Bad Television Commercials

8 May, '03

I’ve riled against demeaning adverts and promised to start uploading some that I find bad, offensive or downright unimaginative. All of these will have a common theme: that the Gulf Arabs are "stupid" and as such should either to talked at or down to from the creators of these adverts.

Here’s a sample of ads I recorded over the last couple of days. YOU can of course vote and please do. We will keep the voting going until then end of July and then select the top 3 and present a "Certified Worst Advert on TV" to the creators and their clients.

Please click on a picture to get more information about the ad and to view it.



Al-Sultana Machboos Mix TVC
Al-Sultana Machboos Mix television advert


Chocolate TVC
Danelle Chocolate gunk tvc


Lux Washing-up Liquid TVC
Lux washing up liqued television advert


KFC Spicy Chicken TVC
KFC Spicy Chicken television advert


LG Washing Machine TVC
LG Washing Machine television commercial


Tide Washing Powerder TVC
Tide Washing Powerder television commercial

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Comments (13)

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  1. mahmood says:

    unfortunately yes!

    most if not all ads listed here are produced by Arab companies.

    We don’t have cable in Bahrain, but do receive satellite from primarily Showtime and Orbit and both networks do screen commercials, other than their own promotional material.

    These two networks have 100% penetration in the market in the Middle East. There are no other networks to choose from other than the crappy “free to air” channels (read Arab government propaganda) that almost no-one watches. Most of these as well screen commercials.

    None of the ads as far as I am aware are produced in Bahrain or by Bahraini companies. The bulk of TVC (television commercials) production and post-production is done in either Lebanon or Egypt. Quite a number are shot in Saudi – our biggest market with 22 million in population.

    Why would Bahraini ads show Arabs in a bad light? Maybe they’re just generic idiots and stereotypes like any culture has.

    Why indeed. The feelings of people – Arabs who share my opinion of these commercials in particular and others in general – tend to revolve around the idea that some Arabs don’t respect the “Gulf” Arabs, hence they tend to ignore, talk at or down to us (Gulf Arabs). These “other” Arabs it is felt are Lebanese, Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians.. those of the Lavant region if you like. And most of the creative directors who control the content of the ads hail from those regions. I personally have heard some people from those regions calling the Gulf Arabs “bagar” – a derogatory term literally meaning “cows”, ie, stupid.

    So as Arabs, we don’t just have to deal how the “west” are portraying us, especially at this time – post 9/11 – but with our own brothers and sisters to our north!

    In the late 80s and 90s, Schwartzenegger took over that role. What was that movie, True Lies? Bad Arab killed by being fired off on a missile into a helicopter with more evil Arabs. “You’re fired!” and the audience laughs

    Yeah I’ve seen this movie… crap doesn’t fit, it was absolutely worthless! I don’t know why the authorities at that time banned it. They shouldn’t have, it would have (at least should) have been a re-infroced wake-up call for us to do something about that view of the Arabs.

    We – as Arabs and Arabians (yes the terms are different, Arabians are those people who originate from the Arabian Gulf region: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates in addition to the Yemen – while Arabs is an all inclusive term for all Arabic speakers, ie the whole Middle East with the exception of Iran) have to do something about this perception, and accepting the sort of portrayals in the ads I have listed above without question and without raising hell on the producers of this rubbish is not going to help us.

    This is my way of doing something about it, and I hope that others will join me.

  2. mahmood says:

    Seems there’s some local politics involved, Gulf Arabs versus other types of Arabs.

    There shouldn’t be, but in reality there is! I would really want to know the origin of this discremination. I do not want my comments here to mean that I generalize and paint with a wide brush. Not at all, I have some very good friends and acquaintances from all of these countries, but all you need is a bad apple…

    You’d think most ad agencies would be from the rich Gulf states, like Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. But if it’s a small local industry, especially if commercial TV is relatively new, there’s bound to be lots of talentless hacks.

    How true!

    We do have quite a number of advertising agencies and post-production houses in all of the Gulf countries, most are in Dubai, however it seems that these are almost exclusively staffed by Lebanese, English and South Africans! So how do you expect that they (the staff) are going to really understand our psyche and the way we live?

    Very few are truly “local” companies with local staff. The local companies I must admit are not doing themselves any favours either – they tend to be a “one man show” with his relatives, using sub-standard equipment and staff “to eke a living” in this industry. They generally tend to throw their woes on the bigger companies in the region by supposedly isolating them from potential clients.

    But if you are a multinational or a large organization with consumer or food products, you want to make sure that the company producing your ad is a “complete” organization with specialist staff and proper equipment and resources. With the money involved you can’t afford to make mistakes, so they tend to select one of the “name” agencies, and the “name” agencies are staffed generally by non-local staff, and the circle continues.

    I come from Denmark, and when I left 15 years ago they only had 2 government stations with no ads, now there are several commercial ones.

    We’re the same NOW at this day and age! ALL of the Arab countries control transmissions, that’s why the main private networks (not the re-transmitters like Showtime and Orbit) like MBC, ART started their operations transmitting from London and Rome! It’s only in the last year or so that MBC has moved to Dubai Media City and ART moved some of its operations to Jordan!

    But as for all other channels (and there must be more than 100 by now) are all government operated and controlled. I really don’t understand how they spend millions every year on equipment and stuff.. a blue-painted board behind the presenter would be enough in most cases!!

    But they say, no-one in the Ad industry was ever fired for underestimating the intelligence of the target audience. Considering some of the ads that seem to be successful and are repeated endlessly, maybe they’re right… the TV audience has a lot of gullible idiots, so what if you insult the remaining 5%? Lol.

    That’s the crux of the problem I think, because almost all of the decision makers are essentially foreign, they do not understand the sentimentalities of the local population, and until that changes, I think they’ve got a disaster on their hands… I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a similar boycotting movement boycotting those products that these offensive ads promote as the current boycott of British and American goods… this is not propagated by governments, but started and continues as a grass-route movement.

  3. anonymous says:

    Bad Ads

    Hey, those “‘bad TV ads”, are they Bahraini ads? Or maybe BBC-World or something?
    (Cable/Satellite TV doesn’t have ads, surely…) Why would Bahraini ads show
    Arabs in a bad light? Maybe they’re just generic idiots and stereotypes like
    any culture has. BTW, haven’t seen the videos yet, I’m on dialup.

    In Hollywood it’s become OK to use Arabs as bad guys again, especially after
    Sept 11, then the Gulf War. I remember some terrible 70s Hollywood movies,
    some with Chuck Norris and the like, where you were built up to hate the
    bad Arab (the time of PLO terrorism) enough to rejoice in Chuck emptying
    a machine gun into them, or blowing them up (after beating them up good),
    and the audience would have their catharsis fix. To enjoy seeing someone
    being beaten and killed is rather questionable taste. In the late 80s and
    90s, Schwartzenegger took over that role. What was that movie, True Lies?
    Bad Arab killed by being fired off on a missile into a helicopter with more
    evil Arabs. “You’re fired!” and the audience laughs, feeling good about the
    bad man not only being killed, but that he was made to suffer…

    Ah, but I babble…

    Martin

    [edit] Hmm, I notice it doesn’t respect returns, everything is in one
    big paragraph. Am I supposed to use HTML or BB code?
    A few other minor bugs like 100% width Preview/Submit buttons on Netscape/Mozilla.

    [Modified by: Thor (msandersen) on May 11, 2003 08:54 AM]

    [Edit 2] Yep, HTML code works, it should now have line breaks. Just as well I’ve got a WYSIWYG editor in Netscape to produce HTML output.


    Martin

    [Modified by: Thor (msandersen) on May 11, 2003 09:03 AM]

  4. anonymous says:

    Re: Bad Ads

    I
    just read the original article. Seems there’s some local politics involved,
    Gulf Arabs versus other types of Arabs. You’d think most ad agencies would
    be from the rich Gulf states, like Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. But if it’s a
    small local industry, especially if commercial TV is relatively new, there’s
    bound to be lots of talentless hacks.
     I come from Denmark, and when I left 15 years ago they only had 2 government
    stations with no ads, now there are several commercial ones. Only seen a
    little when I was over visiting, but the quality wasn’t the greatest either.
    Here we can receive a local station in Woollongong which basically just resends
    material from one of the major stations, but with local ads. They’re very
    ‘quaint’ ads for local small business, low-budget stuff.
    But they say, no-one in the Ad industry was ever fired for underestimating
    the intelligence of the target audience. Considering some of the ads that
    seem to be successful and are repeated endlessly, maybe they’re right…
    the TV audience has a lot of gullible idiots, so what if you insult the remaining
    5%? Lol.

    Martin  😀

  5. anonymous says:

    Re: Bad Ads

    [quote]Hmm, I notice it doesn’t respect returns, everything is in one big paragraph. Am I supposed to use HTML or BB code? [/quote]

    Yep, that’s one of the annoying things about it. I would be a lot happier if it just does line breaks!

    I’ve set up the articles and comments to accept html, bbcode, and smilies – so go crazy! 🙂

    I notice from your edit2 you did!! 😀

  6. anonymous says:

    Re: unfortunately yes!

    A
    campaign like this should perhaps be centered on http://www.bahraini.tv? Have some
    polls on the worst ads or something for a start, and have a discussion forum
    on the subject (assuming you haven’t already), see what the population as
    a whole thinks. Unless you don’t want to politicise that site.

    It used to be that ads had to have a certain amount of local content, but
    that has since changed, and they sometimes import ads wholesale from America,
    and sometimes it just doesn’t fit. Other times they simply reshoot the US
    ad scene by scene substituting local references and voiceovers, maybe reusing
    some video as well. They try and make it subtle, but the thick accents and
    the occasional use of Afican-Americans, as the term is, jars with the reality
    of Australia. True, our culture has become much more Americanised over time,
    moving away from England, as the bulk of our TV and movies ae American, and
    most of the rest are clones thereof. It’s cheaper to buy B-grade soaps in
    bulk than making your own. And when they do make one, why do they have to
    copy aUS  gameshow right down to the tiniest detail, and then have to
    pay hefty royalties? You probably have a local version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”, everybody does. Maybe even “Big Brother” (that at least is from Holland). Or repeats from other countries.
    Crap ads are everywhere. But there are some very slick ads here too, lots
    of professional ad agencies. They find the Western audience is increasingly
    weary of ads and simply “switch off” mentally, and the have little effect.
    So they try and make them clever and entertaining and humorous. They even
    have “World’s Best Ads”-type TV shows, a format no doubt copied from America
    (Anything with “World’s Best…”), hosted by some moron, with laugh tracks
    appropriately added so we know what’s supposed to be funny. Seems the ad
    industry holds an awards ceremony like the Oscars in Cannes every year..
    And the Adult version too, with the most risque to be found around the world.
    Sometimes it’s surptising how risque some countries get going by what you
    know of that culture, deeply-religious ones like Brazil. One of the screenshots
    you show might be considered risque for a Gulf country, namely the KFC ad
    with a Western woman  in a 60s-like miniskirt. I realise it’s probably
    different in Bahrain, but our image is that Islam dictates women be virtuous
    in their dress, not showing anything that might arouse men, hence the veil.

    I tried one of your videos, although I don’t really want to waste bandwidth
    on crap ads on dialup access. As you said, it’s Realplayer. It said it needed
    to contact the server for some software, and then couldn’t contact it, so
    to try later. Are you using some “non-standard” format? (That’s a given,
    seeing as you are using Realplayer in the firstplace, but not some standard
    in the player). Is RealPlayer on Linux? It probably is. Quicktime only exists
    on Wine (Apple changed their licence to allow it, but they haven’t released
    a Linux version themselves). Nevertheless, some standard non-proprietary
    format would have been better, anythng but bloody RealPlayer. No, I’m not
    keen on the company’s tactics, like the thing they put in your system tray
    on Windows and how difficult they make to remove it, including the plea once
    you do, that I’l be missing out on this and that. I don’t their ads. Netscape
    wants to install it along with associated commercial services which they
    “conveniently” put on your desktop. I then have to go and make sure it doesn’t
    try and hijact the formats I’ve set for other applications, like Quicktime.
    Something like MPEG might be better, if you can make them. Only Apple so
    far use MPEG-4, not surprising as it’s based on their Quicktime format. They
    just opened up an online music store using the new ACC format (it allows
    for Digital Rights Management) which is part of the MPEG-4 standard.

    Martin 😀

  7. mahmood says:

    A campaign like this should perhaps be centered on http://www.bahraini.tv?

    You’re probably right… I’ve got too many sites I think that it is difficult sometimes to distinguish between them. I tend to think of this one as “me”, bahraini.tv as the general interest, events and business end for Bahrain, computerpoint.tv obviously for my business, and last but not least postcalendar.tv for PostCalendar. So I think that this site is appropriate for this subject as it is my personal view to try to understand the subject, rile against the machine, or whatever. Everything I enter here is my personal opinions, hence should not be taken out of context… want to share in my riles and raves… this is the place for it!

    However as you usually do 😉 you raise another good point and this issue should be exposed more. So when I figure out how to syndicate the content on this site, I’ll put a block on the other sites to invite people to come here and voice their opinion too.

    Other times they simply reshoot the US ad scene by scene substituting local references and voiceovers

    This is the bulk of post-production work here too actually. I sell particularly the ProTools audio systems that are used to replace dialogue (dub) and do lip-synching replacing the original usually English voices with Arabic, then just air the commercial when it is approved. This is done for almost all the larger companies like Coke, Pepsi, car ads, etc. Replacing video content or basing the whole ad locally is a very recent development, even then, they probably shoot in Greece, Lebanon, North Africa and then bring the finished product for dubbing to the local market.

    Of course this is not the best solution as content is still too far fetched from local sensibilities. Most of the time they just don’t work. Most of them become even offensive to the very people that these companies are pitching their products for.

    It used to be that ads had to have a certain amount of local content

    I think THIS is the most important point. Regulation, set standards, advertising authority, governing body. They are ALL missing from the Arab world. They relegate this process to the fractious advertising industry itself or to a low-level “cutting agent”, ie the censor. It is my personal belief that if you assign ANY critical job to a third-level (or less) governmental organization, you’re looking for trouble! In our countries, the censors are probably not very well educated (read as school drop-outs who have been in the service of the government probably all their lives and they got to that job because they only work the morning shift!) so they have no logic to what they can actually cut or regulate against.

    It surely should be completely to the consumer protection agency (if such a thing exist) or similar society to create an “advertising authority” that can advise the industry of the public’s feeling. Or even create a hotline where people can call it to register their complaints, and based on that make an informed decision.

    This function should NOT fall onto advertising and film & video production and post-production industries as they are the people and companies who are being judged here.

    Maybe when we have such a body, we will start seeing and hearing better advertising. This should escalate the industry’s output to a more professional plain.

    why do they have to copy a US gameshow right down to the tiniest detail

    Exactly! This is really big business! “Who wants to be a millionaire” is now one of the most successful franchises in the world. “Survivor” is just the same when you consider the slew of copy-cat shows that abound. But getting back to local (Arab) productions, our culture is so rich and varied that I find it difficult to understand why we can’t bring something better, or at least our own versions to the fore.

    I have no problem is our culture becoming much more “Americanized” now – we deserve what we get! When our governments do not take the visual arts – or any other form of art for that matter – seriously enough because of short term blinkered policies or their complete absence, then it is us to blame, not the Americans. They are just business men and women who are driving huge organizations with quarterly targets!

    If our cultures (the whole world) is to be saved, then government have to actively support this vital medium. Film & Video is generally a very dangerous activity monetary-wise, but the returns are better than a lot of other businesses, so they should not just pump money down a hole, but have a cohesive strategy to build the infrastructure and cultivate the artists to create this masterpieces. The technology is mostly off the shelf, but the creative people are not. I know for certain that in this area we do not have the creative people numbers compared to our population. If you consider that the Arab world number 250 million… where are all those artists? We are just left with “wannabes” who produce the rubbish like you see in the ads.

    No, I use RealPlayer because of their open source “Helix” server that runs on Linux and Windows. It should be able to serve most other formats as well, but there are some configuration issues that I still have to over-come. However the basic service IS running quite well, even for dial-up people.

    I chose the RealVideo option because that is the best quality and most effecient use of resources from a server and client point-of-view. Quicktime generates files that are too large, and I haven’t really investigated the Windows Media Player that much. MPEG1 is too low quality and some audio drift, MPEG4 I haven’t played with enough that I feel comfortable with. MPEG2 generates again far too large files.

    With the Helix/RealPlayer technology I just encode one file that will output automatically to 56k, 64k, 256k, 384k and 512k – I think they call it the “SureStream” or something similar. I tested most resolutions and they work fine. The server is started automatically and has been assigned 128MB all by itself and running 16 processes, so you shouldn’t have a problem.. maybe dns issues or whatever… try again please and let me know how you get along.

    All the streams are hosted on rtsp://video.alyousif.tv, so if you can ping video.alyousif.tv you should stream the movies ok even at 56k – but don’t blame me for the quality!! 🙂

    back to the subject…

    But there are some very slick ads here too, lots of professional ad agencies. They find the Western audience is increasingly weary of ads and simply “switch off” mentally, and the have little effect. So they try and make them clever and entertaining and humorous.

    Oh I don’t doubt it! There are some very excellent ads that are aired on several of the channels that I watch. Unfortunately there are extremely few that are related to this area in particular. Some of the ads that Qatar is now advertising itself as a tourist destination are nice, although somewhat corny. I don’t know who made those. There was one add made for a milk company in Saudi called Nadec (I think!) that aired during the World Cup (football) that was really big production with good graphics, except that I personally think that they killed all that effort with the final 3 seconds!

    One of the screenshots you show might be considered risque for a Gulf country, namely the KFC ad with a Western woman in a 60s-like miniskirt

    Apart from being stupid you mean? Americana (the owning and operating company for restaurants like KFC, Hardees and maybe others) is famous for these kind of crap ads. They produce all this rubbish in Lebanon or Egypt and then expect us Gulf people to just like them because they show “some skin”, so hey, there is one stereotype: Gulf Arabs are only concerned with their stomachs and 6 inches below it, so give them what they want!

    It’s like slapping us across the face and say that we are uneducated louts! We don’t have anything close to the intelligencia, we can’t think for ourselves, ALL of us are filthy rich and want to spend spend spend on basic pleasures! …. give me a break!

    I realise it’s probably different in Bahrain, but our image is that Islam dictates women be virtuous in their dress, not showing anything that might arouse men, hence the veil.

    Yes that is what the Islamic teachings are. But our culture has changed that somewhat, so although quite a number of women in Bahrain do where the veil, go covered in the “abaya” (black silk cloak that women wear) or just the “hijab” (coving the head and hiding the hair) coupled with reasonable un-provocative dress – yet maybe the same number or more prefer to wear western style clothing albeit conservative. I haven’t seen women wear miniskirts sauntering in the malls or the street, though I’m sure there are quite a few — I don’t go to the mall much to monitor these phenomena!

    The thing is about Gulf Arabs, both men and women mostly wear conservative cloths that are comfortable and go with our traditions, culture and religious values. Some go to either extreme… fine, if they’re comfortable with that, but it certainly isn’t the norm.

    “World’s Best Ads”-type TV shows, a format no doubt copied from America (Anything with “World’s Best…”), hosted by some moron, with laugh tracks appropriately added so we know what’s supposed to be funny.

    DAMN! I thought what I am doing here was original!!! I’ll just carry on with this crusade however!

  8. anonymous says:

    Re: Bad Ads

    Just as well I’ve got a WYSIWYG editor in Netscape to produce HTML output.

    Which editor is this Martin? Where can I get it from?

  9. anonymous says:

    WYSIWYG editor for Mozilla/Netscape

    http://vietdev.sourceforge.net/vinamozie/mo_installer.php

    They seem to have taken over from the original developer.
    Original site:
    http://composite.mozdev.org/

    One note though, if you install it, go to Preferences, at the bottom is ‘Composite

  10. anonymous says:

    Re: WYSIWYG editor for Mozilla/Netscape

    Thank’s Martin, got it and this is the first test using it!

    neet! 🙂

  11. anonymous says:

    Yep …

    Mahmood,

    My thoughts here …

    Bad TV Commercials

    Doug

    PS: We need TrackBack in Xaraya! 🙂

  12. anonymous says:

    Re: Yep …

    thank you for your kind words Doug.

    I agree with your conclusions and have amplified a little at your site.

    What is “TrackBack”? I’m green as far as blogging is concerned and don’t know what that does except for creating a pointer to the original article?

  13. anonymous says:

    Bad Television Commercials

    WHO ARE MEN ARE YOU MUSLIM WHY ARE YOU SHOWING YOUR WOMEN PIICTURES ONLINE IS THAT HARAM

    YOU NAME SOUND MUSLIM BUT WEBSITE IS NOT

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