Sanlam has launched the country’s first WhatsApp drama series which is told entirely through the medium of WhatsApp in texts, photos, voice notes and video.
Sanlam has launched the country’s first WhatsApp drama series. Uk’shona Kwelanga (meaning ‘The Sunset’ and also ‘The Death of Langa’) is a collaboration with top scriptwriter and playwright Bongi Ndaba and a number of the country’s best known actors. But unlike a TV drama series, it is told entirely through the medium of WhatsApp in texts, photos, voice notes and video.
WhatsApp is the most used social messenger app in the country but is currently only used by a small number of brands globally – due to the technical limitations of the platform. Sanlam chose WhatsApp because it is a medium most of their market uses, and an ideal opportunity to shift into a new space of entertainment and immediacy.
On coming up with the concept Lesego Kotane, Strategy Partner at King James said, “The Funeral Scheme market is an important business for Sanlam; however in the past they have had challenges making inroads as a brand that is strongly associated with this offering. Besides having a very strong product offering to talk about, we also wanted to demonstrate to our market that Sanlam has an understanding of the realities that come with the planning of a send off for a loved on. So the creative challenge was to find a way to show this in a way that would resonate with our target market and through a platform that they already engage with. The combination of soapie and social media felt like the right one.”
The WhatsApp drama will launch on 5 June and be available up until mid July. The drama tells the tale of a South African family struggling to deal with the emotional and financial ramifications of loss while planning their father’s funeral. Although the story is a familiar one, the means of conducting the campaign is entirely new – subscribers will receive a series of updates over seven days (the average time it takes to plan a funeral), drawing them into the drama and making them feel like part of the family. A marketing campaign including a promotional video, billboards and social media ads will build an audience for the series.
Scriptwriter, Bongi Ndaba, used her experience writing for shows such as Generations to create characters that many South Africans will identify with.
“It was hugely challenging writing for WhatsApp – characters needed to be relatable to all South Africans, and their story had to deal with serious subject matter but in a fun and engaging way. When someone dies, you don’t have long to plan a funeral. Time pressure coupled with financial demands inevitably causes distress even in the most loving and harmonious of families – a theme we wanted to explore in more depth. I hope the script is true to life and handles the scenario sensitively. As a writer, it was an exciting opportunity to explore a real-time, real-impact medium. Hopefully, this will set the tone for the nature of advertising going forwards.”
According to Tendani Matshisevhe from Sanlam Developing Markets, “The idea behind this campaign was to educate people in an experiential and accessible way. We wanted it to be as lifelike as possible – also showing the cultural issues of deciding where to lay a loved one to rest, observing important rituals and balancing the demands of the modern world and tradition.”
Voice notes for the real-time drama will be voiced by some of South Africa’s favourite actors including Shabangu’s Bongani Madondo, Isidingo’s Linda Sokhulu and Stokvel’s Thembi Mtshali, who were also filmed for a series trailer.
Every episode in the drama demonstrates the necessity of a funeral scheme, which pays out claims quickly. With a lot to do in a short period, funeral cover alleviates some of the stress on families, and allows people to focus on what’s important – celebrating the life of the person they loved.
To find out more SMS your name and surname to 45603 to watch the drama unfold over 7 days or visit https://www.sanlam.co.za/campaigns/mychoicewhatsappdrama/Pages/default.aspx
Netflix to make SA series
The world leader in streaming movies has announced the first South African production to join its Originals roster.
World leader in entertainment streaming services Netflix this week announced its first Original series in Africa, with South African series Queen Sono.
The news comes immediately in the wake of local rival Showmax announcing it’s first original drama production. In this context, it heralds a new phase in the evolution of streaming video-on-demand in South Africa.
The action-packed series follows Queen Sono, the highly trained top spy in a South African agency whose purpose is to better the lives of African citizens. While taking on her most dangerous mission yet, she must also face changing relationships in her personal life. The series will be created by Director, Kagiso Lediga and Executive producer Tamsin Andersson.
South African actress, Pearl Thusi, will star as Queen Sono, with the character having been created with her in mind. Thusi is also known for her performance in the romantic dramedy, Catching Feelings, available on Netflix.
“We are excited to be working with Kagiso and Pearl, to bring the story of Queen Sono to life, and we expect it to be embraced by our South African users and global audiences alike.” said Erik Barmack, Vice President of International Original Series at Netflix.
“We are delighted to create this original series with Netflix, and are super excited by their undeniable ability to take this homegrown South African story to a global audience. We believe Queen Sono will kick the door open for more awesome stories from this part of the world” added the director and executive producer of the series, Kagiso Lediga.
The series is due to start production in 2019.
Showmax shoots its first local drama
Showmax has completed filming its first commissioned drama, as it builds out its roster of original content.
The Girl From St Agnes, Showmax’s first original drama, wrapped on 28 November 2018 after filming in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and Johannesburg. The eight-part whodunnit premieres on Showmax on 31 January 2019. It is the second series in a programme designed to build out its roster of exclusive, original content.
As Netflix takes hold as South Africa’s preferred streaming video-on-demand service, Showmax owner MultiChoice has made a string of strategic announcements designed to take the DStv paid satellite broadcasting service into the streaming era. Original content is critical to this strategy, as Netflix is on track to become the world’s biggest movie studio.
Showmax is available in 70 countries.
“Our first Original – last year’s light-hearted comedy Tali’s Wedding Diary – had the most successful launch day of any series on Showmax ever,” says Candice Fangueiro, head of content at Showmax. “This is a complete change of direction: The Girl From St Agnes is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing and taps into the current conversations in South Africa about #metoo and teen sexuality.”
At St Agnes, a prestigious all-girls boarding school in the Midlands, a popular and beautiful student is found dead at the base of the old mill. Fearful of the scandal it might cause, the school is quick to declare the death of Lexi Summerveld a tragic accident.
But drama teacher Kate Ballard doesn’t believe it. On the night of her death, an upset Lexi had been trying to contact her, and Kate had ignored her. Now wracked with guilt, Kate attempts to piece together the terrible truth.
The more she investigates, the more Kate realises that she didn’t know Lexi or the school at all. Behind the imposing walls of St Agnes, Lexi’s killer won’t be the only person exposed…
Newcomer Jane De Wet was handpicked to play Lexi by legendary South African casting director Moonyeenn Lee (Tsotsi), who’s been nominated for two Emmy Awards in the last three years, for The Looming Tower and Roots.
Kate is played by Nina Milner, who modelled for Vogue Germany and at Paris Fashion Week last year and most recently starred in Troy: Fall Of A City as Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons.
Jane and Nina are joined by an impressive supporting cast that includes internationally recognised South African talent like Robert Hobbs (District9), Tyrone Keogh (24 Hours To Live), Tessa Jubber (Wallander), Karl Thaning (Dredd) and Shamilla Miller (Troy: Fall Of A City) opposite local favourites like Celeste Khumalo (The Queen), Richard Lukunku (Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word), Zakeeya Patel (High Rollers), Graham Hopkins (The Lab) and three-time South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) winner Jerry Mofokeng (Heist, Tsotsi), not to mention hot new talent like Paige Bonnin and Tristan de Beer.
The Girl From St Agnes is being produced by Quizzical Pictures, winners of the SAFTA for Best Drama for six of the last eight years, as well as a Peabody. Producer Harriet Gavshon, Quizzical Pictures’ managing director, is drawing on her own private school experiences, which sparked the original idea for the show. This is the first time Harriet has produced a series, rather than just executive producing, since 2009’s Hopeville, which won Best Drama and Miniseries at Rose d’Or, was nominated for an International Emmy, and was a finalist at Monte Carlo.
Catharine Cooke, who won this year’s Best Director In a TV Drama SAFTA for iNumber Number, co-directed the shoot with Cindy Lee, a commercials director helming her first drama series, having previously worked as the social media director on the Emmy-winning Black Mirror. Double SAFTA winner Gillian Breslin (Umlilo; 4Play: Sex Tips For Girls) is head writer. This makes Girl From St Agnes a rare TV series commissioned, produced, written and directed by women.
“What links Girl From St Agnes, Tali’s Wedding Diary and the other Showmax Originals in the pipeline is our aim to work with the best South African talent and be the home for brave, quirky and at times edgy local stories you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” says Candice. “Creating new characters that audiences come to love and follow is an incredibly rewarding experience and we want to establish a platform for more ‘Tali’s’ across varied genres.”
All eight episodes can be binged on Showmax from 31 January 2019.