the soothing drone of crickets in the shrubs. But then, on the air from afar, comes the soft hum of a low rumbling engine and the tranquility is forestry-interrupted by the arrival of “Tree Fellas”.

Then Eco Warriors.

And then Channel 7 News.

You fill in the gaps. Which is terrific advertising all on it’s own. There’s no hard sell about engine power and fuel consumption, or what the Euro NCAP rating is or what your balloon payment will be in a hundred months time. Just a journey that you can go on with this brand. That’s the promise.

It’s enough for me.

For any business. Ogilvy.

Click to enlarge:

What’s so ridiculous about this?

TIVO and PVR yelled at Advertising and warned it to shift from its place on the gurney, as it rapidly approached the bright light gateway to somewhere else. More so now than ever is TV Advertising’s need to get in and out, leave an impression and move on before its audience does. Advertising (*spoiler alert for those who missed the memo*) is already an interruption to just about every unthinking couch potato. So it’s no longer what you do or how you do it, it’s about doing it differently. Miles Young, Global CEO of Ogilvy himself talks about advertising’s need to become seamless in its positioning within content so that it plays the same role of maintaining audience attention – with obviously different consequences.

Why then do we still have ads – *cough* … like some a little further down on this site – that voluntarily elect themselves as all things annoying? Take a leaf from FoxP2 if you will, ya’ll. Here are some examples of 20” memorable moments. Sure, they are not all as good as each other, but these will have you giggling at the conceptualisation that went before production and leave you appreciative of the art therein.

The ads are for Dairy Board and depict a Chicken, Seagull and Tortoise performing feats of strength because they have had a dose of some decent dairy. I think the voice over’s could have been better and a lot more realistic but the visual impact is enough to win you over.

In order of preference:




Better than Boerizza?

Masterminds at eTV create the untouchable studio

Must be no one at work at 05h44. No one save for these spearheads of hot debate and television masterminds. I’m not that interested in the topic; why Visagie felt he had to throw a perfectly good and defenceless mic system on the floor, or why political analyst Lebogang Pheko thought her outfit was a good idea that morning. I just want to know no one cut away to a boerizza ad? I bang my fists on the table with head thrown back asking the same question over and over again! Why did no one cut away?

Good ads or bad ones, there are plenty of them around. So many in fact, that a live editor should be spoilt for choice when sitting with a dashboard of editing equipment in front of him or her, and a live feed to commandeer to a news-hungry audience. So, what happens when something like this does? When things go awry and the pertinent debate in studio goes from news to notorious? Well, err, nothing if you work at eTV. You can just kick back and stare open mouthed at the unfolding mess on screen as it is happening in studio. Don’t panic. Don’t react. And most importantly, DO NOT deny the kind people at home the opportunity to see the same thing you are.


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