Tuesday, 17 June 2008


I have a problem. I like to listen to The Business Breakfast in the mornings on my way to work. However I keep having to switch off the radio at the ad breaks and then I forget to switch it back on.

I think they should have an RDS based station changer that people can use to tune elsewhere during the ads and then tune back once they’re over. You could make it a premium service: I’d pay.

Pal Tim ‘Evil Journalist’ Burrowes, the former editor of The Magazine Formerly Known As Campaign Middle East (TMFKACME. I know, it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well as TAFKAP, does it?) and currently the man at the head of Australian uber-marketing mag B&T came through town last week and we met up – we got to talking about the fun we used to have co-hosting ‘The Editors’ radio show. We occasionally managed to give radio advertising a hard time but it never seemed to provoke a response from the advertisers we were lambasting. I rather think that this is because nobody in their right minds, having produced this mindless, excruciating dross, would dream of actually having to listen to it.

I mean, what about the hospital recently that was punting its cardiology capability with the immortal line: “Managing a stroke takes more than a stroke of luck.” Did they really not consider that the weak gag is redundant, irritating and even tasteless?

Sadly, the ads are so weak and so formulaic that it’s possible to sort them into types.

There are the irritating declamatory calls to act redundantly: “Add an address to your business” and the one that really gets my goat, “Add life to life.”

Then we have the dumb attempts to be linguistically clever. The most galling recent example used the fact that the Greeks weren’t just great at astronomy, but at gastronomy, too. Is that complete drivel honestly justified by the ‘onomy’? What about their skills at taxonomy? Are we really suggesting that the Eastern Empire, the flowering of art, architecture and culture that followed the transformation of the Roman into the Byzantine Empire is really down to some astronomy – which was principally an Arab art in any case?

Another irritation is bad grammar or the misuse of words, which is regrettably common. I’ve spoken to voice over artists who’ve corrected ads and then recorded the original as well as the suggested correct version, then sent both back to the agency only to hear the incorrect version running on the radio.

Then there’s the “Dubai Classic” ad. I’ve been listening to this one for over 20 years now in many different guises. But it always follows the same basic theme:

Broom broom!
“Hi Dave! Why are you in such a hurry?
“Hi Barry! I’m off to the Khara Centre!”
“The Khara Centre?”
“Yes! The Khara Centre!”
“Why the big rush. Then?”
“The great WinABarOfGoldFamilyFunFestival is on! You can win a bar of gold just by shopping in all the great shops and availing of the great deals in the many outlets!”
“Great deals?”
“Yes. Great deals! There are loads of great deals. At the Khara Centre!”
“Dave? Dave? Why are you in a rush now?”
“To get to the Khara Centre of course! I can't wait to win a bar of gold too!”

The newest one is from HP. I can’t believe that an agency and client have actually produced another one of these insane, cookie-cut radio ads, but it’s true. The efficiency of an HP graphic workstation allows the protagonist to keep up with the workload of projects in Dubai and also get to go home early to meet his kids. It’s inconceivable that any intelligent marketer would believe that this scenario would be greeted by anything other than irritated disbelief by any consumer with an IQ above that of primordial soup.

I'd name and shame more of the advertisers, BTW, but I genuinely can't remember who they are other than HP and Du. The companies and their products are buried in my consciousness underneath the disgust that their attempts to communicate with me have triggered.

I want to take the people responsible for these ads and gaffa tape high powered headphones to their heads before playing the massively amplified sound of screaming horses being eviscerated with rusty rice sickles. I want to keep the sample looping until their ears bleed and they stop twitching. Only then will I feel that justice has been done.


Anonymous said...

I have suggested that a certain radio station I'm assocoated with runs a competition each week where listeners can vote for their most hated commercial and have it ceremoniously dumped at the end of the week. Sadly they didn't think it was a good idea!!

Anon for obvious reasons :-)

EyeOnDubai said...

Excellent idea! I wonder if the broadcasters can measure the number of 'Off' buttons hit when certain ads are aired...


moryarti said...

lol@khara centre .. :)

I heard the same workstation ad this morning as well - I think I vomited a bit in my mouth.

sabaza said...

TAFKAP - The Artist Formerly known as Prince... (or did you mean something else?)

alexander... said...

*sigh* It was early. K it is...

the real nick said...

You beat me to it. I too thought about doing a post about the abominable radio commercials in this place AND the 'switch off' device - great minds think alike. I usually switch to CD because ads here runs at least for the length of a song.
Anyone remember the horrible ad for the Ford Focus recently? It opened to the line "baby, come, check out my new car!"

Mars said...

i shall try to remember that when i write more radio scripts for my brand...although at times i'm forced to write crap by the powers-that-be *sigh*

alexander... said...


Shocked. Really. I do hope you can sleep... that's all...


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