Does the BlackBerry girl convince you?

Published: September 6, 2011
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Most ads tend to promote lifestyles rather than products PHOTO: AFP

Turn on the TV, a commercial plays and a woman in her late twenties sits in a perfect posture on her perfect couch in her perfect home (read: extravagant) and talks on her phone.

Her cream coloured dress matches perfectly with the cream-coloured walls and the sofa set.

She walks outside and sits by her mega-sized swimming pool in her colossal backyard. As she turns off her phone, she tells you about the cheaper call rates, part of a wonderful new package introduced by some telecom company. Is this commercial for the public? No.

The advertisement is stupid for two reasons; one, the filthy-rich lifestyle portrayed in the commercial does not represent more than 10% of our population. Second, the woman sitting by her swimming pool holding her BlackBerry would be least affected by the call packages. Thus, the sheer relief on her face is definitely not convincing. How much difference could a few rupees make to her life? Would it not make more sense if a middle-class woman, living in an average house, using an average cell phone would be telling you the benefits of this new package?

Be it oil companies or milk brands, television commercials project lavish houses and cars- extravagance that the general public cannot afford or relate to. No stone is left unturned in glorifying materialism. Why? Because this is a candy floss world. Just like a child runs after candy, these commercials tempt people to run after material gains. Commercials portray life to be such that no one can be happy unless they live the life shown on the idiot box.

We have seen countless commercials in the last two decades, but there is one that has been playing since the 1990’s conveying more or less the same message over the past 20 years. This advertisement is racist and appalling to see in this day and age. I’m talking, of course, about commercials on fairness creams. For years, these commercials have been projecting fair skin as the epitome of beauty. The fairness cream advertisements fool people into believing that they can get whatever they desire, most importantly, a hunk of a spouse, if they become “fairer”. In turn, not only does this increase the sense of inferiority in people, but they acquire superficial attitudes and begin to link beauty with mere fairness.

There is one thing common between the advertisements for fairness creams and the projection of a lavish lifestyle –  they both leave behind a dissonant feeling of wanting to be  something different from whom and what we are now. It’s really not just about publicising a product.

Zoya Nazir

Zoya Nazir

The writer is a first year A levels student. She was an exchange student in America from 2010-2011, and did her O levels from The City School Islamabad.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ibrar Ahmed

    Agreed…..Recommend

  • Shane Hussain Naqvi

    finally. and dont forget the make up clad, designer suit wearing women worrying about the right brand of washing soap bar/ powder etc. as if !!Recommend

  • Fatima

    Rightly pointed out…….and what about our dramas that are mostly about upper class and their lifestyle….Recommend

  • http://www.pakistani-revival.blogspot.com Ovais

    In a country where people cannot afford daily amenities the author wants us to talk about the Blackberry girl .. ET when will u ever grow upRecommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/zurmat Sarah Farrukh

    i am also a blackberry girl like her :DRecommend

  • http://footballpakistan.com gauhar mahmood azeem

    10 percent filthy rich? :PRecommend

  • Shahzad S. Janjua

    Glad someone brain is working on the right direction. Two thumbs up!!!

    The commercial organisation objective is to take money out of it, It’s as simple as thatRecommend

  • Ahsan Rasheed

    v have created an artificial society which is hurting every1, every1 wants more than what they have, no one stays happy.
    V shud return back to our moral values, a person having more money shud not be considered the most respectful person.Recommend

  • Confused

    WTH did I just read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Whats the pont???????????Recommend

  • waseem khan

    Nice article.Recommend

  • Usman Mahmood

    Really nice article.Recommend

  • Immymud

    Totally agreed larkee..Recommend

  • KJ

    super. keep it up. God blessRecommend

  • zubair

    very true. and very good observation. I think media (either electronic or print) can play a major role in educating the people. Guiding them to the right and positive way of life. but unfortunately in our media are not playing their right role. our few news channels are in compitition spreading tention in the nation. our dramas are showing and focusing on material life which creats unsatisfaction in the nation. May Allah guid us all specially our media to perform their positive role in aur country.Recommend

  • Naseer

    Agreed. Compounding to this the ad agencies should also do some work on decency. e.g. Ufone can convey its message without the help of cheap tactics used by the stereotyped team of stupids who have made more than 80 ads on a same track. In Ramadan, they literally used to get my goat by repeating the same ad again and again, specially after Aftaar times.Recommend

  • InfidelOnline

    Welcome to Capitalism, in case it didn’t occur to you.Recommend

  • n

    the heading should have been abt advertisements and not blackberry. it gets misleading.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nicely written and you made some good points. Haven’t seen this add but it does sound stupid. I think the series of U-phone adds are wacky and get the message across and entertain as well.Recommend

  • freelife

    very good article………thats true………..these telecoms companies backhome have no idea about the average life………..even if they do, they dont care……ufone makes better ads though.Recommend

  • Neutralist

    Agreed. You said it very right about the materialism promoted by TV commercials.. but make a correction: less than 2% of Pakistani people are as rich as that BlackBerry lady seems to be. Perhaps you only made a careful guess.Recommend

  • Tanveer Arif

    I am glad you linked fairness ads with racism. You are very true. I always tell my children on these ads that nearly 2/3rd of the world population is black and dark colored, aren’t they human beings? why the ad industry project whiteness or fairness as symbol of perfection? Recommend

  • mHm

    I dont think there is any harm in portraying these images …. if the beauty products are selling on the fairness factor then thats what our society asks .. Its a culture that cant be changed . As the vital signs put it ( goray rung da zamana ho ga na purana )

    plus having katrina kaif in a lux adv does hit an average woman coz for once she feels like katrina while taking shower .. so it does boost her confidence .. its all about psyche Recommend

  • Shayan

    Yeah but people want to be that person with the perfect life and for a few rupees less per minute they are ever so lightly close to being them. Recommend

  • bharat

    N that’s how it is done……..!Recommend

  • anyportinastorm

    I read this somewhere once before…not the article but a statement made in response to a similar article that goes something like this

    “Pretty much all the people complaining about fairness creams and the ‘racism’ inherent in the presence of these products on the shelf of a grocery store are fair themselves.”

    On a positive note I absolutely agree with your opinion on television advertising and television in general. Capitalism and the constant need for material gain lead to a sedentry lifestyle of unhappiness. The solution is to remove the tv from the house and get rid of that bb in the process!Recommend

  • TZ

    Isn’t this advertising 101? Show the consumers what they want to be, rather than who they are. As long as it works, there is no incentive to change this methodology. Recommend

  • http://facebook.com/mswaseem Saad

    Blackberry is an average phone!Recommend

  • neutral one

    Zoya Nazir, these adds are very good and usefull for stupid society full of idiots like ours…
    but otherwise you are right :)Recommend

  • haq

    whats the point of it.. these r marketing gimmicks that companies r practicing from a long tym and its result of capitalism. u want communism, islamic socialism or wotRecommend

  • Dr. Amyn Malik

    What I don’t get is why is there someone telling the author (or ET) to grow up in almost every thread?

    I guess some people have nothing better to do than attack writers here. Why don’t you write something then so that a grown up topic (as you see it) could be discussed?

    @ Author: Nicely written. But, the problem is that this is what is taught in marketing classes. You don’t sell products anymore, you sell lifestyles. Show the consumer what they should be is the motto and that works! So there is really no incentive for the advertisers to change their strategies.Recommend

  • AXcalibur

    flamboyance is essence of mass communication!! Very convienent of you to criticize, but then again what else you can do? Recommend

  • http://islamabad Maryam

    i dont agree with you….whould u like to see an add shot in a totally messed up house, with ni furniture, nothing to eat , people without make up , a single light bulb hanging in the middle of the ceiling selling a bb………..????

    :sRecommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/7802/does-the-blackberry-girl-convince-you/ Zoya Nazir

    @Neutralist:
    In the unedited version of my article, i highlighted that 2 was exactly the percentage of filthy rich people in Pakistan. ET changed itRecommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/7802/does-the-blackberry-girl-convince-you/ Zoya Nazir

    @Maryam:
    Thanks for feedback. You are talking the other extreme here. I did not mean that the commericals should have actors with zero makeup, wearing ragged clothes etc. The point i’m trying to raise is that the commercials should portray a lifestyle that a major chunk of our society can relate to. Its utterly stupid to have a woman shown to be filthy rich being benefited from the cheaper call rates, when she can afford to have a swimming pool in her house.Recommend

  • KolachiMom

    Good article. Where to begin? From Pakistan to India, only women are capable of promoting baby products and clothes washing detergents, and healthy snacks. Heaven forbid any man should ever do more in an add, than smile proudly at his wife’s cooking skills, and ability to wash, iron and starch his shirt. If not, then he is usually spotted driving around town in his new car while his wife is in labour, but the Saas just shakes her head smilingly at the nurse who asks where the father to be is. After all, why should his first child be important when he has a new toy? (Indian ad spotted during the world cup). I’m sure there is no such thing as a hands on father from the looks of our commercials. Then, we have “SuperMom” who is so super, she only gives her kids biscuits chock full of sugar for their break time. Fairness, fairness, fairness. If you’re not fair, that’s just sad, even Zubaida Apa thinks so, and at her age, and with all her wisdom, why should we not listen to her right?Recommend

  • Haroon Madni

    i am sure that adv was to tap a different segment ( post paid connections ) .. every network provider has different advertising strategies . it depends on the market you are targeting
    mobilink indigo used Shan and Emaan with BB so they are targeting hifi societySEC A
    Mobilink jazz use dances / music to cater the Sec B & C

    Similarly it happens for the other products aswell

    compare tarang with Everyday ( both sell milk poweder ) but look ar the advertising strategy
    One use dances with music and lollywood actors
    and the other showing hi fi lifestyle

    so it really depends which market you want to enter and the mobile operators are doing the same . its just a part of their strategyRecommend

  • Salman Meer

    Hmmm I suggest you do some research on a subject called Marketing. If you see a commercial that promotes fair skin as epitome of beauty then its based upon the research. In our society fairness is a standard and if they relate success to fairness then well it reflects our society. A certain commercial may not appeal to you and not EVERY commercial targets everyone, if you get a feeling that you can’t relate to a certain commercial then maybe company is not targeting you anyway and commercials are designed to tempt the target market, whats wrong in that anyway?Recommend

  • salman

    i think people are oversensitive here about fairness creams add.Recommend

  • Mohsin A. Khan

    Good effort, but here are some points that come to mind:

    Your picture looks like its out of an ad for a fairness cream/makeup product – Point to the advertiser
    You are talking about blackberry even when it wasnt even their ad – Point to the advertiser
    Most of Zong, Ufone and Mobilink (most ads) dont portray a lavish lifestyle and the ones that do are for postpaid connections – Point to the advertiser
    There are mobiles that can support up to 4 sim cards so sim cards sell – Point to the advertiser
    10% can afford to live in a lavish house with a swimming pool? Really? I must be really poor according to your statistics – Fail

    Btw most fairness creams ads are completely ridiculous and I agree but its not just the advertising that makes people want more material things but its most of the media in general that is to blame.

    P.S. BlackBerry’s are really bad phones unless you actually use them for the purpose the were built for, Push Email.Recommend

  • http://blogs.dunyanews.tv/?author=240 Ovais

    @Zoya Nazir:
    Honestly you never fail to out do yourself
    http://tribune.com.pk/story/244443/suicide-notes-gang-rape-victim-sets-herself-on-fire/
    check this out ..
    there are bigger issues in this country then the blackberry.. ET for once try not to rub salts on the common mans wounds..Recommend

  • Saad

    agree with the author, and the with the other saad above! blackberry is an average phone! especially here in England where every chav seems to have it…Recommend

  • disappointed

    is it actually racist to promote fair skin in Pakistan, especially nowadays..
    if only dawn’s website was as aesthetically pleasing as ET.. i wouldn’t have to read blog like these…Recommend

  • freelife

    Black berry isnt an average phone at all………………not in pakistan atleastRecommend

  • SA

    Now this was something really good and sane!! Well done Zoya!Recommend

  • Sid

    Its funny, I am from the UK and over here, tanning products are the craze.

    Dark people want to be fair, white people want to be dark.

    I always laugh at this. How no one seems to be happy with what they have.

    I am not the best looking guy, or well built or (probably) not the right colour. But dam I am happy. And no amount of tv (which I dont watch) will change my mind. Happiness comes from within. So smile people. Change your lives to be perfect, but be happy all the way to getting there. :):)Recommend

  • Faisal Naik

    Spot on :)Recommend

  • EoH

    Though writer have said everything to condemn the commercials but has not touched the real issues that why these commercials have to be like this.

    We all love this elite culture. Believe it or not it is in our minds like a plague and people always opt for the products or things (food, cloths etc) that are considered as part of elite lifestyle.

    Well, Zong started to target lower middle class and middle class in the beginning but their experiment failed big time because people of lower middle class and middle class admire and do their best to get hands over the things considered elite.

    We all are in the state of achieving what we are not. Lower middle class, middle class; middle class, high class and high class super elite class….

    Think honestly how many of us could opt for cheap cloths hanging in Landa Bazaar (not used but new)? None of us! We would prefer to wear some desi brand and will go for the names of international brands. Why there are fake brand names on desi made garments? Because we all want to look elite and brag that we belong to super rich class.

    Same is true for speaking English. We HAVE to speak English at some instant JUST to prove that we are elite. This mentality is universal to South Asia.Recommend

  • FJ

    well… if people can buy that using a fairness cream will help them get a hunky guy !! they deserve these ads ..
    and now that Shahid Afridi is doing fair and lovely he might as well do an ad for Always Ultra too … Recommend

  • Javeria Mahmood

    So Should I stop obeying Zubaida Apa as she advises to use Skin White for face wash and for bath… tabhi to main gori nahi ho rahiRecommend

  • http://Lahore Talha

    dear writer zoya nazir
    please do study consumer behavior or marketing or advertising before writing such articles. i think you lack knowledge reagrding the market and business development.Recommend

  • zalim singh

    yes. She convinces me. very beautiful model.Recommend

  • Mohammad Irfan

    I didnt see this add, please let me know the link of this add.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/7153/islamabad-vs-karachi-when-i-came-to-the-%E2%80%98dead-city%E2%80%99/ Sahar

    This is a well written article. Nice to see a young face wrting relevant blogs. Thumbs up ;)Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/7153/islamabad-vs-karachi-when-i-came-to-the-%E2%80%98dead-city%E2%80%99/ N_l.a

    Zoya, you cover the issue well. Tho it is requirement of the ad. companies to portray all this.Recommend

  • Nangyal Khan Hoti

    aoa…superb, Zoya Nazir highlighted some harsh facts of this materialistic world,society and people…keep it up….Recommend

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dr-iffat-zafar/21/88a/474 Dr. Iffat Zafar

    Dear Writer:

    It is a well written article but i would beg to differ at some points. There are lots of adds made by zong, ufone and ariel which do not cater the very elite or high fi as we cann them, ther are adds like HBL and ufone which are just based on humor and no class at all, then there are other adds like the HBL saving schemes where they actually show the middle class man (HUmayoun Saeed and Maya Khan) talking about ow to save. So sometimes yes there are flaws with the advertisement like how a local brand like capri is shown to be one elite brand these days, but then there are adds which are made according to the class they are targetting.

    Yes to the fairness taboo i also totally agree that showing adds where one believes one can get a great RISHTA just by looking fair is pure dubious and discouraging for 90 % of the Pakistani Asian women who are not born fair at all. Recommend

  • Sana Iqbal

    @Talha

    and you please study about target markets and communication.

    @Author

    Agreed!Recommend

  • Pavan

    Beauty creams and cosmetics are the worst products to be around. I feel they’re morally unethical yet there ain’t a strong case against them. They corrupt common peoples’ mind to buy things not worthy to be bought or thought of. It’s like playing with people’s psyche and weaker side and luring them into buying things which they otherwise won’t have needed. Creating an inferiority complex and doubt in the people’s mind. We’re brown people for God sake. We should love ourselves for our distinct color we’re known for it. there’s no pride in getting whiter artificially damaging your skinRecommend