In a world obsessed with what celebs eat (or don’t eat) for breakfast and what happened on ____ (insert name of craze show of the moment on Netflix), it’s safe to say that things have changed since I was a child. Celebrities come and go faster than a Jody Scheckter round Kyalami and what was an absolute must-have yesterday is ‘like, soooooo last season’ today. There are more options than ever before and the public’s attention is fleeting and fickle at best. The adverts of yesteryear would be considered quaint and, let’s face it, probably pretty corny by today’s standards. But think about it: when last did a commercial make you feel anything other than irritation? (Luci Hirsch, anyone?) For me the answer is simple – not since I was a kid.
There is one in particular that comes to mind immediately when I think back; one that instantly fills me with nostalgia, puts a smile on my face and to this day makes my heart burst with pride for this country. It is an advert by tyre manufacturer Dunlop that depicts a dog race – but not an ordinary dog race, because in amongst a line-up of sleek greyhounds appears a most unlikely contender: one squat, grinning little Staffie. The combination of clever voice-over, emotive Chariots of Fire soundtrack and beautifully shot visuals, culminating in the stocky little pooch beating the champion racing dogs and taking a running leap into the finish line tape, made for an ad that has stood the test of time. It brought out our innate tendency to root for the underdog and proved that dogged tenacity and never-say-die attitude will get you everywhere, even when you are up against the best of the best. So, you know, good old-fashioned human values, ideals and emotions wrapped up in a simple yet ingenious campaign idea. This advert, for me, remains the perfect example of the most effective way to connect with a market – something that today’s flash-mobbing, hash-tagging agencies seem to have forgotten.
I never did get that yellow-and-white Citi Golf, but my dream and memories are kept alive every time I spot one of these tenacious local legends trundling or zooting (depending on its condition) around town. And when I’m lying awake in the middle of the night, I just smile nostalgically and sing along with the jingles playing in my head. It keeps Rob Lowe awake sometimes, but he’s used to it.