Commercials: What do they tell our Youth?

Maimuna Musarrat

Few years ago, I was talking to a sister who had just recently arrived from abroad. She had a lot of amazing stories to tell, but what surprised me most was when she said she was missing Bangladesh so much that she even downloaded and watched Bangladeshi TV commercials from YouTube! My mind was incapable of imagining the reason for someone to do all the hardship of going online and deliberately watching TV commercials, which I could only think of as a most disgusting boring nuisance! I myself tried hard to avoid them as much as I could, and considering the quality of Bangladeshi commercials, it’s no surprise I am not the only one who changed the channel as soon as it was time for commercial break.
I would never have understood her yearning to watch Bangladeshi advertisements from YouTube, until recently, when I myself ended up living miles away from my own country. Today, as I live thousand miles away from my beloved Motherland, spend hours without listening to my dear mother tongue, I remember that sister and understand what she meant when she said she was craving to watch Bangladeshi advertisements.
One day I discovered myself in her same situation, and it wasn’t long before I myself ended up doing the same thing that sister did – watching Bangladeshi commercials online – an act I laughed so much at!
From my experience of Bangladeshi ads, I would classify them into two groups: the first and the majority are those which have only some strong music, dancing and/or irresponsible exhibition of female body with little or no relation to the product. You would require a super extraordinary brain to find out the relation between the product and the advertisement. Others, the minority, are those which actually do have a story but among them, most have a story that has no or little relation to the product and you will still need to have an intelligent brain to understand what they are trying to say. In some other ads, you would find a related story, but there are so many stories in a single one-minute ad, that you would have to watch it a few times before figuring out what you were meant to be told. And besides these, there remains only a few that actually can give you a message AND a related story AND are easy for normal “mango people” like us to understand. With all sorts of ads available in the giant storage of YouTube, I had a hard time finding out a few that I could actually lay my eyes on.
So after some search for “story-based” ads, one really caught my eyes. This is the new Robi Youth ad, which I liked because of its strong message through stories.  It was one of those fast paced ads that had a lot of stories within the single minute, and not to mention, it took me some time to create the link between all the stories they were trying to show and identify what actually they wanted to say.
It started with glimpses of a few youth who were being heartbroken by friends, family or a teacher. Then suddenly a magical word appears on their mobile screen that unites them all and through the usage of different services, suddenly they are all seen together working for a good cause. Took me some time to understand, but finally I got the message: “when the youth gather together, they can make any change they wish”
It is a strong message indeed, and a really good one. But yes, this is an advertisement and not an inspirational video or something, so you have to receive this message from the commercial point of view: “when the youth gather together, they can make any change they wish and the only way you can gather the youth together is through using the various services our telecom service provides you”.
Although there is a sense of consumerism in here, which is vital in any commercial, I don’t mind this message either. But to get to this message I had to receive a few other messages as well. It’s hard to tell whether they really intended to do so or not, but when the teen watch this commercial, they are sure to receive a few other messages that I myself couldn’t ignore. To portray the importance of mobile phone and its more important services, they have portrayed a rather negative image of the more important aspects of our life – i.e. parents (they curtail your freedom – break your bicycle or bans you from using mobile phone) and teachers (they discourage you by insulting you in front of all your friends and shatter your self-confidence). Moreover, they even induced the youth to adopt fraudulent ways to communicate (using magic voice to talk in a female’s voice) with friends.
It hasn’t been long since I left my teen and you can still count me as a youth. So I know which messages the youth will receive from this commercial and what can be the after effect of applying these. Just imagine how it will be if the bad boy in your locality uses “magic voice” to pretend he is your sister’s best friend and induces her to come and meet him at a place she shouldn’t be. And how freaky it would be if a stalker uses “locator” to locate you? Although they are showing “better uses” of these services, I am sure these are the ways these services will be used in reality.
This is not the only ad that caught my eyes. There were a few more, but I specially want to mention one – from another telecom company who are famous for their unrelated song and dance ads. This one I am talking about is a story ad. In this one, a young man is very keen to express his feelings to a young lady – (and even five-year-olds today know very well what that feeling is) but every time he is at the point of telling the long-awaited words, he gets disturbed by a parent, teacher, kid or someone else. So finally he resorts to the easy solution – which is to use mobile phone (as if these young people lived 10 years ago when mobile phones were not as common) and with the reduced charges for special numbers of special people, the young man could say everything he wanted at any time without being disturbed! Ha- a magical solution indeed!
So what message does this ad give you? Parents, teachers and kids are the biggest disturbing elements on earth. And the best time to keep away from them is to use mobile phones when they are all asleep (preferably night).
The commercial producers and the telecom giants are very well aware that they can easily use the emotion and vulnerability of the youth to induce them for using more services- be it necessary or not. And you think they actually want the youth to bring change to the society? Well you should think twice – as the only change they want this young “mobile phone generation” to bring is to their monthly phone bills.
And to the young people out there who think it’s hard to stay a moment without talking or chatting or doing SOMETHING with that mobile phone, I have a message for you:
It is important to have friends and to be connected with friends. And yes, it is important to keep our phones switched on so that our friends can find us and we can find them. But of course it doesn’t mean we should disregard our first priority – our family. It was our families that protected us when we were young, and it is our families that will take care of us when we will be old. It’s important to change the society, and even more important to be connected with friends who will help us do so, but why not involve our family in the good deeds? And if we think our family is not good enough to help us in helping the society, then we should start the change from our own families.

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