Free Publicity
By Shoaib Hashmi

This is some while ago, but I am sure you will remember it. They brought out this new soft drink see, and to get it off the ground in a market already brimming with the colas and things, they had to start off with a bang. And they did.
They made this memorable ad, with this cowboy who comes out of the desert, tired and thirsty, and walks into the saloon, and there on the counter are all the soft drinks in town lined up waiting -- and he takes out his trusty six-gun and blazes away, smashing them all to smithereens -- except the new one!
What was even more noticeable about the ad was that they'd been very, very careful with the editing, and you could make out the general shape of the familiar bottles, but you couldn't actually read any of the brand names! We thought it was just a case of politeness and good manners; after all even in the cutthroat world of advertising, one does not go around trashing one's rivals and competitors; at worst one calls them 'Brand X'. And we thought it was a sign of maturity and mellowness in our times.
Then one happened to see the same ad in the cinema, and cinema advertising being cheaper, it was longer, and that was not the only difference; there, large as life and for all to see were the names of the rival drinks, coke biting the dust, and Pepsi being blown to the skies and the Mirindas and the Sprites flying with the shards of the bottles. The admen had no scruples about naming names you see; only PTV in its usual mealy-mouthed way had chickened out and edited the brands out of the ad.
Some time later a fledgling new daily newspaper came out, which I will not name, because, as I said, it is not nice to name names, but I will call it the 'times' because one has to call it something. They too had to make a splash, and they did it with another ad, this time of two men on a park bench, one reading the 'times' and the other one the 'Post'. All the passing joggers look on, and stop to read the 'times', and eventually the other man also throws away his 'Post' and takes to the 'times'. And it was all right because there was no real newspaper called the 'Post' or anything like it.
This was some time ago, which means the ad is old hat, and no one is going to look at it too closely, and they don't really need it any more, so we were a bit surprised when they dusted off this old relic and suddenly started running it, every ten minutes or so, on dozens of channels on the cable -- until someone came and dumped a complimentary copy of another brand new town newspaper on our doorstep!! That was a sneaky one!
They've stopped since, which means they must have cottoned on that while it may be sneaky to trash your rivals, it is dumb to give them free publicity too, which is what I am doing, so I must also stop. Stop! (Courtesy The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.