Returning papa to the commercial break

I may not be a soda enthusiast, but I can vividly recall Papa Shirandula’s Brrrrrrrrr sound out savouring a bottle of that dark, fizzy elixir in a Coca-Cola commercial that graced our screens more than a decade ago.

The ascent of Charles Bukeko, affectionately known as Papa, seemed to reach its peak when he broke through the screen with his unforgettable ads, including a captivating GOTV campaign. He even left his mark on global audiences with commercials filmed in far-flung locales such as Indonesia for Coca-Cola and South Africa for telco Vodacom.

Papa’s humour was his stock in trade, etching his comedic brilliance into our memories. His Citizen TV show, “Papa Shirandula,” became an indelible part of the Kenyan entertainment menu. Yet, in 2020, at the height of Covid-19 pandemic winter, he slipped away from our midst, much like the many things that faded into obscurity during those hard-to-forget times.

Papa Shirandula might well have been Kenya’s most prominent export to the world of multinational commercials. Unfortunately, we’ve made little headway in nurturing a successor, primarily because global brands tend to bypass Kenya when it comes to shooting their commercials.

Companies such as Coca-Cola, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble often opt for an international cast and unfamiliar locations, churning out ads that are subsequently adapted for various markets, including Kenya. It’s a practice that has left a void in our local commercial landscape, one that Papa Shirandula once filled with his trademark charisma and humour.

Influencer marketing

But that may soon be changing with the rise in local capacity to produce high-quality content and changes in the advertising scene that require companies to cultivate local nuances.  

This transformation has steered us toward a new era of commercials that place considerable emphasis on influencer marketing, harnessing the charisma and relatability of beloved figures in the Kenyan landscape.

Influencer marketing has illuminated the significance of local stars and familiar settings in promoting multinational brands. It has also fostered collaborations between these companies and numerous boutique marketing and public relations agencies, specialists in crafting niche campaigns at a fraction of the cost typically associated with global counterparts.

Consider “The Bar,” a newly launched bespoke advertising agency dedicated to elevating creative communication for their clients. Recently, they secured a significant deal to produce a commercial for GoTV. This GoTV advertisement serves as a prime example of the remarkable outcomes achievable through close collaboration with clients.

The GoTV advertisement represents a milestone as it marks the first time the client has chosen to produce a commercial locally, complete with a local cast and crew. It denotes a departure from the conventional approach where most brands would create content in South Africa and then adapt it for distribution across the African continent.

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Kenya’s ubiquitous ‘mtu wa smokies’

In the GoTV’s ad, you will break into fits of laughter, as you connect with a long list of relatable characters. Picture yourself enjoying Nairobi’s bustling city life, complete with the ubiquitous “mtu wa smokies” and the trendy, pimped-up matatus. The advert, spoken in Swahili with Kenya’s distinctive accent, strikes a chord deep within, compelling you to consider purchasing a GoTV decoder if you haven’t already.

According to The Bar, a shift is coursing through the local advertising landscape. Clients are actively seeking out smaller, agile, and more responsive agencies that operate with minimal bureaucracy while placing a laser focus on the art of creativity.

“The agency demonstrated its profound local insight to clients, offering guidance in crafting content that resonates with our local audience,” remarked The Bar.

As multinational corporations set their sights on homegrown advertising solutions to trim costs and invigorate their marketing strategies, one can’t help but hope that the legacy of Papa Shirandula will find its way into the hearts and minds of Kenya’s local talents.

Kenyan concepts, bursts of urban colour, and breathtaking Safari views could soon dominate those YouTube ads, sparing us the usual temptation to skip them. Instead, they might have us shimmying to the tune of “Brrrrrrrrr,” even when it’s for sodas we don’t usually indulge in.

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