Sizwe Nxasana (L), FirstRand chief executive, (R) Bernice Samuels, FNB chief marketing officer.
Carly Ritz and Irvine Makuyana
Notwithstanding First National Bank’s (FNB) apology and explanation that its controversial You Can Help TV advert was not an attack on the ANC-led government, The New Age can reveal that school children were paid to make the negative political statements.
The views expressed in the advert were scripted and the children who took part in the three minute 26 seconds broadcast campaign were paid R3500 a day.
FNB chief marketing officer Bernice Samuels told The New Age that it was industry standard to pay performers in an advert, contradicting the insinuation that the advert was a spontaneous gathering of random children sharing their independent thoughts.
Despite constant interrogation, FNB would not disclose the name and position of the official who signed off the final campaign advert.
FirstRand CEO Sizwe Nxasana denied the suggestion that FNB’s intention was to attack the ANC and the government, and reiterated the positive objectives of the campaign.
Media and advertising experts say FNB may have overlooked some ethical questions about the safety of the children featured in the adverts, given the nature of the political views expressed.
The director of Media Monitoring Africa, William Bird, yesterday said: “When you work with children in advertisements you have to take extreme measures to ensure you protect them from harm.
“They (FNB) didn’t foresee the negative response and that’s regrettable.”
A call sheet from Take Ten Casting further confirms that the advert was in no way a spontaneous or natural gathering of young South Africans. Rather, each one was carefully selected.
FNB’s Samuels has confirmed that while the casting interviews were “unscripted, uncensored and very much from the heart” of each child speaking, the TV final advert was indeed scripted.
“The script for the There Will be a Day TV advert was approved by the (bank’s) marketing team,” Samuels said.
The New Age has a brief in its possession labelled “FNB Event Project XXX – Further Casting” that casting company Take Ten sent out to parents on January 9, calling for male teenagers aged between 14 and 17 to audition for the advert.
The brief calls for children who are “passionate speakers and care intensely about South Africa and the lives and futures of the people in this country; boys that are on the student council, debate team, drama team, boys who could be national leaders one day”.
The brief explicitly said that the children “should come from regular backgrounds – not privileged – Model C is NOT what we are looking for”.
Notwithstanding, Samuels said that 50 children were selected for auditions, regardless of the type of school they came from, which contradicts the brief. A source told The New Age that parents were also not allowed on set during filming, but production house Jump has strongly denied this.
Last week, ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said in a statement: “FNB must desist from using school kids to make political statements in a manner that is disrespectful to elders and that disregard sacrifices made in the 18 years of democratic government to improving the living conditions of those who were on the receiving end of apartheid rule.”