South African youth and popular culture have been exposed in an ‘unorthodox’ new campaign for M-Net channel, MK. The campaign, called MK is, allows viewers to define exactly what – or who – MK is.
The gritty road trip of a campaign comprises the journeys of three characters, each with a lifespan of 20 days. Daily episodes on the MK channel allow viewers to embed themselves in the life of each persona and far from dictating to them what they should get from it, rather lets them interpret the stories in their own way. Each episode is synchronized with daily Facebook posts, blog entries and tweets that fill in the rest of the story.
“We saw an opportunity to create something that would depart from the conventions of campaign lines and singular insights. We didn’t want to limit MK to one point of view or one opinion, instead we felt the brand could represent various states of being, a range of opinions and a variety moods that MK’s audience would be able to relate to and experience in real-time,” the creative team – James Smith, Frank van Rooijen and Mark Haefele – told TheMediaOnline.
James Smith, Frank van Rooijen and Mark Haefele are members of 1984, a specialised content creation hub within Ogilvy. The ‘series’ was filmed in 10 days and shot with no script, no schedule, and a single video camera in the hands of renowned American Apparel photographer Purienne, who made the long trip from LA “simply because he fell in love with the idea”.
“After our initial chat, Purienne came back with a treatment that offered us the stripped down aesthetic and characterization we were looking for,” the team explained.
The material was shot mainly Cape Town and Worcester, but in keeping with the deconstructed theme of the shoot, “we discovered 60% of the locations en route.”
“Most of the characters were friends of ours in Cape Town that wanted to participate. Luckily, the crew involved in the production of the campaign were also the target audience, so in terms of casting we could rely on a DOP or stylist to step in if he or she fitted the part,” they explained.
There is not a logo to be spotted in the entire campaign. “The characters are personifications of the brand that play out on the channel and are also called ‘MK’ throughout the campaign, so we didn’t see the addition of the logo adding to the narrative or the campaign idea. If people already know who you’re talking about, why tell them twice?”
The campaign, said the team, is aimed at “18-26 year olds, but if 59 year olds wish to relive their past we’re all for that”.
Being a music channel, of course the trip had to have a soundtrack. But keeping to the offbeat theme of the campaign, there’s nothing pop about that soundtrack. “Because there is no audible dialogue communicating the storyline, we needed music that would reflect and enhance the emotional depth of the episodes. 1984 sourced all the music locally from defunct bands, obscure bedroom producers, ex pats living in Taiwan and even artists who have never ever performed live. We’re happy if these artists gain exposure through the campaign – it’s vital to expand South Africa’s musical offering beyond the small group of bands that have been enjoying the spot light for too long,” they said.
“ MK is merely capturing South African pop culture and playing it back to an audience that is rarely catered for in this country. The audience can decide what that says about South Africa, MK and themselves.”
Why the name ‘1984’? “1984 is a dystopian novel written by George Orwell in 1948. We see the name as a metaphor for what advertising has become – A dominant social voice governing the masses. In many ways advertising, as we know it, is struggling to remain relevant to a discerning and dynamic audience. In an age where everyone knows what marketing speak sounds like, 1984 addresses this by showing brands how to think and act like media companies. As a specialized department within Ogilvy, 1984 entices consumers to willingly engage with content that has been engineered for brand messaging to shine through naturally and unobtrusively.”
Personal insights from the creators?
James Smith: “In time, larger brands will start seeing the value in creating longer and more rewarding consumer journeys.”
Frank van Rooijen: “Brands need to start acting more like media companies, pulling audiences in instead of just pushing advertising out.”
Mark Haefele: “1984 aims to make the ‘ad agency-client’ dynamic invisible to the consumer.”
“We wanted the campaign to provoke debate and stimulate interaction by offering the public real entertainment in real time across a variety of platforms,” comments Ogilvy’s Mariana O’Kelly, Creative Director. “It remains to be seen what will happen to these characters, but either way it is going to be one hell of a ride.”