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     Volume 7 Issue 39 | September 26, 2008 |

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Straight Talk

Advertising Mania

Nadia Kabir Barb

How annoying is it when you happen to be watching a television programme or film and you are right at the climactic scene where the protagonist is about to take their dying breath, or be reunited with their long lost love or possibly fulfil their dreams and you are rooting for them and mentally shouting, “don't give up, you can do it” when all of a sudden you are yanked out of the moment so that you can watch a banal commercial about toothpaste or washing powder! These days there is no getting away from adverts. They creep up on you in cinema halls, ambush you when you are watching television and even when you are out and about, the number of billboards displaying a variety of products is enough to make your head spin. We seem to be under attack from all sides by the advertising world.

I am not saying that all commercials or ads are irritating and a nuisance; in fact there are a huge number of them that are either highly entertaining or informative. But for every good ad, there are about a hundred deplorable ones. I am sure you can think of a few really bad commercials by the time you get to the end of this article.

This time when we were visiting Dhaka, we found ourselves stuck in the perennial traffic jams, and had ample opportunity to survey all the various hoardings jostling with one another to grab our attention. What I found surprising is that so many products these days are for skin lightening and the campaigns are not just targeting women but men as well. I have never really understood how you become more successful in life by becoming fairer after applying the products in question. Suddenly the 'oh so' elusive job is yours and you get the girl or the guy who didn't bother to look at you in the first place prior to your skin being lightened. If that happened in real life, you would probably sue the place where you were trying to get the job for discrimination and hopefully ditch the incredibly shallow guy or girl, preferably having given them a piece of your mind! I always find the shampoo ads very amusing. The women in them always have beautiful, long, straight hair that dazzles the beholder and the models jet black tresses look like a curtain of silk. But what about women with curly hair? You hardly ever see shampoo commercials with women possessing short curly hair. Between the fairness creams and shampoo ads it is enough to give you a major complex.

As far as I am aware, advertisers identify a target group and then direct their marketing campaign at their chosen audience. But what baffles me is why they have insurance, mortgage, accidents claim ads in between kids' programmes! Surely my nine year old doesn't need to worry about car insurance. The thought process behind this belies sheer stupidity or utter genius and I have now come to the conclusion it must be the latter. The reason being that my children are forever singing the jingles that accompany these ads and informing me that I could save thousands of pounds if I switched from my current mortgage lenders to the one popping up on screen in between reruns of Scooby Doo and Tom and Jerry. Or quoting verbatim telephone numbers and addresses. According to my theory, advertisers recognise that children absorb information like a sponge (unlike us adults who don't really have much mental recall) and then regurgitate it often enough to either drive you insane or actually make you pick up the phone and make that call!

Another common approach advertisers take to make the commercial more memorable is to use the music from a popular song or composition. An incident that comes to mind is when a few years ago my husband was listening to classical music on the radio and I entered the room while they were playing something that sounded quite familiar to me. “Hey, that's the Old Spice music --- it's really nice. And the after shave isn't so bad either”, I said glibly to my husband. “Well, what's wrong with it...?” I added defensively as I spotted the absolute look of horror on my husband's face.

“Old...Spice...music?” he looked at me as if I had said something sacrilege! “That is a classical piece of music called Carmina Burana by the composer Carl Orff, who must be turning in his grave right now”. “Oh! Well don't blame me, blame the people who used it for the Old Spice ad. How was I supposed to know...?” I have to admit I am guilty of associating certain melodies with adverts on TV and not realising I am doing gross injustice to the original song or composer.

Some ads are as boring as hell and have someone droning on about double glazing for windows while others have a whole song and dance routine to market their particular brand of juice. There are some commercials that make you laugh and of course there are a few that are thought provoking and make you stop and watch and listen to what they are trying to say. But there is also a whole gamut of ads that make no sense whatsoever. I feel like I might as well be on one of the shows where you have to guess a song having heard the first few words. In this case you are trying to figure out what product they are actually trying to sell. “Its perfume, no no it must be a car, hang on it could be dental floss!” They make the ads so obscure that you have to possess a PhD to figure it out. I was watching a commercial about a fruit drink the other day and to be honest I still can't figure out what the ad had to do with the drink. Maybe that is the whole point as long as you remember an ad, you remember the product, and at the end of the day that is all that matters to the marketers.

At this point I will leave you to come up with your all time favourite and least favourite ads. My list is too long to put on paper...

Wishing you all Eid Mubarak.


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