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TELEVISION / York on ads: Labour of love for an infant democracy: No 52: South African Airways

IT OPENS like a mini-series - actually it looks slightly like a disaster-movie mini-series - a plane flying through blue night skies with 'from a true story' superimposed.

The look, the production values, of the new South African Airways commercial are tremendously American. So too is the story, the rousing soft-rock ballad that enters the sound-track midway; indeed, practically everything about it.

Including the voice of the main character in this little true story, a young suburban wife in a white maternity dress and matching headband - Miss Iowa State of 1988. She walks anxiously up the aisle of the plane, clutching at things, returns to her seat holding the armrest, next to her sleeping husband (Gap leisure wear; on the ladder in a Chicago banking group).

'Honey, I think I'm in labour,' is the signal for a great deal of very organised activity from the flight staff and a variety of cutaways to concerned passengers. Miraculously a 'bed' is created (just imagine moving sleeping passengers on a real night flight), the girls gather round, encouraging and stroking, and with a little lip-biting, a little push, it's all done.

When our girl gets going the music does too. It swells, it's precisely that kind of warm anthemic swell that characterises dozens of real domestic American ads that concern themselves with service - 'because-you-care' music.

When it's over, the pilot announces a new passenger and the plane flies off into a sky now glowing gloriously pink. It's not difficult to see this as a metaphor for the new South Africa - one of the stewardesses is black - a land safe for American business folk. It leaves you wondering what else we'll see now the drive is on. Will Nelson Mandela pop up in the News at Ten 'businessman's break' touting for inward investment on behalf of the Greater Johannesburg Development Corporation?

Videos supplied by Tellex Commercials.

(Photograph omitted)