Pakistan’s ‘other’ dirtiest profession
Pakistani advertising is like the tell-all village bicycle — everyone from the town idiot to the neighbourhood queer has hopped on and gone for a ride.
Such is the predestination of our publicity enticing industry that any real attempt in the opposite direction has the lot cartwheeling towards an embargo on actual creativity.
A routine flick through any of our cable channels will provide ample feeding ground for those disillusioned with the lack of forward-moving vision when it comes to selling a product, or even issuing a notice.
And a regular Sunday morning flip through the dailies and the magazines that accompany them will leave you want for something more inventive, a little less seedy and fantastically more qualifying of a front-inside spread.
It is quite comedic actually how, if and when accidental imagination does manage to get its foot in the door, the only way forward for many in the advertising arena is through sexual exploitation and dingy back-alley innuendos.
Case in point: a few Sundays ago, habitual page turning of some customary weeklies had me eyeing a scandal with an advertisement in print I am not likely to forget anytime soon (negativity, unfortunately, breeds much more potently than anything even close to timely significance and, as is the case with human nature, we do not really remember items of less shocking indication). As we all know, shoes are a relatively offenceless commodity (fetishisms notwithstanding) and it would be quite the task to bring within their frame of reference an image or overtone suggesting obscenity or bad taste. Lo and behold, the Pakistani advertiser has managed to find his way around that little hoopla to bring to the viewing public a promotion in print for a shoe label I would rather not mention, hence notoriety giveth more customary advantage. Whereas most advertisers here use the female form (will come back to that later, I do not plan to let this one go anytime soon) to sell everything from items of female impulsiveness to jockey straps, this particular brand of shoe did not need to go that route to imply provocative insinuation. Depicting their new line of footwear for men, the advertisement contained an overdose of homoerotic intimation with one man’s foot (conveniently wearing the object of promotion) resting within the nether regions of another man’s suited lap and we are not privy to mentioning that the aforementioned lap was not exactly the domain of mainstream heterosexuality. The advertisement contained no dose of humour, no repeal of indecency and no actual motivation — just a very real and in-your-face attempt at selling through shock treatment while suffering a pseudo devil-may-care attitude. So if our garden variety of advertorial ventures has become the unfortunate lair of perverted implications, where on God’s green earth has good old-fashioned campaigning responsibility gone? And if portraying very graphically implied personal orientation in relation to something as ordinary and commonplace as shoes and actually glorifying it in a way aimed at appealing to the everyday consumer is an acceptable approach towards public advertising, there is no way I am ever stepping into their shoes again (pun quite indignantly intended).
Where men with questionable libidinous leanings lay off, women with surprisingly compromising morality seem to dive in. Seen on every billboard, handbill, placard, banner, public notice, signboard and 30-second ballyhoo stint on the idiot box, advertising’s 15-seconds-of-fame women really are the proverbial romp in the hay — a quick fix to a much larger problem left uncommitted. Promoting all sorts of merchandise, women have sadly become little more than chattel themselves, exploited by the very machinery that swears to uplift them by throwing them in the face of every gawking individual within a head swivel radius while endorsing everything from mattresses to monkey wrenches, thus reinforcing sexist notions about womanhood to exploit sexuality. Not only do these ubiquitous images encourage us to think of sex as a commodity, they often reinforce stereotypes of women as sex objects which may contribute towards violence against women. And that is just the tip of the melting iceberg. Channelising the female form and capitalising it beyond moral recognition does not add up to exercising restraint on the part of the hand that feeds its feebleminded consumers the fruit of unforgiving conditioning. Advertising is an undeniably potent tool, one that has proven to be able to mould opinions and shape behaviour. If women are depicted as little more than mere commodities themselves, they will be treated with the significance of centrefolds as advertising tells us who we are and how we should be, and if the media’s dictum sways to the beat of the negativity drum where women are concerned, that is exactly how we will perceive them: as cheap sell-outs with little or no dignity and self-respect.
From women who advocate the best in sanitary care so that their ultimate goal in life, which is to make the ultimate cup of tea, can be achieved to a very real campaign that featured a woman of no less than buxom proportions selling milk by announcing in the national dialect ‘want milk’, the hamster running the wheel of advertising’s dirty old men is now, more than ever, panting his way towards perversion paradise. We sell sex everywhere and we use women to do it. We use the connotations of this three letter ‘ssshhh’ word to push the boundaries of what advertising with absolutely no purpose has become. Our fixation with anything even remotely associated with sensuality gives away what we think of women and how we associate them with this rather taboo’ish of topics by objectifying them on prime time.
It is a sorry state of affairs when advertising has become little better than a cheap trick to disguise the fact that the creators of such imagery possess zilch ability to make thoughtful arguments on behalf of their products. They now rely on desire-stimulation techniques intermingled with some shock therapy thrown in for good measure. They have turned a blind eye to how the youth of this nation will be affected by images that contain harmfully impressionable imagery and they do not care if they can sell their products at the cost of men devaluing women for the sake of increased sales. And when our advertisers turn to all out graphic perversions that highlight women doing to ice-creams what most women would not even do for marital gratification, when they lightly broach the acceptance and outright uplift of homosexuality in our media culture and when our own sensibility within the moral fabric of our society defies two cents worth of the busy advertisers time, we have reached a point of disregard where we have, regrettably, become what we sell.
Source: The Post