Friday, January 28, 2005

Bitter editor

Why are we still ticked of with ads that use informal language? Why do ppl like Tan Huan Bin still become petrified by Manglish featured on TV? He even wrote a letter to The Star which was featured in the Mind Our English section in yesterday's issue commenting on the recent Astro ad.

For those unfamiliar with Malaysian TV, the Astro ad that he was talking about shows a group of friends getting together to watch a game on Astro. Just after the commercial break and the game was just about to continue, a message appeared on the TV screen, "Please settle your Astro bill". Shocked, a friend said, "Astro bill didn't pay ah?" A few seconds later the lights went out prompting him to say, "Electricity bill also didn't pay ah?" Lol very funny ad.

His main argument of what makes this ad so criminal is that "Astro or electricity bill can't do the paying!" Well yeah, if you look at it that way. But didn't he realize the use of 'ah' in the ad? That clearly indicates that neither UK English nor US English is at use in this ad. So, the common grammar and spelling rules do not apply here la Mr Tan.

He also said, "Sometimes I wonder whether advertisers are deliberately using badly constructed scripts to gain public attention, or whether they are being careless in allowing bad English to be aired in public." Some advertisements by small companies do make mistakes sometimes. But I rarely see them on TV ads. They are usually found in print ads. If a company were to employ an agency to design a TV ad, it will usually be ready to spend big bucks for it which means the ad must be in good quality. If an agency was to design a "badly constructed script" and the company allows that script to be aired, then by all means they deserve to be bankrupt. Same goes if the agency was "being careless in allowing bad English to be aired in public." But for Astro, it was made that way for a reason. It's simply because that's just the way the general public is talking right now.

The best promotion is the one that relates to the intended audience as close as possible. That's why we don't see sexually charged ad promoting breath mints, or why instead of Adriana Lima, Josie Maran, Tomiko Fraser, Erin Wasson, Zhang Ziyi, Quiana Grant, or Kristin Davis we see Siti Nurhaliza in Maybelline ads. That is the general rule of a successful advertising campaign. Open any marketing book in the bookstore and you will see people and place as part of the principle of marketing. Astro was probably thinking, "who are the ones that usually don't pay the bills?" The answer, your average Ali, Ah Chong and Raja who uses Manglish regularly. So why not use a language they understand. Maybe they didn't understand "Your Astro bill is overdue". Maybe showing the probability of embarassing yourself and missing a great game would get the message through.

"The advertiser in this case should have known the negative impact the message can have on young minds or those who are trying to learn English." What negative impact? Have you ever encountered a child who said "Oh I learned that from a TV ad" or "I saw that in the papers"? Have you ever? If you have let me know and I'll reconsider my opinion on this.

"Wouldn't it be more appropriate to use these lines, 'You didn't pay your Astro bill, did you?" or 'You also didn't pay your electricity bill, did you?' " Didn't he realized that if Astro were to use those lines, they would have to pay an additional 15 seconds of airtime? They were already loosing with all the unsettled bills and now they have to fork up more money to ask them to pay the unsettled bills. Can you imagine hanging out at your friend's place with your shorts and sarongs and saying something like "You also didn't pay your electricity bill, did you?" You are not in a meeting for crying out loud.

As a final note, tell me what you think about this. I found this on one of the billboards at Federal highway heading towards KL.

Bumper ke Bumper. Percetakan Tanpa Jam
I was too busy trying to figure out if I read that correctly to check out the owner of the ad.

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