Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 1, Issue 13, Tuesday August 26, 2003







The New Age of Transit Advertising

Today, we roll our eyes over gigantic buses and exclaim "WOW"! A pack of KitKat on the body of a bus gives a twist to our tummy, or a bottle of Kinley builds an overwhelming thirst inside our throats. Bangladesh has just entered the age of Transit advertising. Does the term sound unfamiliar to you? Well, then wait a while to learn a bit about it. Transit advertising is basically an urban advertising form that makes use of buses and taxis to carry messages. In recent times, Dhaka has perceived striking transit advertisements on public buses like BRTC double-deckers and Nirapad. In fact, these vehicles wrapped up all over in awe-inspiring ads are finally making our wait in a jigsaw of traffic jam a little entertaining. Some of the most beautiful transit advertisements are seen on the buses of Userix Nirapad Ltd., which include products like Kinley Mineral Water, Scan Cement, Nokia, electronic gadgets from Esquire Electronics Ltd., organizations like Grameen Phone, HSBC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, and KitKat, which is so far the best work. The scarlet ad of KitKat has already altered the very mood of Dhaka City. Wherever these buses are spotted eager eyes of public are sure to follow. Even the state-owned vehicles like the BRTC's new crème-white double-deckers display transit advertisements. For instance the ads of Shah Cement, Grameen Phone, Nokia, Romana Paint and Pride Textile grace the bodies of our BRTC vehicles. Even the old red double-deckers are not out of the list; products like Konka Color TV adorn them. Maybe not so dramatic as the buses of Nirapad, but these ads are certainly making our modes of transport look better than before. The messages aimed at creating public awareness against AIDS displayed on the bodies of these buses prove the depth and the estimable social use of transit advertising. There are also ads based on the importance of primary education for children. Even complexion creams, hair oil and contraceptive pills are not out of the list of these transit advertisements. Transit advertising is classified into exterior transit advertising and interior transit advertising. Our transport companies are not limited to exterior transit advertising only; some of the new double-deckers of BRTC are promoting Rexona's anti-perspirant deodorant inside their vehicles. While the interior ads are targeted at the passengers, the exterior transit advertisements strive to draw the attention of the commuters, pedestrians, and basically the outside world. Bold and colorful pictures and catchy phrases characterize transit advertisements in order to grasp the audience's attention.

This is indeed an innovative form of advertising in the Bangladeshi scenario. The exterior transit advertising often cover the entire body as well as the windows of the vehicles (the kind we see in the buses of Userix Nirapad Ltd.). These are called vinyl images, which allow the bus riders to see out but don't permit the outsiders to view the inside. While bus riding was a hassle for many people at one point of time, today it has become a smart practice for people, young and old alike. Transit advertising is indeed playing a key role in shaping people's attitude and fascination for public transports. These large, pleasing, engaging and moving billboards are adding colors to this bustling city, making a chaotic ride on the street less ho-hum than before.

By Wara Karim, Photo Munem Wasif


The Beauty & The Buttinsky

My dear friend Sara always wears white. When she was younger her mother would buy her pretty pastel dresses but when she grew old enough to buy her own clothes she began this white mania. Now almost all of her clothes are white. I tried telling her that with her honeyed complexion she'd just look gorgeous in green, blue, red, orange, you know in colors. She never paid any attention to me. Then she hit mid twenty.

My grandmother says that the older women get the more they want to wear stronger colors. I never took her seriously as I've seen her in white saris since I was a kid and my mother says that that's the way it was since her own childhood. So there was no way I was going to believe her when she said that older women like stronger colors.

Now Sara would probably kill me for suggesting that she's an "older woman", but after turning twenty five (when she obviously got 'older' than before) she bought 3 kameezes, one in red, one in hot pink and one in greenest of all greens. As I knew it would be she looked absolutely fabulous in those. I asked her what brought on the change.

Apparently, she had to wear a red sari for her cousin's wedding and looked so good in the mirror that she knew that the days of white kameez with little blue flowers are at an end. (Did I mention that she doesn't suffer from unnecessary modesty?) Anyway I for one was ecstatic about my friend's sudden transformation. But also it was my honorable duty to say a triumphant, "I told you so!"
Of course, now I had to take it one step further what I considered to be my success (it didn't matter that I didn't see her the fateful day she wore the red sari or didn't even have anything to do with picking the color). I began to nag her to color her hair. "Oh Sara, because you're worth it!" I'd sing. Or, I'd advertise my own copper highlights with dramatic gestures in sunlight and in moonlight and in electric lights. I can be very tenacious when I'm trying to get my point across, not to mention very creative. Sara gave in. There just wasn't any other option for her I was driving her crazy.

So one Friday afternoon we went to a superstore where we had to deliberate for a long time on what colour she should choose. I was for deep plum. But Sara said that plums were deep purple and deep plum would therefore be deep-deep purple and she wasn't so sure that she wanted her hair to be deep-deep purple. Instead she kept picking colors like deep brown or jet black, in other words, colours that simply would not be much different from her already dark hair. I caught her on this trick and then the sales lady and I practically dragged her in to consent for deep plum.

Next stop was our hairdresser. She is a lovely woman whose competence always impresses me. She was the one who insisted on highlighting my hair. My hair is unfortunately not the Bengali dark that one would expect a Bengali woman to have; instead it has this dull brown color that tends to turn a bit orange-ish when I'm out in the sun. So my lovely hairdresser convinced me that there simply was no way to worsen the color of my hair but there is a big chance that with a coppery highlight it would look good. It looks great if I may say so (Did I mention that I don't suffer from needless modesty either?).

So we went to my competent hairdresser. Sara looked like she was going to get executed. Old habits die hard, and a woman who was a simple girl all her life has a very hard time turning in to the paragon of current fashion. I tried to be the moral support but Sara looked at me like I was her executioner. She (the hairdresser) ah-ed and ooh-ed over Sara's gorgeous dark hair and gave her expert opinion that Sara would indeed look good in deep plum, "but you have to have highlights, otherwise you wouldn't see the difference", said she. At this point Sara had given herself up on the mercy of the hair-lady and the gods above, she said, "why the heck not?"

So I stood behind her beaming like a proud mother as our hair-lady got on with her work. She began to bleach strands of Sara's hair, when she was half way through, however, my beam suddenly faded as I saw that smoke was billowing out of Sara's hair. I thought with an alarm, 'Hey, that's not supposed to happen, it didn't happen to me!" when I heard Sara shrieking, "Oh my God! I'm blond, I'm BLOND, I'M BLOND!!!" She strangely seemed to be more afraid of her blond hair than the fact that her hair was generating smoke.

Hair-lady, glad that Sara seemed to be focusing on the lesser matter, assured her that once dyed it would not be anything near blond, while her assistants were scurrying to get water to dump on Sara's hair. Sara didn't notice that either, she just looked ready to cry. By the time we were done with highlighting (or, lightening all of her hair, as it happened) and dyeing it was eight 'o clock in the night. And Sara looked magnificent. Her hair was not deep-deep purple as she feared but gave out winks of rich dark ruby when she turned her head. It added a little drama and a little mystery to her already pretty face. Sara thought so too, to judge by her exhibition of all 32 of her teeth.

Thus ended my success story of bringing my friend to the height of fashion. I was so pleased with myself about it that a week after I was still feeling quite smug and planning the next scheme of converting my pasty friend Pat, who doesn't get that the jewel colors she likes so much make her look even paler. While I was in the middle of my planning and preparing a speech that would surely convince her of my wisdom I got an SMS message. It was from Sara and it said plainly, "I'm going to kill you". Uh-oh!

Turns out that Sara went to her village with her new look. And the kids followed her everywhere like the kids of any villages do. But this particular bunch had a question weighing on their collective minds along with all her relatives Why doesn't Sara dye her hair black?

* * *

I'm staying away from Sara's part of the town for a while. As for Pat, I have wisely decided to let her be with her rainbow wardrobe.

1 [Note (just in case): buttinsky or buttinski n. pl.-skies also skys or skis Slang One who is prone to butting in; a meddler; The American Heritage Dictionary of The English Language, fourth edition]

Note: The write-up was sent to us through e-mail and we missed the name of the writer.



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