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In an attempt to capture some of the buzz around the Rugby World Cup, leading South African mobile operator Cell C released a YouTube video which has come under dual-fire for being a “rip-off” of satirical puppet show ZANews, and for being “offensive”.
The video, published the morning of South Africa’s pivotal match against the Samoan rugby team, was described as follows:
We’ve been trying to get on the inside for weeks and finally we’ve broken through. From the very heart of the camp comes coachie, mere hours before the big game in an exclusive video blog that details his challenges in this challenging time as South Africa’s head coach. The lighter side of RWC2011. #5#
An hour after Memeburn published this article, Cell C removed public access to the video.
What made the video stick out for a number of South Africans is not its content, however, but rather its striking similarity to ZANews’ most recent method of parodying of the South African coach Peter De Villiers, the “DivvyCam”.
ZANews has made a name for itself by creating puppets of both beloved and not-so-beloved South African figures including Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and controversial ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema to name a few.
On Monday morning, ZANews posted links to the Cell C video on Twitter and Facebook.
On Twitter, ZANews, perhaps constrained by the 140 character limit, simply wrote:
Though ZANews creator Thierry Cassutto, would not refer to the video as a “rip-off” in a conversation with Memeburn, ZANews’ Facebook account wrote, explaining the video:
Well, I guess we could take it as an homage” from CellC to ZANEWS… But this thing is so bad, so unfunny and such a pathetic rip-off of the DivvyCam series we started 3 weeks ago that we’re just throwing it at you, so you can, you know, CellC for yourself and tell them what you think.
On social networks, the nascent reaction to the video has firmly been on the side of ZANews. The reaction has run the gamut from users calling it a rip-off, and finding it “offensive,” to others questioning why Cell C was okay with putting its name next to the “I’m black, you are white, you are wrong, I am right” quote.
Some felt the campaign reflected Cell C’s general marketing strategy, saying it “suits cell c’s marketing profile very well — crap, crap, crap”. Cell C previously faced a firestorm over its Trevor Noah campaign which also began on YouTube.
On the Cell C YouTube video itself, comments have not been supportive either, with one commenter writing, “Blatantly ripping off (and poorly) the character from ZANews DivvyCam. Shame on you. Think up your own material maybe”.
Cassuto, after describing Cell C’s video as “pretty sad,” would only say that he was leaving it up to viewers to make up their own minds about the video.
Memeburn was unsuccessful in reaching Cell C for comment