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Social media inspires hip-hop king’s #Hashtag smartphone

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An addiction to social media inspired the smartphone branded by South Africa’s leading hip hop artist, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

In his musical career, South Africa’s king of hip hop, Cassper Nyovest, has always beaten his own path. He released his first two albums on his own label, Family Tree. They were massive hits, both reaching Platinum status by selling more than 50 000 units each.

The second of these, entitled Reflioe (his real name), went gold in a single day when he filled the Dome, a 20 000-seat venue north of Johannesburg, by including a copy of the album with every ticket bought. The launch event was part-sponsored by AG Mobile, the local smartphone brand that is also the fastest-growing in South Africa.

That sponsorship started a relationship that will culminate, in the next fortnight, with the release of the first smartphone designed by a South African artist.

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Cassper Nyovest with the AG #Hashtag smartphone

“They were keen to empower us as a team,” he said before the unveiling of the phone last week. “We started a conversation around developing a phone I would help design. After a few meetings, we came up with concept of the AG #Hashtag. The reason was that I am addicted to is social media.”

Like AG in the mobile market, Cassper has one of the fastest growing followings in local social media. He has passed the half-million mark on Twitter, is followed by 766 000 people on Instagram, and is close to 2-million Facebook Likes.

His public life is lived through these outlets, which provide him both with a powerful marketing tool and a platform from which to counter media mischief.

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Nyovest with Gadget editor-in-chief Arthur Goldstuck at the launch of the AG #Hashtag

“I’ve always been a boy who messed with tech, with cellphones and video games. But I have always been addicted to social media, starting when it was just Mxit, then Facebook, then Twitter. I’ve always been that guy on social media and that’s how we built our brand. Before my music started playing on radio, I already had a big following on social media and it’s really empowered me.”

At times, it’s also attracted the wrong kind of attention when he has treated the reply window like a weapon. But he insists he has toned down.
“I’m just a very honest person and I’m opinionated but I’ve learned to grow more responsible. I came from the streets where I don’t have a boss and can say anything I want. But once I started dealing with other brands, I understood brand association. I’m more calm now and don’t share my opinion as much in public.”

The temptation is always there for artists to leverage social media as a sales platform. Cassper does it only indirectly.

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Cassper Nyovest with the AG #Hashtag smartphone

“I’m not like a guerilla marketer in terms of selling music. I don’t ask people to buy my music. I just try to put out good music and convince people to listen. I don’t like to fill up my timeline with price tags.”

The #Hashtag was designed to match the artist’s persona.

“I wanted the phone to stand out when it lies next to other phones on a table. I wanted it to be the phone you see from far. At first everyone was against it being red, but I convinced them. MTN doesn’t usually range red phones. The reason for being red was that it was inspired by one of my favourite shoes, the Nike Yeezy Red October sneakers.”

The shoes also happen to be a collaboration between a hip hop artist and a major brand, in this case Kanye West and Nike.

Cassper made three other demands: “It has to be fast because I’m a very impatient person, so the Internet also has to be fast. It should take good pics because I travel a lot and I like to capture moments. And it has to have serious battery life.”

The result is a 4G phone with a 5.5” display, 13MP rear camera and f/2.4 aperture, 1.5GHz Octa-core processor, and a fast-charging battery.

The founder of AG Mobile, Anthony Goodman, was happy to oblige.

“We were keen to follow the specs Cassper wanted, because it leads to what the consumer wants,” he said. “It wasn’t challenging, because it’s something we wanted to do: we wanted a high speed phone for a social media consumer, and the rest had to follow suit. We all worked together to make sure it happened.”

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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SAFTA awards get first streaming video nominees

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The 2019 nominations for The South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) were announced late last week, and for the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, a TV series produced for a video-on-demand service was in contention. The result was a surprise boost to streaming service Showmax.

The comedy series Tali’s Wedding Diary, which premiered in December 2017, represented a major step for the then two-year old streaming service. It was the debut Showmax Original, the first time Showmax ventured into producing its own content. The gamble paid off, with the show becoming the most watched of any series on its first day on Showmax, and now Tali’s Wedding Diary has been further recognised with seven SAFTA nominations, making it this year’s most nominated comedy.

“When we first floated the idea of Tali’s Wedding Diary, we joked about winning awards,” says Candice Fangueiro, Showmax’s head of content. “At that point, just getting our first Showmax Original off the ground was already a major challenge and it was more than we could hope for to actually hit it out of the park. I was stunned when I heard the news about the nominations – it’s amazing to be considered in the same company as these other shows and thanks to this we’re already seeing a fresh spike in Tali views.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary was also a first for co-creator and star Julia Anastasopoulos, who until then was best known as YouTube star SuzelleDIY. “I am so thrilled about the SAFTA nominations for Tali’s Wedding Diary,” says Julia, who is up for Best Actress – TV Comedy and Best Achievement in Scriptwriting – TV Comedy, along with her husband Ari Kruger and Daniel Zimbler. 

“It was such a big and daunting step to create a full TV comedy series and intro a brand-new character. I really didn’t know how it would be received and am so happy to have received such positive feedback for the show and the Tali Babes character, along with the nominations. It feels so good to be recognised for something we poured our hearts into. None of it would have been possible, of course, without the incredible hard work and vision of my husband Ari and the incredible team, cast and crew that were part of the show. And a huge thank you to Showmax of course for making it all possible. Congratulations and best of luck to the entire team and to all the other nominees.”

Tali’s Wedding Diary is a mockumentary that follows Tali, a self-obsessed Joburg princess who’s moved to Cape Town and is planning her wedding to property-agent fiancé Darren (Anton Taylor). The series was inspired by Julia’s own wedding to Ari, her SuzelleDIY and Tali’s Wedding Diary co-creator, who is also up for Best Achievement In Directing – TV Comedy.  

In addition to Julia and Ari’s nominations, Tali’s Wedding Diary is up for Best TV Comedy, Art Direction (Keren Setton),  Cinematography (James Adey), and Editing (Richard Starkey). Winners will be announced on 2 March 2019 at Sun City Superbowl.

Following the success of Tali’s Wedding Diary, the second Showmax Original, The Girl From St Agnes, was released earlier this month. A third Showmax Original, Trippin With Skhumba, is slated for release at the end of February.

“With three Showmax Originals now under our belt and more on the way, we’d like to think this is the start of many more SAFTA nominations for shows from a streaming service,” concludes Candice.

South African content currently on Showmax has 110 nominations and includes the most nominated movie (Five Fingers With Marseilles), telenovela (The River), drama (Lockdown) and soap (Isibaya), with more SAFTA nominees scheduled for the coming months.

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Ford begins production of high-tech Ranger in SA

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Ford’s Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria has officially commenced production of the new Ford Ranger, bringing a raft of product upgrades and refinements to one of South Africa’s best-selling vehicles and export models.

“Following the investment of over R3-billion in our local operations and extensive upgrades to our plants over the past 18 months, we are delighted to see the first of the new Ford Ranger models coming off our production line,” says Neale Hill, managing director for Ford Motor Company Sub-Saharan Africa Region.

“This is an extremely important and exciting year for the Ford Ranger, which will also see the launch of the first Ranger Raptor that is undoubtedly one of this year’s most highly anticipated new models,” says Hill.

“The 2019 Ford Ranger will deliver more power, greater fuel efficiency, enhanced refinement, and additional advanced technologies when it goes on sale in the coming months, and we are confident it will once again set the benchmark in the extremely competitive pickup segment.”

Selected range-topping models, including the Ranger Raptor, will be powered by the all-new 2.0 Bi-Turbo diesel engine assembled at Ford’s Struandale Engine Plant in Port Elizabeth. This unit produces 157kW and 500Nm of torque – up by 10kW and 30Nm compared with the current 3.2 TDCi – and delivers up to a nine percent improvement in fuel efficiency when combined with the advanced new 10-speed automatic transmission.

Certain derivatives will feature a 2.0 Single Turbo version of this engine, producing 132kW and 420Nm of torque, mated to the same 10-speed transmission. Various other models in the line-up will retain the proven 2.2 and 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCi engines and existing gearbox options – thus giving customers the widest choice yet in this category. As usual, the line-up includes Single Cab, Super Cab and Double Cab body styles to suit customer requirements.

Along with freshened design cues, range-topping Ranger models will raise the bar once again with industry-defining safety features on the Wildtrak such as Pre-Collision Assist and Active Park Assist. SYNC 3® with Navigation remains one of the Ranger’s technology highlights as a fully featured infotainment system with intuitive voice control.

Following the launch of the ‘standard’ new Ford Ranger models, the attention will be shifted to the locally assembled Ranger Raptor that is set to create an entirely new segment in the pickup market when it makes its eagerly anticipated debut.

“There is a lot of excitement and hype around the Ranger Raptor, and this exhilarating new model will occupy a white space in the pickup market when it goes on sale in the second quarter of this year, creating a much-needed performance model in this crucial segment,” Hill states.

“We can’t wait to get the Ranger Raptor to market, enabling our customers to experience unrivalled off-road performance, cutting-edge technologies and the most muscular design yet seen in this class.”

Some of the defining features of the Ranger Raptor include Position Sensitive Damping (PSD) shock absorbers exclusively manufactured by FOX, and an advanced Terrain Management System (TMS) that includes an exciting Baja mode for fast off-road driving. It also boasts a toughened reinforced chassis, powerful all-disc braking system and specially developed BF Goodrich tyres.

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