South Africa is no stranger to advertising that takes on a life of its own. Like a folktale or family heirloom, these adverts have an impact that is multi-generational, transcending the need to sell a product and striking a chord with viewers who regard them as fondly as they do their favourite karaoke song. At the forefront of these adverts is NESTLÉ CREMORA’s “It’s Not Inside,
It’s On Top”, which debuted on local TV screens in 1985.
With a white couple at the helm, this six-word phrase became a cultural phenomenon, earning a place in our national lexicon alongside other South Africanisms like ‘eish’ and ‘howzit’.
“It’s Not Inside, It’s On Top’’ had so much resonance with South Africans that it returned to TV in 1998, this time with a black couple as the stars of the show.
While this was an obvious attempt to update the advert for the so-called New South Africa, it did introduce the phrase to a new demographic of South Africans who treasured it much like their predecessors had.
Now in 2021, the Joy of Inclusion campaign strives to bring “It’s Not Inside, It’s On Top” to what political pundits would call the “woke generation”. In this campaign, we see marginalised groups such as the differently abled community, LGBTQIA+ folks and persons with albinism trying their hand at the phrase.
We also see business women and mixed-race couples, who are more maligned than marginalised, accounted for.
In recent years, inclusivity (and its cousin diversity) have become lucrative branding strategies for corporations looking to exploit the demands for mass media to become more representative of the marginalised groups who consume it.
Though we should not underestimate how empowering it can be for marginalised groups to see themselves represented, we should be sceptical of the intentions behind such moves.
South Africa is a country that tends to preach inclusion without addressing the reasons for why it needs to be practised. Instead of leaning on cosmetic solutions to the problems facing our country, we should focus on the kinds of interventions that would make these structural inequalities a distant memory.