City Press campaign with local banks offers financial boot camp for selected readers

By Gayle Cullinan

Media24/City Press

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa


Zinzy, a City Press reader and university lecturer, entered the Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge in 2022 with a seemingly insurmountable tax debt — and she was also liable for a relative’s car repayments as she’d signed surety.

The challenge is a long-running partnership between City Press, the publisher, and one of South Africa’s big four banks that helps ordinary people take control of their finances.

After the six-month financial wellness boot camp ended in November 2022, Zinzy was well on her way to being debt-free. In June 2023, she gave the Money Makeover team a progress report.

“Me and debt are done,” she said. She added that not only had she paid off all her debts, but she continued to stick to the budget she’d drawn up during the competition. Even better, she was on track to fulfil her dream of building a house on a piece of land she owned — something that seemed impossible less than a year ago.

The six contestants for 2022 all realised their dreams of financial freedom in a sustainable way.
The six contestants for 2022 all realised their dreams of financial freedom in a sustainable way.

Zinzy’s story is one of the many stories of sustainable financial success delivered by Money Makeover, which is also a commercial success for the sponsor, Absa Bank, and the publisher, City Press. The value of this partnership, which launched its seventh annual competition on June 25, 2023, is its tangible impact on all the people who follow these real people’s stories of planning for and achieving financial freedom to live the lives they want.

How it works

The inspiration for Money Makeover was the inbox of City Press personal finance editor Maya Fisher-French. It was filled with people desperately needing help with universal issues — saving for retirement, ensuring they saved for their children’s education, affording a home, building wealth, paying off debt, and other dilemmas of everyday economics.

Absa Bank’s continuing sponsorship allows City Press, an agenda-setting news platform, to run the annual Money Makeover financial boot camp. From the many entries submitted, the Absa and City Press team select six readers to take part. After undergoing credit checks, each is paired with a suitable financial adviser from Absa to start getting their finances in shape.

Over the six-month period, the six participants and their advisers follow the individual plans devised for each one. The process is overseen by Fisher-French, who also documents their journeys. It is structured like a competition and there are incentive prizes along the way to keep participants on track. In addition, the overall winner — based on a strict rubric — takes away enough money to make a real difference to their savings plans.

Readers get to follow along as the participants in the Money Makeover improve their finances.
Readers get to follow along as the participants in the Money Makeover improve their finances.

Sharing stories

The stories of these six people are told across formats and platforms, with more than 175 executions in all, led by City Press’ flagship Sunday print edition. There are dedicated social media pages, a microsite, Facebook Live events on various topics, and a weekly newsletter. Throughout the campaign, the participants deliver video diaries that allow them to tell fellow readers about their trials and triumphs.

In 2022, to increase engagement, a crossword around the week’s theme was included in the print edition.

During the 2022 competition, the microsite recorded more than 70,000 pageviews, with the average time on each story at more than eight minutes. Zinzy’s story about tax and multiple incomes gathered almost 10,000 views (5,000 are guaranteed for each piece), and readers averaged almost 17 minutes on the story.

The greatest value of Money Makeover — beyond its contribution to the publisher’s revenue and the bank’s brand equity — is how it has gained momentum and spread financial literacy within its target audiences. Among the City Press community, it is a much-respected annual showcase, proving time and again how client needs and publisher value can come together to deliver something extraordinary for the audience with an impact that ripples out into myriad life stories.

About Gayle Cullinan

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