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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Change the 'Realities' and the 'Image' will follow

We are constantly told that we need to 'sell' ideas, ideologies, institutions, or even ourselves, in order to succeed. Success, of course, being defined by 'The Bottom Line'.

Use such words and phrases frequently for the sake of analogy in these contexts and, fairly soon, they begin to shape the core philosophies. That is why the businesses set up to build 'soft images' of people, institutions, ideologies first have to reduce all of these to mere 'products'.

Often, more often than not, in fact, what is being sold is not good enough. But Spin Doctors in the Advertising and PR worlds (non-identical, but twins nonetheless) have the answer ... and one that suits the manufacturer, since it is economical. "Don't improve the product; just put a different spin on the marketing/advertising! It's been tried on Toothpaste ('Now in the new Red, White and Blue packet!'). And it worked! That week, in McCarthy's USA, people bought 3.7% more of the brand in question."

Why do people fall for these obvious falsehoods? Gullibility. There's one born every minute, na? Let's face it: Advertising gets the most amazing results. One of my favourite stories is about the little classified ad in a major US newspaper that said, "Last Chance to send $1 to PO Box ...". No one questioned why? The innovative advertiser received $1337 in 2 days.

We now have the Government of Pakistan engaged in a campaign that will help develop a 'soft image' for Pakistan. And they hope to do that without bothering to alter the realities. Enlightened Moderation hardly seems appropriate as a slogan for the bunch of people that the President has been lumped with (or chosen as the best of the available litter). None of them are Enlightened; and only a couple of them are Moderate.

But why spend all this money meaninglessly? Why do we need to build a 'soft image' at all? Who is the target audience? Surely not the Government of the USA, which knows all that goes on here, much of it at its own behest and/or with its approval. Surely not the American media, that has access to reports of our worst incidents and doings, and adds its own (often untrue) twists to the reports. Surely not Potential Investors: MNCs actually benefit from the oppression and corruption in third-world societies where their off-shore businesses are not subject to Human Rights Laws and other evils that could eat into profits. And there is certainly no point in targeting the citizens of the USA. They do not count! Not even in their own 'democratic' country where elections are now rigged or results manipulated, misinformation doled out for legitimizing unjust wars, FoxNews considered 'unbiased media', civil liberties trampled upon, people even arrested for wearing Peace T-Shirts in shopping malls.

After the recent and shameful Mukhtaran Mai fiasco and the President's unbelievable pronouncements while in NZ, for which the whole nation is receiving flak from everywhere, a really hard image has already been etched on most decent minds.

My suggestion to General M Sahab would be to scrap the soft image idea. Surely, not much will come of the excercise. We could use the saved money to develop local TV programs to counter the nonsense that is being doled out each day ... e.g. through programs like Istekhara Online and others that promote weird and anachronistic ideas. That would help actually change the mindset of our people and have long-term benefits for our country.

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