The Reader: Latest Bell’s whis

The Reader: Latest Bell’s whisky advert a South African tearjerker

Another inspired ad campaign hits South African screens – it depicts the intricate steps undertaken by an illiterate elderly man learning to read; while keeping his motivation for embarking on this difficult journey hidden until the very end

The Reader: Latest Bell’s whis


CREATIVITY seems to run in South African blood, and must be thicker than Pinotage in the case of ad execs, as the most recent campaigns for TV commercials have sufficiently proven.

Bell’s Whisky is taking SA ingenuity in the advertising sector to a whole new level with its latest campaign, hitting a very South African nerve and making a profound statement about more than just an alcoholic beverage from Scotland.

The new TV ad entitled “The Reader” documents the intricate steps undertaken by an illiterate elderly man, who is slowly overcoming his obstacles and learning to read; while keeping his motivation for embarking on this difficult journey hidden until the very end.

At this point of the plot, the efforts of the greying man are revealed to be well-deserving of a tumbler filled with Bell’s whisky – while the audience will probably want to reach for a box of tissues.

“Give that man a Bell’s,” echoes the message at the end of the ad, which chronicles the motions that our protagonist has to go through in order to connect with the aspirations of his high-flying son as a successful writer.

The inspirational campaign, thought up by the King James agency in Cape Town, has already been internationally recognised in media circles for its ground-breaking storytelling elements and simple style techniques while achieving over a million hits on YouTube within the first two weeks of its posting.

Among its accolades, the US industry publication Adweek hailed the campaign as “more heart-warming than most of the Super Bowl commercials,” referring to the recent American Football finals event, which is one the biggest highlights on the American broadcasting calendar.

“Scotch whisky brand Bell’s and ad agency King James might just lift your spirits with this South African ad with an elderly man struggling to overcome his illiteracy so he can celebrate a family milestone,” says David Gianatasio from Adweek.

The long-established whisky brand from Scotland has been gaining popularity on the Saffa market, extending its core brand value of “acknowledging exceptional achievement” into all strata of society. The celebrated ad campaign is part of an ongoing drive to strengthen the message of this brand identity while also championing for literacy — an impressing feat, tied into a tear-jerking storyline.

“This touching story of perseverance stays true to the values and spirit that the Bell’s brand has become known for,” explains Bell’s Brand Manager Thandeka Ngqumeya.

The advertising campaign was also recently celebrated by US publication Business Insider, which hailed it as the “most inspiring ad of the new year.”

“Slowly but surely, the man’s reading improves, and the ad delivers its extraordinary emotional payoff – right as the music hits its stirring crescendo,” reads the enthusiastic review.

The innovative television ad was launched at the beginning of February, and is being broadcast across South Africa on DStv as well as on free-to-air channels.

By Sertan Sanderson, 2014