7 September 2004
Ten London taxis, with more than a splash of South African colour and wit, took to the streets of London in September 2004 for a 12-month zig-zag promotion of South Africa as one of the world’s most exciting destinations for tourism, trade and investment.
Eight of the taxis are in the traditional black of the London cab and two are in a bright sky blue to signify the colour of the South African sky to would-be tourists.
All have the flag and Brand South Africa’s “Alive with Possibility” logo on their roofs, providing an unusual sight for office-workers and commuters on the upper-level of double-decker buses.
Slogans along the sides of the taxis promote South Africa as a tourist destination and highlight the achievements of the economy and the country’s huge potential as an investment destination.
(“It would have been quicker to assemble this taxi in South Africa” … “If this taxi was developing as fast as our economy it would be a bus” … on one of the blue taxis: “In South Africa the sky matches this taxi 365 days a year” … on the doors of one of the taxis: “We’ll do everything we can to open them for you” …)
The taxis will go about their daily business until September 2005 as mobile “brand ambassadors” for South Africa, distributing brochures on the country and its achievements and engaging the public and tourists in conversation about South Africa.
The taxis will also be used to ferry South African VIPs, sports people, musicians, ministers and officials across London in an endless zig-zag promotion of South Africa as one of the world’s most exciting destinations for tourism, trade and investment.
On launch day, the taxis gathered at the entrance to the Royal Albert Hall – one of the few venues in central London where 10 taxis can draw up in a single line – for interviews with CNN, SABC-TV, the SA Times and Media24 before proceeding to Westminster Bridge.
Tourists and pedestrians began snapping photos of the taxis. Two London bobbies came past to check what the commotion was about, but seemed quite struck with the spontaneous procession against the backdrop of Westminister and the London Eye. A similar scene was repeated on Waterloo Bridge.
One of the sky-blue taxis went on to Trafalgar Square and South Africa House, where acting High Commissioner Malusi Mahlulo gathered a dozen of the High Commission staff around the taxi for a bird’s eye-view photo from the first floor balcony.
Then it was on to the Travel Inn at Putney Bridge, where 10 members of the Soweto Gospel Choir, who are on a two-month tour of the UK as part of an eight-month world tour, had arrived from Edinburgh. Five of them donned their choir t-shirts and climbed into the taxi for a photo-shoot – and a couple of songs.
Earlier, John Battersby – UK country manager for the International Marketing Council of South Africa – briefed the taxi drivers on the meaning of the slogans on their taxis, and on the country that they would be representing as brand ambassadors for the duration of the campaign.
The drivers showed great enthusiasm for their task, Battersby said, and realised that “they have embarked on a voyage of discovery and interaction as exciting as South Africa itself”.