Despite increases in globalisation, the homogenisation of culture and other related phenomena, advertisers have long known that the more personalised an advertisement is, the more likely it is to sell a product. Which is why internet marketers are so interested in your statistics. Unfortunately for advertisers though, at present television is still a difficult medium to personalise.

To compensate for this, advertising agencies tweak and edit adverts for various markets. They have also been known to make entirely new advertising campaigns for a particular group. This is abundantly clear when looking at advertisements in different countries, which are engineered to play on the hopes and fears of that particular nation, and often seem vaguely absurd or surreal to other nationalities and cultures. To illustrate this point, I've reproduced a South African television commercial below. It might not be unique to South Africa, but I believe it is a good example of a commercial that would never be shown in Europe.

Please note: I saw this advert in South Africa in 2000. Since I didn't write anything about it at the time, my memory is far from exact on the subject. The following should be taken as illustrative, not definitive (For example, the company's name is fictitious).

Opening shot: Camera in extreme soft-focus shows us a romantic restaurant. Violins are quietly playing in the background, and each table is covered with roses and candles. The candles glint in the camera's gaze. The overall impression is one of warmth, romance, and safety.

The camera moves in on a young couple, apparently very much in love. They are leaning over their table, gazing into each other's eyes. The man wears a tuxedo and bowtie, the woman an off-the-shoulder gown and a string of pearls. They are perfect.

Voice-over (in relaxing, hypnotic tone throughout):Everyone needs to relax sometimes.

Suddenly, grainy, black and white footage. Looks like it comes from CCTV. A helicopter is loudly buzzing through the night.

Take the time to enjoy yourself. Don't think about all the day to day problems

Back to the young couple. The man gently smoothes a hair behind the womans beautiful ear. She laughs, revealing pristine and glowing teeth.

Life's just too short to spend all your time worrying.

More grainy footage: a car speeding through the city at night. It looks like it might be a BMW. Tyres screech as it skids around a corner.

Which is why we at SecuriFast like to do the worrying for you.

The young couple again. The woman takes a delicate, flirtatious sip from her wine glass. The ring on her finger glitters in the candlelight.

Just leave it all up to us.

Grainy footage again. The camera is shaking. The helicopter we saw earlier is now swooping over a city. People are running through the streets. They look like some kind of futuristic SWAT team. All dressed in black, with visors over their eyes. They also have very large guns. The BMW screeches around another corner, only to come to a sudden halt in front of a large van. Another van pulls up behind, surrounding the BMW.

We can take care of any problems, and leave you free to enjoy your evening.

The black and white footage is now full of beams of light, cutting through the dark city. A siren is on somewhere. The door to the BMW is open. Two men are lying on the floor, arms outstretched. A team of four neo-SWAT-team members are keeping their guns trained on the prone bodies.

With our nationwide coverage, and highly skilled team, we recover your property quickly, cleanly, and efficiently. Always within 24 hours, and often much faster.

Back in the restaurant, the young man's mobile phone rings (we do not hear the ring, since the violins are still playing, but we see him pick up the phone).

So fast in fact, that you probably won't even notice the problem.

The slightest frown passes over his face, but is quickly replaced by his usual beaming smile. He hangs up the phone, and takes the woman's hand back into his own.

Which is just how it should be.

SecuriFast's logo appears on the screen, together with a toll-free number.

SecuriFast car protection services. We worry, so that you don't have to.

I'm not trying to suggest that South Africans are overly violent people, or that they do not take gun control seriously, or anything along those lines. This node is only highlighting the fact that due to their (often legitimate) security worries, many South Africans are apparently willing to hire a 'privatised militia' to protect their belongings. In the interests of objectivity, I'm making no comment on the possible reasons for this, or on its ethical value, I'm only pointing out that I have never seen an advert like this (and doubt I ever will) in Europe.
This write-up was written mainly with the intent of analysing South African advertising, not the South African political situation, but the two seem to necessarily go hand in hand. For a discussion of the role of security firms within South Africa (and not on the advertising corporations portrayal of these firms), see Frankie's excellent Private Security in South Africa.

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