Bad News for Me­dia

Slogan - - Editor’s Desk - Javed An­sari Ed­i­tor

There was a time when good old Leo Bur­nett, the ad man, not his ad­ver­tis­ing net­work, said that an ad­ver­tise­ment should sell a prod­uct and not the ad agency that cre­ated the ad­ver­tise­ment; other prom­i­nent ad men as­sert that it is ad­ver­tis­ing that is re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing a need for prod­ucts or ser­vices in a world that has grown fu­ri­ously com­pet­i­tive. The fact is that ad­ver­tis­ing is be­hind all the con­sumerism that con­tin­ues to blan­ket the world and ev­ery­one, from re­searchers to man­u­fac­tur­ers, mar­keters, ad­ver­tis­ing me­dia and ad pro­fes­sion­als, are in a fierce race to get more and more con­sumers.

It is true that ad­ver­tis­ing is sup­posed to present noth­ing but a good story (whether it is true or not) about the prod­uct or ser­vice be­ing sold so that the tar­get con­sumer can reach into his or her pocket and buy the prod­uct. Ad­ver­tis­ing for ev­ery prod­uct or ser­vice takes out all the stops in claim­ing the enor­mous ben­e­fits of­fered. This be­came so com­i­cally ob­vi­ous in re­cent months when the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Pak­istan took to the me­dia in claim­ing through their ad­ver­tise­ments all that they had given (or imag­ined they had given) to the peo­ple over the past years. It was quite funny that these claims were only be­ing made close to the ap­proach­ing elec­tions. None of these po­lit­i­cal par­ties had ever thought be­fore the run-up to the elec­tions to in­form the peo­ple about all the ‘good’ work they had done over the years. It seemed that they had ei­ther for­got­ten to tell their good sto­ries ear­lier or were only telling lies and mak­ing tall but false claims. It was true though that the PML(N) had spent quite a sum dur­ing its term in of­fice, ob­vi­ously from the gov­ern­ment ex­che­quer, both at the cen­tre and in the Pun­jab, in un­der­tak­ing projects that benefited only a part of the pop­u­la­tion and then trum­pet­ing its ‘achieve­ments’ through con­sis­tent ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns. The PPP then went into a ‘me-too’ mode and used the Sindh gov­ern­ment’s money to re­late its own story of the nu­mer­ous pub­lic-ben­e­fit projects it had un­der­taken in the prov­ince. De­spite all this, the fact re­mained that the coun­try’s largest city, namely Karachi, re­mained noth­ing more than a ‘kachra kundi’ (garbage dump) and the city’s mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­i­ties were blamed for it. In this sit­u­a­tion, the ad­ver­tis­ing me­dia, such as tele­vi­sion, ra­dio, print, out­door and the on­line chan­nels had a whale of a time, scoop­ing up all the huge bud­gets that were be­ing spent. Their bot­tom lines must have be­come fat­ter by many millions – or bil­lions – of ru­pees. Be­sides those who con­sumed the free biryani and qeema nans, oth­ers who ben­e­fit­ted most from the elec­tion eu­pho­ria were the me­dia own­ers.

Pak­istani ad­ver­tis­ing is said to have be­come highly frag­mented over the years and this is a trend that the world has gen­er­ally fol­lowed. There was a time when print was supreme and there was no other medium ex­cept news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines and a bit of shod­dily painted out­door signs. Then other me­dia started com­ing, like ra­dio, tele­vi­sion and dig­i­tal. This was a global story and was true for Pak­istan as well. From a few news­pa­pers and a sin­gle, state-run Ra­dio Pak­istan, progress was made when PTV came in 1964 and has been state-run to this day. How­ever, a ma­jor change oc­curred when Pak­istani me­dia was un­ex­pect­edly lib­er­ated by a mil­i­tary ruler in the early 2000s. The me­dia peo­ple could not be­lieve that they had been pro­vided a level of free­dom that they hadn’t ever thought of be­fore. As a re­sult, the me­dia scene ex­ploded with new news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines, FM ra­dio net­works, lots of new TV chan­nels and new out­door sign print­ing tech­nol­ogy. It was then that it be­came in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for ad­ver­tis­ing plan­ners to chan­nel­ize ad spends in a fo­cused man­ner.

The frag­men­ta­tion of the me­dia was not good news for ad­ver­tis­ing in Pak­istan and else­where in the world. Ad­ver­tis­ing bud­gets were split into small, in­ef­fec­tive por­tions and fo­cus was lost. This, in turn, led to a tremen­dous in­crease in ad spends and now more money is be­ing spent on TV ad­ver­tis­ing than on any other medium so that the mes­sage can be com­mu­ni­cated to the most peo­ple. The big­ger chan­nels with greater au­di­ence pen­e­tra­tion get the ma­jor por­tion of the ad bud­gets but the frag­men­ta­tion fac­tor con­tin­ues to neg­a­tively im­pact the sin­gu­lar fo­cus that ef­fec­tive ad­ver­tis­ing needs. In this sce­nario, the print medium has been left be­hind and that is the bad news.

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