I am waiting for a video to load on Youtube when this advert begins. As is common of me, and probably you too, with Youtube adverts I rarely watch them. In fact, I cant wait for the “compulsory” five seconds to click it away.
So, this 2 minute and 11 seconds advert by Airtel, one of Kenya’s telecommunication company,starts off.
It caught my eye.
A commercial that creatively captures the long gone political era— the sixties— through something we can now relate to: Whatsapp.
Now, this probably hooked me because I am an avid reader and lover of history but this advert is something else.
Through a Whatsapp group, Airtel was able to take us through Kenya’s clamour for self-rule through smilies, (black and white) profile pictures, phrases and other quirky Kenyan social media habits.In a conversation that today, would have likely happened.
It alludes to the then fiery politician James Gichuru who indeed was one of the known leaders of the self-rule discourse from the colonial British masters.
In the advert, James Gichuru a.k.a J_GICHURU63 forms a group KANU_JUU in 1961, the then political party and goes ahead to change the group icon to a cockerel, the symbol of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) party and even adds T_Mboya (Tom Mboya, a powerful trade unionist). Shortly, he adds the BRITISH SETTLERS alongside the Kapenguria_6, some journalists and other leaders.
All along the background music feels like something you would hear in the 60’s movies but the all familiar Whatsapp notification beeps brings you back to the smart phone era. Genius.
The political science/history bulb in my head (and in my now excited heart) sparks and lights up.
This is too cool.
Then the smilies come through:
The chats continue into April 1961 where Jomo_1963 (Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta) joins the group saying “Guys we need to work with the BRITISH SETTLERS. We need to shut that drama down..”
All this while the British settlers are “hanging in the background staring at the chat.”
Then Kapenguria_6 shares pictures of the cell Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was held in.
And what does Jomo_1963 say: “Guys, I AM SO OUT! You know… #StraightOuttaJail manenoz..” with a promise of a “selfie” soon.
Then Airtel steps in to remind us what (and why) we are going through the historical journey.
Jomo_1963 needs some Sh10 to “buy what I need as soon as I’m out of here”
And the trade unionist, T_Mboya in reassurance says: “We got you!Sending you cash via Airtel Money!”
How cool is that!
Now, while I am a Safaricom subscriber, I cant help but think how quickly the Airtel chaps brought me to their side in those simple two minutes. In those few minutes, I forget about Mpesa and think of Airtel Money.
June 1, 1963, the whatsapp group goes into celebration: Jomo_1963 is free.
What happens to the BRITISH SETTLERS you ask?