They are selling dreadful things in beautiful packaging on your TV channels.

 “I want to broadcast an ad on cable TV network.”

“Where do you want to advertise? Lahore, Karachi, all over Pakistan?”

 “Well, can you send me the rates of all of these?”

“Sure.”                    

 “What about any scrutiny? I pay for an ad and it is somehow censored. What then?”

 “That does not happen Bibi.”

This is a chunk of my conversation with a marketing manager of media buying agency. The agency helps you advertise on local cable network channels. The very localized kind of ads are broadcasted on cable TV network on Indian channels, movie channels and even sometimes on sports channels. Imagine how many people you can reach when your ad is aired during star plus dramas or a match series transmission!

So make an ad of any Dawakhan or Fakeerkhana. Advertise about some jaali peer or amil or a homeopathic or allopathic clinic, who is there to stop you? Well, practically nobody.

To add to your convenience you can always reach the desired audience. For example, if you want to advertise about some dawakhana or peer sahib or even some uncertified creams, then your potential clients are the women especially from middle class and lower class. These potential victims are most likely to tune into Indian drama channels. What better entertainment can they have than watching saas bahu series? So reach directly to their homes and peep through their TV screens. Tell them how badly they need to look as fair as the white women if they want to get married. Tell them to use slimming products to look as slim as Nicole Kidman. You can safely say that your product is imported. They are going to believe you. So instead of making expensive ads and working to get them on-aired on mainstream channels, go as cheap as the itself product is. As the program goes on break, and the viewers wonder how many ads are there in a half an hour long drama, the ads from local cable operator sweep in. The gullible women who lament Tulsi’s Saas or Parerna’s jaithani will definitely believe you if you tell them about the Peer Sahib who is a miraculous healer. They will trust you if you tell them that your herbal cream is going to make them look like a beauty queen and they will rush to your clinic if you advertise about the medicine that can cure their diseases or can help them have children. You can also sell the amulet-like lockets on which “Allah” is engraved. You can persuade teenagers to buy medicines or machines to have six-packs. Most of these products are uncertified. Many creams or slimming tablets can be purchased via phone call. The client can pay cash on delivery. 

PEMRA has 522 field officers who are monitoring electronic media but none of them is looking into this matter. 3800 cable operators broadcast movies, sports and dramas, without any rights of transmission. If the viewer has any complaint, he can get it registered on toll free number of PEMRA. PEMRA itself only monitors if all licensed channels are being on aired or if the cable operator is sticking to the limit of in-house channels allowed to him by the regulatory authority. So no of channels matter the most. Content is far less important unless it is about some court contempt.

By broadcasting these movies, dramas and sport series, not only the rights of the producers of these programs are infringed, but the uncertified products are also being advertised.

While our regulatory bodies might be focused on judging who committed the contempt of court or defamed the Chairman of PEMRA, the world is debating some “insignificant” issues. They are exploring the harmful impacts of advertisement. Psychologists and sociologists are already contending that  advertisement is taking its toll on the society. No doubt media provides us with the information but it also psychologically traps us by embedding the images into our minds. It conditions us to look at things in a particular way to trap us to become the irrational consumers. The ads particularly present the glamorized and near to perfection world which the potential client is invited to purchase. Information is presented in a way which is easy to absorb. Many critics point out that the advertisement has brought materialism to soaring heights. The customers are invited to buy and consume the products which are presented as personification of happiness and satisfaction. Advertising industry sells on people’s greatest desires and strongest fears. They reemphasize cliché and stereotypes of the society. They make you feel inferior or incomplete and tell you that they have the solutions to your inferiority. All this criticism is about general advertisement. The negative impact increases many folds when unauthorized and uncertified products are sold to gullible victims.

So while you as an intellectual make hue and cry about the influence of liberal Turkish dramas or Indian soap operas, just think for a while that there are even worse things happening which we have not even started to question.