Archive for November, 2006

What Kind of People Are These?

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

The tradition of breaking the spirits of young people is alive and well at my alma mater.

The following charming comments were made by a female teacher who works with 9 year-olds:

1. You have a large head but no brains.

2. You belong in an Urdu Medium school.

3. Why were you in the toilet for so long? You must have been crying because you couldn’t change your clothes yourself (the child was actually helping a friend).

The S.C.H.O.O.L. is the only enterprise in the modern world that gets away with blatant criminal activity without any public accountability. When a child fails, she is stupid. When a child is distracted, he has attention deficit disorder. When children talk in class, they are rude, obnoxious brats. It rarely occurs to anyone to question the quality of services being provided by the school and its teachers. Parents who try are punished; their children are victimized by teachers in not so subtle ways until the message gets through: DON’T MESS WITH US.

No other service-oriented profession operates like this. Employee motivation, skills, and up-to-date knowledge are the responsibility of the individual and the employer; not of society. Why should the customer have to deal with the malaise afflicting education?

Schools operate like mafias and nobody in their right minds will take them on. But for how long?

Dawn-Aurora Marketing Moot

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

Yesterday, Dawn and Aurora held a conference entitled “Marketing to the Youth” and I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on the implications of new, participatory media such as blogs, and podcasts. I was asked to get there at 4:30 as our session was to start at 4:45. Well, it didn’t begin until 7:30 by which time 3/4 of the audience had left and the remaining misbegotten souls were zonked out of their brains.

3 people from our panel didn’t show up and the so-called discussion lasted for a grand total of 8 minutes. WTF? This is indicative of the value the old media/establishment places on new media. Typical and so fucking lame. The moderator kept referring to us as technology-savvy experts, which probably further alienates media types. Yes, we “get” tech but this whole new media thing is about the power of people engaging with each other and providing platforms for interaction. But who cares when money can be made the same way it’s always been made? Most advertisers and marketeers in Pakistan recognize that the Internet is where the action is, especially when it comes to the youth. This is evident in the responses from agency chiefs in the bumper issue of Aurora. So, it would have sorta made sense for these guys to have listened to us for a change. But, who can deal with change? Shove the token kids/techies at the end somewhere so that history celebrates Dawn for recognizing the role of new media when it was in its infancy in Pakistan.

Much worse, however, is the entire notion of marketing to children. Having raped and saturated every other segment/target/eyeball of society, the kids are fresh meat. It was Universal Children’s Day yesterday. But this show was all about capturing lucrative, untapped, young hearts and minds. Sell products, make money, satisfy shareholders – nothing new here other than the victims.

The “highlight” of the day was a gora from Young and Rubicam, who spelt Bill Bernbach’s name wrong on his first slide, after stating that he was a personal hero. He showed a series of disgusting ads targeted at children, replete with vile voice-overs, and when they ended, he said, “They’re violent but the kids love them”. He concluded his presentation by stating that the advertising industry is extremely influential and has a social responsibility. What drivel. When the floor was opened for questions, I told him that there was an inherent contradiction in his presentation. If you mindlessly provide violent entertainment to kids, because you “think” they “like” it, then why talk about social responsibility? We live in a macho, violent, male-dominated world, and producing ads driven by militant, aggressive language is ridiculously irresponsible. He said, “Oh I agree, I don’t like the voice-overs in those ads!” Why the fuck did you show 5 of them then? Why reinforce a notion you don’t believe in? People like this are dangerous and ads of this nature are nothing short of child abuse. Another gora said, “I agree with the young lady but you see we are in competition with Hollywood and you have to attack with what’s edgy and in demand”. Vah! Have to? Attack? Has the advertising industry fucking lost its collective mind? And then people wonder what’s wrong with today’s kids. Can they not make basic links? Connect dots?

Empires crumble. They do. We just have to wait. Patiently. But we must not stop raising our voices against injustice. If you are a new parent, please spend time with your children. Understand what’s going on in the world, on the Internet, in schools, on MTV. Don’t censor rigidly without discussion. And please, learn to read between the lines of ads and make an effort to understand the effect of media on young minds.

On a positive note, it was refreshing to receive books instead of a plaque for participating in the conference :)