About Advertise
Culture
Castle Lite

Black Consciousness Lite

by Brandon Edmonds / 21.04.2011

We begin in the street only to leave it. Our hero is apparently driven to the club. That’s the first sign we are in a dream-sequence of unhindered mobility in which everyday stress-makers (car guards, parking, petrol, driving yourself) fall away. Gliding past the bouncer tells us this is also a dream of total access. Then the truth behind appearances (capital) – the thing that makes this fantasy world possible – the commodity itself appears.

Beer in this case.

Then women are danced with. Sexual plenitude is the reward of success. This is a dream of life once you’ve arrived. Once you’ve made it. The cordon of the VIP section is unhooked and we descend into what enables the pleasures above – idea-driven projects, brainstorming teams working all hours, adding value while the rest of us sleep, in short, the mythic iconography of the information economy.

Our hero solves a problem by adding an unforeseen element to a difficult equation, demonstrating his prized inventive spontaneity, besting regular management, reminding us how capitalism needs and rewards Nietzschean mavericks exempt from the crowd. Then the pool hall – traditional terrain of the working class – where our guy disdains the game altogether and demonstrates his distance from the masses with an impossible trick shot. His skills transcend old forms. His superiority over both management and workers duly demonstrated by mastery over strategy and labour, and it’s back upstairs to claim his reward for being such an exceptional individual, the CEO of capitalist space-time. Beer, deference and yet more women.

Castle Lite

Let’s quickly explore two aspects in play here. What this advert currently tells us about the consumerist capture of Steve Biko’s notion of Black Consciousness, and the dead center of new South African culture – the reigning ideology of “aspirations” (a far better name for Generations).

Biko once asked – “What do we do when we have attained our Consciousness?” This was in 1971 when the question seemed utopian. He acknowledged the possibility of “true integration” but admitted to being “much more concerned about what is happening now than what will happen in the future.” Well, the future, as this advert suggests, has arrived. It depicts a nightlife where the demands of Black Consciousness have not only been realised (our hero’s blackness is radiant with positivity, signifying solvency, mobility, intellect, potency and success) but transcended – racial difference really doesn’t matter.

There’s no denying the aspirational kick of a black achiever out on the town. It’s where young South Africa wants to be. In this sense, Biko would have enjoyed the advert were he around to see it. He defined Black Consciousness as the struggle to “correct false images of ourselves” and “to be our own authorities rather than wait to be interpreted by others” – and most importantly developing “real black people who do not regard themselves as the appendages to white society.” You’d have to say our hero is his own man. He looks sharp, carries himself well and appears in control. An aspirational figure. Who wouldn’t want to be him? But here’s Biko in the same paper: “By describing yourself as black you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being.”

Castle Lite

Those ‘forces that seek to use your blackness’ certainly include a major brewery monopoly positioning yet another aspirational brand before the ascendant black middle class. This is what is missing from the advert, a critical edge. Commitment to fight subservience, which, in South Africa, still means the transformation of the wretched living conditions of the impoverished black majority. Without that awareness, that lived practice of solidarity, Black Consciousness is more a lifestyle, a set of market-driven aspirations, than a genuinely transformative social force. It is Black Consciousness lite. This removal of struggle, of any sign of chronic social inequality, from the world of the advert, is pure ideology. If only the poor would disappear, leaving us to our fantasies. It pretends we are free.

The emptiness of this depoliticized version of Black Consciousness is very evident in the advert. Feel the expensive smoothness it goes for, the propulsion of its entitled flow. Events glide by. Our hero passes through space like tears down a cheek. That glide-affect simulates aspirational social mobility – or as sublime soul singer, Curtis Mayfield, put it, “Moving on Up”. It is how being successful must feel. Achieved in the advert by shutting out whatever contradicts the fantasy. Structural factors like inequality or subjective ones like self-doubt.

Think of what’s lost here. So many aspects of South African blackness have been excised in this figure of the solo black male capitalist achiever: sharing, struggle, ubuntu. As ace British cultural theorist, Stuart Hall, reminds us “cultural change” is a “polite euphemism for the process by which some cultural forms and practices are driven out of the centre of popular life.” The advert revels in the kind of sovereignty Biko was denied under Apartheid and murdered by the State to allay.

Here it is, selling beer.

25   0
RESPONSES (30)
  1. bollocks says:

    Nietzschean

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  2. Castle Blight says:

    A very kak ad for a very kak beer. Which agency bears the ignominy for this piece of shit?

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  3. brandon edmonds says:

    That would be Jupiter Drawing Room.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  4. Kropotkin says:

    Could you mayybe write it so the people who need to hear this can actually understand it?

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  5. brandon edmonds says:

    Beer ad bad.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  6. Luz says:

    This is all too confusing.

    Please remember that not so long ago, black people wanted to be intergrated into the media because we deemed it ‘lilly white’, now we want out because now suddenly its ‘subservient’ toward the black man.

    You’ve got a false idea of what subserviance is.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  7. piss artist. says:

    If the Advert doesn’t speak to you, then it simply means that you aren’t the target audience.
    The Industry uses sly racial tactics when brainstorming these ideas for advertising.(more than what you would think) Now i am not saying anything negative here, but one would be surprised at the lack of boundary and let’s just say “accaptable racism” found within these plans. For example: You often find stereotyping involved, or atleast what the creative director feels the target audience wants to see. This isn’t necessarilly true however, it just becomes a form of cliché that we all become familiar with. You know, that irritating beer ad on T,V, that becomes engraves into one’s mind due to out-dated hits played on repeat during prime-time viewing.

    Note how in the previous advertisement featuring Mc Hammer, how the white barman now serves two black gentlemen as if to denote superiority. This is not what the viewer sees, but you can almost guarantee that it was discussed in the boardroom. Same goes for “Vuyo’s wors” Another advertisement targeting a black audience. Not a single white person therein. Another horrid example would that be of Chicken licken, The white college student hipster riding his scooter to his “favourite” chicken licken outlet. I’m not sure what you make of it, but i sometimes all too often feel that these creatives are hopelessy too obvious when it comes to send a message to South Africa and it’s citizens.

    fuck these hipster creative quacks trying to be all hip and shit with the use of racial stereotyping and accepted prejudices. it’s bullshit i say.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  8. piss artist. says:

    Engraved * fuck i’m already a subservient to the media. erase above.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  9. tings says:

    Um, I think your philosophical tome is a nice diversion, but the main “consumer take-out” here is that it’s just another shit SAB beer ad.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  10. underwhelmed says:

    uhm.. seriously dude, take a chill pill. its nice to see you’ve (re)visited biko but i am not sure exactly how it applies to this ad. just because the lead character is a black man does not mean the ad was conceptualized with the idea of espousing black consciousness. BC is a rich and complex philosophical world view that does not begin or end with steve biko. white people who read biko a couple of times, suddenly think they are an expert on it and hope to find references for BC in every black person they run into are tiring and saddening. what it comes across as is a cynical whitey’s need to project THEIR consciousness of our blackness onto everything. NOT EVERYTHING TO DO WITH BLACK PEOPLE HAS TO DO WITH BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS. got it? and while we at it let me repeat, Steve Biko is not the only authority on BC.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  11. brandon edmonds says:

    uhm…it’s nice to see you’ve taken the time to MISS THE POINT ENTIRELY. I’m merely saying the values of Black Consciousness seem to have a mainstream social presence only insofar as they are commercialized. the radical-transformative aspects of the philosophy have given way to images of consuming blackness – black people happily spending money. a powerful vision has devolved into lifestyle marketing. seriously dude take an alacrity pill.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  12. danni says:

    i think y’all all missing the point…

    advertising has one job to do… and that is to sell shit. it’s not a willing agent of social change, and as powerful as the medium may be for messaging, i don’t think we must have any illusions as to what that message invariably is. black consciousness, green consciousness, gender equality, racial tolerance… as real and importance as these things are in the real world, they are mere “social trends” in adland, to be used as shiny value-shaped lures with which to hook the consumer. in short, advertising commericalises all values… black, white, conservative, liberal… because values have market value!

    Also keep in mind that advertising works on averages and statistics… and like the 2.4 children cliche, the “profile consumer” seldom exists in reality. So often I get briefs describing such ridiculous “characters”…The 34 year old mom with a full time job and three kids who loves cooking, her social life. going to gym and looking after her family (show me a woman with 3 children and a full time job and i’ll show you a woman who hasn’t seen the inside of a gym or cooked a full meal in a very long time). Another faux demographic is the one of the black diamond… which castle lite is clearly championing. The black diamond… in other words young, upwardly mobile black professionals, is just another example of the Adland SuperDemographic. Supermoms, the SuperHealthy, the SuperSporty, the Superbeautiful… In the case of the black diamond the SuperDemographic in question is that of the SuperBlack. He’s handsome! He’s rich! He’s virile! He’s Stylish! He’s modern but hasn;t lost touch with his roots as we can see by his respect for his Brothers and the handshakes they share (and his love of quaint Soweto drinking holes despite the fact that he lives in houghton!).

    Advertisinig conspiracy theorists will argue that Advertising deliberately creates and perpetuates these extreme representations of people to make them feel inadequate and therefore in need of the product in question to achieve this ‘fully actualised’ state of being. Which is true when you consider such “aspirational” ads as the castle lite one…but i think that is giving the marketing monkeys far too much credit. The thing is, sloppy research, cliched perceptions and the ease of stereotype are more to blame. Having read the Black Diamond studies, the results are far more varied and complex than what these castle lite style ads give credit for. But you cant have varied and complex ads. Ads need to be clear, defined, accessible, which either means the simplification and watering down of the Real (like women who squeal with joy at white laundry) -or the idealisation of it. But I digress. And I’m also too busy writing buy-lines for high fibre cereal to finish off my point. Man, advertising sucks!

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  13. ingamla yasekapa says:

    yo, bro. great fucking article and probing what needs to be looked at. all you dudes “selling” shit in the advertising industry. Think about it. What else could you use your skills, networks, intellect, gifts to sell? maybe even on the side, or pro bono?

    Sharp!
    :)c

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  14. Actually says:

    I doubt the people who made this ad put as much thought into it as the people writing about it.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  15. DeadEd. says:

    @underwhelmed…
    ‘our blackness’ what does that even mean?

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  16. Mpho says:

    I like the other windhoek ads better 😛

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  17. alexd says:

    Who needs beer? Your writing is the juice, Brandon.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  18. whatever says:

    I thaught this one was better than the last.most of these companies just do advertising as a tax write off,but have to uphold some form of image,maybe some one else delegates wot.any case this sounds like a hyped up discussion by friends with afew interludes inbetween.maybe the adverts trying to say that if u drink this u’ll turn into a prince and get lots of chicks and all ur bra’s envy u.wite ,blk,pink or blue every one gets the jist.i like this ad he’s cool.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  19. Chrisco says:

    An interesting read, but as Actually comments above:the people who made the ad didn’t put as much thought into it as the people who comment on it.

    As Danni said, people who write grand conspiracy theories (of any sort really) tend to be pretty out of touch with the reality of the industries or organisations they accuse.

    Advertising typically involves teams of overworked people trying to do a good job within tough constraints. Yes, clichés abound and concepts and ideas are usually dull or offensive in their blatant stereotyping. But advertising does not begin as social commentary, and creative teams do not have the imagined luxury of carefully crafting biting analysis of social problems, culture-clashes and class barriers. You get a brief (if someone bothered to type it up), you get a strategy document to work your storyline against (but so often the strategy is half-assed or written after the fact), and you get given a deadline that is a week shorter than it should be.

    Then, you get briefed on three other jobs to do at the same time, and everyone offloads as much as possible on to the Production Company to solve. The client reviews the work and throws out any interesting or new ideas, because they’ve never seen it done before and therefore are uncomfortable with change, or losing their job… and so the ad relies as much as possible on ‘measurable’ stats to inform the content; LSM groups, marketing surveys and class breakdowns… which are all stupid and hopeless and invented by marketers who typically LOVE to homogenise people into made-up groupings… but regardless of the faults of the system – this ISN’T a conspiracy – I assure it’s just people doing their job everyday and making a salary and wishing they COULD feed and school their kids by drawing comic books or making art movies all day, but they can’t… and so they work in advertising.

    I’m not saying it’s not Evil. But it seriously isn’t as malevolent and crafty as some people seem to think it is. Don’t ascribe that sort of intelligence to it. Shit just happens.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  20. brandon edmonds says:

    While we can sympathize with the plush torments of the ‘creative class’ – what happens ‘behind the scenes’ is completely irrelevant. And nobody said anything about ‘a conspiracy’ – that’s the go-to response of anyone happily ‘apolitical’ and complacent enough to have fooled themselves into believing they’re somehow immune to politics – that their ‘little lives’ aren’t hurting anyone. The advert is a TEXT. A social text. The inclinations, intentions and constraints behind its production are irrelevant. The Death of the Author happened almost 40 years ago in Theory. As a text the ad reflects what a corporation believes will interest us enough to consume its products. In that sense it is a complex form of corporate communication. It deserves our keenest critical attention as a kind of ‘ruling speech’ – this is what owners think and expect of us. Whether copywriters and directors were under pressure producing it in less than ideal circumstances is about as necessary to our understanding as knowing Tolstoy had irritable bowel syndrome writing Anna Karenina.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  21. brandon edmonds says:

    I hate myself more each day by the way.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  22. papanyana makwe says:

    Interesting article. Clearly me graduating from two ‘liberal’ institutions and mingling with whiteys in the corporate world for a couple of years didnt help as I had to read this article twice just to make sense of it. I think you make an interesting argument, I just dont agree with your point of view (perhaps another readthrough is necessary). My point perhaps is for another article… but let me just say I’ve come across a lot of SA sites and blogs, and I’m surprised by the amount of “Intellectual writing” thats on there. Is it just me or are people trying to sound too intelligent in their writing, too complex? Do people have a problem with writing in plain simple English, in a way that people can follow and enjoy. I find this dissapointing because everytime I read UK, Australian or American sites, I find myself engrossed in the articles and whatever arguments they are making. I think South Africans need to ease up. Articles like the one posted here raise critical points that a lot of people would like to discuss, but with the writing so cryptic, we’re put off. I understand there is a target audience for everything but guys chill the fuck out!

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  23. brandon edmonds says:

    jesus i think i drunk-dialed the comment thread there. hey @papanyana you’re absolutely right. clarity of thought and expression is the goal and it tends to enable inclusivity. it’s about re-writing and slowing down and a better editing process and a clearer vision for the site. thanks for the heads up.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  24. Chrisco says:

    Brandon, come now. If you’re trying to simplify my response to your article by saying: “…Whether copywriters and directors were under pressure producing it in less than ideal circumstances is about as necessary to our understanding as knowing Tolstoy had irritable bowel syndrome writing Anna Karenina…” … .then you’re an idiot. And I don’t think you’re an idiot, but you’re acting like one.

    No – irritable bowel syndrome might not have much of an effect on Tolstoy’s work, but if he was writing the book as a commission for a wealthy benefactor who wanted mass appeal and he needed to finish the book quick so that he could pay his overdue rent.. .then yes, that would be necessary to our understanding of the book, because it would say a lot about the choices he made when writing it… and whether he had a message to communicate, or simply needed to get paid quickly.

    Like I said, I’m not saying it’s NOT evil, and carelessness in your job should not be endlessly forgiven… just that it’s easy to make things sound even more evil and complicated than it is by talking about ‘corporations’ and the ‘plush torments of the creative class’… It’s nice blanket terminology that makes your argument come across as sneering and superior.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  25. Roger says:

    criteria for discussion is both relevant and irrelevant depending on who is having the conversation. clearly some are more capable than others. undeniably, the truth remains hidden

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  26. mallz says:

    BEE types, pff let them drink beer.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  27. amafutakama says:

    certainly a perspective worth considering…especially over an ice cOld beer…homemade of course!

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  28. hater says:

    the new black bimbo is still arriving! fuck it – i’m off…

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  29. Paul says:

    Another instance of post rationalisation and intellectual diarrhea. The fact is the ad is a rip off of a similar Heineken ad but not as well produced and has got sod all to do with Biko etc.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

LEAVE A REPLY

Loading...