Friday, 15 April 2011

The one where FOARP goes all Meeja

Now that I've finally managed to get my TV connection up and running here in Wrocław, Poland, I've been spending my mornings before going to work sipping my tea in front of BBC World. The advantage of watching the BBC in the UK is that, due to what the BBC insists on calling "the unique way in which [they] are funded" (i.e., a yearly tax on every television-watching household in the country) the only adverts it includes are for its own programming.

Not so overseas, where the BBC includes commercial advertising. For some reason this advertising comes almost entirely from the business/tourism ministries of countries which are seeking to boost their images, so I thought I'd do a round up of some of the most "remarkable", assessed according to my totally arbitrary scoring system:

"Remarkable Indonesia"

  • Simple rule of thumb: if you're in a country that needs to advertise how "politically stable" it is, keep your passport handy and don't go too far from the airport. A flak jacket might also be a sensible investment. (-30)
  • "Take a look at us now"? This ad is waaaaaaay too defensive. If you think people used to think of your country as a 3rd world toilet, it's best not to reference this in your advertising. (-30)
  • The first twenty seconds of the ad looks like an advert for herbal shampoo (-10)
  • Really, the best thing you could say about your country was that it's "Remarkable"? You do know that this isn't even necessarily positive don't you? (-5)
  • The grammar/logic nazi in me finds something objectionable about the sentence: "an emerging global powerhouse in Asia". I can't put my finger on what it is, but I'll mark you down anyway (-5)
  • Errmmm . . . I guess it's got some nice looking scenery in it (+20)
Score: -60
Verdict: Remarkably Bad.

"Azerbaijan - A Land of Magic Colours"

  • Some parts of your country remind me of levels from Battlefield 2 (-5)
  • Some parts of your country remind me of levels from Battlefield 2 (+20)
  • "Land Of Magic Colours"? Sounds like you can totally score drugs there (+20)
  • The whole magic carpet motif is awesome (+20)
Score: +55
Verdict: Civil war? Rigged elections? Who cares about that stuff?

"Taiwan - The Heart of Asia"

  • Inexplicably wastes time on the previous slogan "touch your heart" (-5)
  • I'm not so sure about an advert for a real place which is entirely animated (-10)
  • Blissfully short (+20)
  • Distinct and quirky, just like the real place (+35)
Score: +40
Verdict: About as good as can be expected from a place which cannot even display its flag at a children's sporting event without getting attacked.

"Ukraine - all about U"

  • Annoying use of "U" to represent "you". This is on the level of companies which switch the "s" at the end of words for a "z" in a lame attempt to look cool (-10)
  • "Remember those nuclear-tipped rockets which you guys in the west spent most of the 80's scared stiff about? Well, we built them" (-10)
  • Not exactly sure what message this ad is trying to put across, but then maybe I'm not the target audience (-10)
  • Rockets! Cool! (+20)
  • Gratuitous hot chick, not sure what that has to do with anything, but hey (+40)
Score: +30
Verdict: Whatever good effect this ad may have had was cancelled out by the report from Chernobyl after the break . . .

Overall winner: Azerbaijan

Final note: All these countries have public-image issues which they are trying to overcome. The problem with at least some of them is that they try to engage the issues head-on rather than ignoring them and concentrating on the cool stuff. At it's heart, good advertising is not too different from good propaganda. It cannot succeed by simply telling you that the ideas that it wishes to counter are wrong, but must instead give you something believable in place of that idea. You don't need to work in the meeja to understand this.


Anonymous said...

FOARP You are definitely on a roll here. Do the rest of the 'stans. I'm looking for a reason to visit Pakistan.

+ 30

Pay $5US at any local bazaar and get to test drive some major military ordinance.


Gilman Grundy said...

KT, As soon as Pakistan tries to re-brand itself as a politically stable earthquake-free zone with precisely no risk of kidnapping/beheading, believe me, I'll do it.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't wait for the caveats FOARP. Pakistan is already mid-implosion. And there will be blowback in western China. Narcotics and guns. Esp the former, as the PRC offers the last unexplored territory for Pakistans drug cartels, now that Russia and Iran are choking off this mainstay of Pakistan's 'economy'.

That aside, your new meeja analysis is welcome relief from the Ai Wei Wei narrative and counter-narrative, which I think is a distraction within the larger context, since the rise and rise of China will be determined by international and domestic economic mantra.