Michael Shabalala knows first-hand just what it means to be abandoned and alone. At the age of just four, he ran away from home and spent his childhood on the streets of Durban and in and out of children’s shelters. But he has turned his life around and now cares for vulnerable children through the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW). For eight years, he has dedicated his life to giving children a voice, creating places of safety and supporting them  so that they can focus on their schooling.

Gogo Hazel (Hazel Myezo) is lovingly referred to as ‘the heavenly daughter’ within her close-knit Alexandra community. Family is important to her. Despite having a child of her own, she adopted two others and has welcomed her brother’s wife and four children into her home in Alexandra, Johannesburg. Every day – and often long into the night – she passionately shares her craft skills with her extended family and unemployed women in the community, empowering them to make a living. Having utilised her sewing, beadwork, crocheting and knitting skills to earn a viable income, she is determined to pass them on.

31 year-old Boitumelo knows the value of a mother’s loving care. Despite the financial burden of three children, Boitumelo and Samuel, her husband of 13 years, lovingly welcomed her sister Kedinametse and her baby boy into their home in Windsor East, Johannesburg. Kedinametse, who was unaware that she was pregnant, was diagnosed with TB shortly after her arrival and died a few weeks after giving birth. In honour of her sister, Boitumelo and Samuel, without hesitation, decided to foster the two babies and provide a loving family for them.

Michael, Gogo Hazel and Boitumelo all feature in Nivea’s new television commercial which was flighted nationally at the beginning of December.

It certainly marks a massive departure from the norm for the largest skin care brand in the world and a leader in most of the product categories in which the global skincare giant operates in South Africa.

“For the first time in history, Nivea has created a television commercial, not featuring models, but real South African people. The commercial tells the story of three everyday heroes in South Africa and celebrates their incredible acts of kindness and generosity. These people not only love, but also live by the true embodiment of ubuntu – the belief that together we are so much more,” explains Kerstin Bird, Marketing Director of Beiersdorf Southern Africa.

The rationale behind this special commercial was that it should fully respect and reflect its message through the way it was made. “The costs of making the commercial were, as far as possible, channelled back to further assist the heroes we featured. Instead of incurring substantial location and set costs, we filmed the commercial where our heroes live and work every day. Nivea also commissioned Duduza Serenades, a 35-strong children’s choir, who are mainly orphans, from Ekhuruleni, to provide the background melody. The script was written by a Nivea employee, Nomfundo Mpati, and the assistant director and on-set PA were up-and-coming young professionals given an opportunity to get real experience on set,” she added.

The Nivea television commercial forms part of the skincare giant’s long term global sustainability strategy “We Care” which aims to strengthen families worldwide. It focuses on the all-important values of closeness, trust and responsibility.

“Skin care is our core business. For generations, we have contributed to our consumers’ wellbeing. As a part of their everyday lives, Nivea has become a trusted family and community member, and our care extends beyond just skincare.” says Bird.

The new approach to advertising is a perfect fit with the Nivea brand’s core values of care, trust, closeness, and credibility which are high on the agenda of Beiersdorf, the global skincare giant that also counts other internationally successful brands such as Eucerin, Labello and Elastoplast as part of its brand family.

The company’s South African head office is in Umhlanga.

The legendary blue tin has been the guardian of Nivea’s brand values since 1925. It is the face of the brand and consumers worldwide associate trust, closeness, and skin care expertise with this icon.

Nivea is essentially the company’s founding brand as well as its most valuable. It has its origins in Hamburg where the first-ever industrially produced oil-and-water-based cream was launched in December 1911. Today, Nivea is available in approximately 200 countries. It contributed approximately €3.7 billion (R48 billion) to the Beiersdorf Group’s total €6.141 billion (almost R80 billion) sales in 2013.

Although all products marketed by Nivea in South Africa originate from Europe, a great deal is invested in research and development that is intended to better formulate Nivea products to serve an extremely diverse African market with markedly differing skincare profiles and needs.

Nivea’s latest advertisement takes the company’s sensitivity to its local market one step further.

As Bird explains, what is unique to South Africa is that the spirit of togetherness extends beyond what the rest of the world perceives as the nuclear family. This is not only because this is the culture of its people, but also because tragic circumstances have often broken down the traditional family structure. In the African culture, the understanding of family revolves around ubuntu. Through working together to serve the wider community, people can become more.

“Our country is filled with inspirational people who dedicate their lives to caring for others. We have chosen three local heroes to feature in the new Nivea television commercial. Through this, we are celebrating everyday people who create a sense of family where there isn’t a nuclear, traditional family. Many households are headed by elderly grandparents or even children because of the tragedy of HIV/AIDS. Where these caregivers are absent, members of wider communities reach out to these children,” adds Bird.

Beiersdorf South Africa has invested just over R1 million in the people and NGO’s behind its TV commercial. Of this, just over R72 000 is going towards Gogo Hazel’s Beanie Project via an order for 850 beanies. This will create work for over 600 community members.

In addition, Boitumelo’s foster baby, who appears in the commercial, will receive a R90 000 educational fund from Nivea. Nivea will also invest R860 000 towards the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW) Isibindi SafePark Programme, to make safe play time accessible to more children and enable care workers to engage with children through play in order to better understand where they need support in their lives.