The new Santam insurance advertisement cleverly uses a famous actor to specify the insurance company’s offering. The viewers’ knowledge of the actor Ben Kingsley is of paramount importance for one to appreciate the content of the advertisement.
Thematically speaking the ad asks the viewer to double check whether the insurance policy that they have is what it promises to be. In retrospect the questions that are erected within the advertisement as a probing text inversely-wittily erect what Santam can offer to its client. It is self referential or if you will self reflexive.
A little encounter
I first encountered the advertisement at the movies as part of the trailer section. Then it was shown at another time on the telly. I found it interesting in that in my first viewing of this text I was left baffled in that the opening character; portrayed by a man in a grey suit, Ben Kingsley, was replaced by another, a look alike, and him by another one and so on, in a continuous shot, until you had about four additional people portraying the role of the first character. Towards the closure of this advertisement the person we know – Ben Kingsley returns as all these characters regroup in a final shot and the viewers’ guesswork is brought to an end since now they can conclude that indeed the people who were replacing each other all along as the advertisement rolled on were Ben Kingsley lookalike. The viewer will note that as we go into an out-of-focus Kingsley gives us a sort-of a knowing smile.
The Grey Suit character
The verbal enunciations that accompany the grey suit character serves to urge the viewer to think about the insurance that they have or are planning to have, specifically the benefits that are attached to it. I shall first state these remarks and later connect them to the changing lookalikes in order to foreground interaction between verbal specification of the content and visual specification. These verbal specifications start with the first speaker who is Ben Kingsley himself and is carried over by his lookalikes until he returns in the final shot. The verbal specifications are as follow:
There is a lot out there that claims to be the real deal, the genuine article. It may look real, sound real say all the right things. But how do you know you are getting the real McCoy? Take insurance, is it for long proper insurance? Is it sort of or kind of…Oh, you are not totally covered for that insurance. Go and scrutinize your policies, is it the insurance that you think it is? Or does it just resemble it?
Then the words: Santam, insurance good and proper appear as the advert ends. Now let us look at the words in their association with the Ben Kinglsey lookalikes from the opening verbal enunciation to its closure. It is important that the viewer, perhaps in hindsight (retrospect), should note that Ben Kingsley opens the scene and he later on closes it.
Our location is a beach scene. The mood seem as if a storm is about to pour. The thrashing sound of the waves heightens the sombre mood of the scene as the solitary figure speaks and walks through a grey film tone. He is dressed in a grey suit and walks barefooted on the beach. His attire starkly complements that of the weather. One expects people to stay away from the beach such in an unpleasant weather. Despite his misplacement and unsuitable attire at the beach the only article missing to keep him dry should it start pouring is either the raincoat or an umbrella. Our knowledge of Santam presupposes that it is an umbrella. We will encounter the umbrella right at the closure of this text concerning associated with Santam at the end of the text thus bringing the last piece of the puzzle to bare on the rain threatened setting.
Let us return to the verbal enunciation of the advertisement and situate parallel to the substitution of lookalikes to the ‘real’ Ben Kingsley.
Lookalikes and Substitutions
1st speaker/grey suited man (Ben Kingsley): There is a lot out there that claims to be the real deal, the genuine article.
2nd speaker/grey suited man: It may look real, sound real say all the right things. But how do you know you are getting the real McCoy?
Fist substitution occurs
3rd speaker/grey suited man: Take insurance, is it for long proper insurance? Is it sort of or kind of…Oh, you are not totally covered for that insurance.
Second substitution occurs
4th speaker/grey suited man: Go and scrutinize your policies, is it the insurance that you think it is?
Third substitution occurs and a retention of the first sign (Ben Kingsley)
1st speaker/grey suited man: Or does it just resemble it?
Herewith I have highlighted the word ‘look’ in the second speaker specification because this is where the second speaker appears and if the viewer is paying attention they will notice this occurance.
I have also highlighted the word ‘resemble’ upon our return to the first speaker as we reach the final shot where all the lookalikes and the actual Ben Kingsley regroup prior to the closure of the advertisement.
Then when the camera goes out of focus the sentence ‘Santam: Insurance Good and proper’ appear.
The appearance of the statement ‘Santam: Insurance good and proper’ positions Santam within the questions raised in the little discourse that the advertisement erects within itself as the answer to all those questions. The accolades that the person of Ben Kingsley as an accomplished actor posses trajects Santam as an insurance product to a higher level as opposed to ‘other’ insurances that may be claiming to offer the same features that are covered by Santam. We are asked to look again at our own insurances to ‘scrutinize’ them, to check whether they are what they are or they resemble what they claim to be. Here we reach an embedded aspect of this advertisement a sort of a mise en abyme where we are forced to check what Santum itself offers against our personal needs. This way then the advertisement is self referential in a sense that as much as it asks us to be critical about what other insurances offers in their portfolio it draws attention to itself as the insurance to opt for.
Lastly the yellow umbrella symbolic which symbolises Santam is foregrounded by the threatening grey weather, through a grey film tone, echoed both in the grey suit of the main protagonist, Ben Kingsley, and those of the minor protagonists, his lookalikes.
All questions raised in the advertisement vihicled by the lookalikes are covered under one umbrella. They are covered by Santam: Insurance Good and Proper.
© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2012