Dawn-Aurora Marketing Moot

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 :)

11 Responses to “Dawn-Aurora Marketing Moot”

  1. zakintosh says:

    Vaah! What a brilliant post and something the advertising and media nuts need to understand. Their lack of responsibility is as apalling as their technophobia (which they use in abundance to serve their own finncial ends).

    Suggest you send this out to all participants of the seminar and certainly to Hameed Haroon, Karim Rammal and others who make things happens.

  2. sabizak says:

    This is something I feel strongly about, the everyday violence that media feeds into children’s minds but I dont know how not to ‘censor’ then. There are certain things i HAVE to censor, is there another option? Either I allow such messages to get to him or keep him away from them (as much as i possibly can which in itself cannot be complete)until such time as when he is old enough to judge things independently.

  3. sabizak: In some cases, a strong “NO” is essential. I would go as far as necessary to not allow my children to play with guns. But I’d make sure I tell them why, even when they’re tiny. The key is to respect young people and acknowledge that they have minds. The language and means used to engage them and discuss crucial matters will naturally evolve over time. When I was 2 and gravitated towards my mother’s books, and wanted to yank them out, I was explicitly told that books are to be respected and that I could handle them gently, but not scribble on them and tear pages out. I was told firmly. Some things were off limits and other matters were negotiated. Trust and mutual respect were key. I actually wasn’t allowed to watch much TV and we didn’t have a VCR in the house. I spent a lot of time playing outdoors and reading. Times have now changed, obviously. Most urban kids grow up with several TVs and DVD players in the house and Internet access is readily available. The stakes are much higher and more complex, and parents need to be on their toes 24/7 to deal with this onslaught. Too much freedom is a bad thing. I am recommending/advocating awareness, and constant discussion, through questioning and recognizing that there is peer pressure at play and a bunch of other external factors. There is a price to pay for standing up to pressure and taking a stand but one has to find a balance and take the trouble to engage children and help them understand why a certain action is being taken.

    Troubling issues like sex, drugs and war probably now need to be discussed sooner than when we were growing up, because 9 year olds are smoking, 11 year olds are having sex, and 17 year olds are being shipped off to wage war. I don’t know yaar, this is a very complex issue and needs to be discussed at length with parents, educators, media people, all the bloody time.

  4. madeeha says:

    ooh! *madeeha rubs her hands excitedly* what books did u get? i’d been wondering what was in the brown package that was handed out in the end.

    it doesn’t make sense. how can advertisers claim to owe a certain kind of responsibility to man-kind and yet think of ways to sell a certain product to them? how can they claim violence is evil when they’re the ones ‘exploiting’ it for their own means?

    and there are other ways of ‘keeping up with hollywood’. i mean, really.

    children imitate the violence they see on telly. that is a known fact and there is nothing that can really justify showing them more violence in order to sell a product or a service to them.

  5. insiya says:

    I was attending the conference myself.

    I think you weren’t around when the Lunch fiasco happened- picture this: the participants had arrived at 9:00 whereas the conference started around an hour or more late.

    The organizers were dying to cover-up by asking the speakers to keep the presentations short. Nothing worked and they kept going more and more behind schedule. Hence, the moderator [Noman Nabi] decided to [on his own!] cut short the tea-break to 10 minutes and lunch break to 20 minutes [who in fuck's mind eats that quickly?!] and on top of that delayed both the things by a good hour or so!

    The funniest moment: the organizers [read: Dawn team and moderator] were so disorganized that they forgot to invite one of the speakers [Kashif Effendi of Tetley] and instead made the announcement for the giveaway of the book. After apologizing the moderator invited him with the wrong introductory remarks [he was called as ex-Supreme guy, even though he left Supreme for Tetley 2 freakin' years back!]- he started his presentation with the remarks: aap bhookay hain aur main tuppa hua [you're hungry and i am pissed] so lets get done with this quickest! He was by far the best speaker!

    Anyhoo- was sad to see you three rushed off so quickly. Would have loved to listen to more.

    P.S. Must take Zak’s advice and email away to the concerned! :)

  6. Inspirex says:

    I was there too.
    Qashif truly was the best, and I personally feel the panel discussions failed to add any value to the seminar.

    3 people reading out case studies, the COO of 8 teaching a room full of bored marketers the advantage of going on radio….

    Noman did a very bad job, as moderator, he was not supposed to butt in with his comments on the presentation and was supposed to keep thinsg flowing. there were no Q&A sessions aside from the pointless panels and whats more important, is that there was no attempt at interactivity or through any other means to prevent people from walking off after getting bored and sleepy.

    killing tea breaks oes not increase attention span!

    Im already drafting an email over this and hope they use their brains next time!

  7. Jaggy Boi says:

    The worst in my opinion were those dumb kids who were gotten on stage for an hour or so. They represented less than 25000 households in the country and were talking about Costa, Nike and what else and what not. That’s not the youth of our country at all.

    But what else can you expect, if you have a CEO who doesn’t believe in DATA. Yeesh!and she’s the person whose bringing those people in.


  8. Faisal Khan says:

    Wish I could have attended….. :(

  9. rayhan says:

    It’s really strange that even the DAWN team behaves in such an sloppy manner. But the fact that people sat through means there is little else left to do.

  10. zakintosh says:

    It’ll be fun to read Aurora’s own report of the event.

  11. rayhan: as you are in karachi these days, why don’t you drop by for a chat? my house is on the ground floor ;-)

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