Sanlam’s Uk’shona Kwelanga series, which is still open for subscription, is the first South African drama to be created specifically for WhatsApp. Written by top scriptwriter and playwright Bongi Ndaba, it features an all-star local cast and sensitively explores the real-life tension experienced by a family when planning a funeral.
In its first week, the drama had 1000 sign-ups. Feedback from subscribers has been overwhelmingly positive, with one participant commenting, “Great cast and good writing in my opinion. This is quite unprecedented in this part of the world and an excellent way of marketing. You are bringing it home and everyone can relate. I’m loving it already.”
Lesego Kotane, Strategy Partner at King James, said the group had to work quickly when it realised how popular the drama was becoming, “We were delighted to have to deal with a lot more people subscribing in the first few weeks than we’d planned for – a problem we were only too happy to have. We now have up to 12 groups running simultaneously, most of them comprising 220 people to deal with WhatsApp limitations and to ensure everyone receives the right conversation at the right time.”
The medium of WhatsApp was chosen for its relevance and immediacy. Lesego thinks the curiosity factor is also encouraging sign-ups, “People have been very intrigued by what a WhatsApp drama actually involves – people are used to TV shows but this is an entirely new experience. I also think because we worked with Bongi Ndaba, one of the country’s top scriptwriters, it brought a sense of authenticity and drama to the content.”
Few brands have successfully tapped into WhatsApp’s extraordinary potential. With 1.2 billion monthly users globally, the chat platform presents a revolutionary medium for marketing leaders to explore. And for Sanlam, it was opportunity to engage its audience via a platform they actively use.
Says Lesego, “There is a lot of interaction on WhatsApp – and many people are reacting to events in the story, particularly around more dramatic or comic moments. I’d like to think by pioneering new formats we can continue to build on the learnings from this project and open the door for other people to also experiment with new digital channels.”
Tendani Matshisevhe Head of Marketing & Communications at Sanlam Developing Markets is delighted with people’s comments that show that the key learnings from the drama have landed, “Many people have commented in the WhatsApp groups about how the drama has brought home the fact that funerals have to happen quickly and are often more expensive than anticipated, with younger family members frequently having to shoulder the costs. With 460 236 deaths recorded in South Africa in 2015, funeral cover is essential. Sanlam processed 43 975 funeral claims in 2016, paying out more than 90% of them within 4 hours. This alleviates the financial stress of a funeral, helping family and friends to plan and execute fast.”
SIGN UP TO BE PART OF THE DRAMA
THE STORY: The story focuses on the trials faced by the Langa family following the unexpected death of the family elder, Bab’ Langa. The WhatsApp group explores themes of finance, familial secrets and traditional rites – demonstrating the unnecessary financial pressure that burdens a family following the loss of a loved one with no funeral cover.
HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: Subscribers are invited to be a fly on the wall of a family’s WhatsApp conversation in real-time, and receive daily messages relaying the series’ seven parts. The drama started in June and is running for six weeks, until 15 July. People can opt in by sending their names and numbers to 45603, via SMS, with a once-off fee of R1, 50.