First National Bank (FNB) has pulled a series of video-based adverts from YouTube after South Africa’s ruling party and its youth division claimed it was an attack on government.
The adverts, which are part of the bank’s You Can Help campaign, featured school children sharing their views on how the country could be improved.
The campaign, which the bank said it hoped would “inspire the nation”, focuses predominantly on school children because their voices were often neglected.
“The intention of the campaign is not to talk about ourselves, but rather to be a brand for betterment by providing the youth of our country with a stage to voice what impacts the daily reality of many South Africans,” Bernice Samuels, chief marketing officer of FNB told the Mail & Guardian.
“Perhaps it’s time for us to listen to the voices we seldom hear, the youth of our country, because it is the South Africa we build today that will be the country they will inherit tomorrow.”
Although some of the adverts in the campaign have remained on YouTube, one of the ones which has been pulled urged citizens to “stop voting for the same government in hopes for change – instead change your hopes to a government that has the same hopes as us”.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) accused FNB of making a political statement rather than an advert.
“FNB is unfairly using children to articulate a view that we don’t even know for sure is their own,” said ANC Youth League spokesperson Keith Khoza.
The party’s youth wing, the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) meanwhile said the adverts were tantamount to treason.
“Business has been provided many opportunities to raise issues with the ANC but to do this on a public platform in such a manner is treacherous and borders on treason,” league spokesperson Khusela Sangoni-Khawe told the newspaper.
Ironically it has emerged that the youth league actually banks with FNB.
FNB has not posted a statement to the campaign site explaining why the ads were pulled, but it has put out an explanation on its Facebook wall:
We have not pulled the advertising campaign. We have only removed some of the videos from YouTube and our Blog.
FNB is shocked by the allegation of treason levied against it. It is remarkable in its callousness and insensitivity to the children surveyed, who spoke honestly and without fear of reprisal.
With censorship not being an option, the only alternative available to FNB in the face of such serious allegations was to take the responsible decision to withdraw the interview clips for the time being, in the best interest of the children concerned.