The messages on the streets…

By Saleh al Shaibany —
As I was waiting to cross a road, I saw a three-year-old girl snatch her little hand free from her mother’s grip and ran away.
My heart raced a bit.
For a moment I thought she was going to run straight to the moving traffic.
She did not, but stopped yards from me near a large billboard and stared at it.
The giant advertisement was over 10-metre-long and she looked tiny in front of it.
What would a three-year-old find interesting on a piece of card-board? It was not about toys but two men warning each other about “too many good things.”
Her mother grabbed her hand and pulled her forward.
She was reluctant.
She made such a racket that the lady let her take a longer look.
She was serious and her eyes looked unblinkingly as if mesmerised.
Funny enough, nobody else was interested but her.
There was nothing memorable about it. Finally, she let herself be dragged away and I am sure she forgot about it the moment she turned her head away from it. Ads are provoking at best and boring at worst. Their messages are never sincere.
This particular one “too many good things‚” insinuate what you are missing if you don’t buy a product they are selling.
For a kid like her, it is just a fascination that she would grow up to last her entire life. If you think carefully, ads serve no purpose.
They are annoying, misleading and make a lot of people poorer.
The good news is that, they are so familiar that you walk past them without noticing them! They blend with the pavements and the buildings.
The bad news, they are fast becoming a cult to three-year-olds.
The danger here is that you cannot reason with a toddler.
It is too much of a bad thing rather than too many good things.
One ad designer said that it is part of the revolution. Accept it or be doomed.
I disagreed.
Ads, especially billboards, destroy the soul of living.
It is the graphics that communicate with you and not the people.
I was so obsessed by it that I dreamt of giant ants eating every ad in the world.
In an industry that generates billions of dollars a year, it sure provides livelihood for millions.
It is a cultural revolution alright.
Of course you can escape its reach when you drive to villages.
Basket weavers or people who work on clays have no use of them.
Big businesses find villagers too poor to buy designer shoes. You would not find a mobile phone being advertised behind a donkey cart, would you?
There are no neon lights there but cows mooing and an odd bat flapping its wings in the night.
When I put this question to a marketing man on why ads are not seen in villages, his answer was, “goats eat them from the walls.” Of course that is not the real reason and he was only being sarcastic. Hooves imprints on the dusty tracks after a seasonal rain are the billboards of the villages.
Dangling pottery and silver ornaments hanging from the front of the shops need no marketing skills.
Three-year-olds would never be corrupted. They see the proper representation and not the graphics.
Alas, as villages are gobbled up by sprawling cities, even cows are getting scarce these days.
If you are wondering why shopping is getting costlier than before, then understand that a fair size of the overheads go to the ad designing.
And we all promote their existence.

— saleh_shaibany@yahoo.com