08 November 2010

On Off-Target Advertising Kitchens

As a person who's been working in marketing for the past 5 years, I find that, at the end of every discussion I have with a colleague in the advertising and communications industry, we always reach the same conclusion: the Bahraini market is still not mature in terms of advertising.

There are plenty of reasons for Bahrain being so, such as the tribal managament of business, not having a risk-taking culture, and because we are still a family-oriented society that mainly relies on word of mouth and personal recommendations.

However today I am writing to shed light on a specific reason that contributes to the immaturity of communications in Bahrain, which takes place at "communications kitchens"; the advertising agency.

For those of you who don't know, advertising agencies are hired by companies to communicate and promote their products in the market. Typically, there are two main departments in every agency; the client-servicing department, which acts like the "waiter" that takes the client's order (brief), and the creative department, which consists of a number chefs and their assistants (graphic designers and writers).

My main problem is that the chefs and their assistant in most agencies, of which 90% are expats, have no local understanding. They don't know whether their customer (society) likes mild or spicy food, whether they are carb crazy or fat frenzy. What's worse is that, when they actually know, they are very judgemental of society's taste. They are judgemental of how people think and behave. They resist understanding it so badly that their final communication product is a failure.

While even I, as you may notice from my blog, have a number of objections on common socioeconomic trends in this country, I also understand that, as a marketeer working in a commercial corporation, I am not in the right position to push the kind of influence I want (there are other places where I can make a difference). My job, as a marketeer, is to accept this society, understand how it behaves, point out its needs and fill them with my products.

I am sorry to say that my friends in the kitchen do not realize what they are doing. The reason for that I am not sure of. Could be arrogance, could be ignorance, could be laziness. In all cases, in is a behaviour that has negative influence, and for them, instead of blaming clients and this society for the lack of progress in their own (creative) careers, they need to look inside and realize how they can start the change from inside the kitchen.


Degal said...

Hmmm interesting. I think the people in the entire restaurant need insight in to the local taste-buds. I guess the kitchen is too eager to introduce new flavours (which is not a bad idea), but first they should try to cook things with local insight. So what's the solution then? I recommend that all those working in the kitchen should be taken on a tour of the souq, the museum, the local restaurants, and even the fish market (in stead of "foreign" pubs). What do you think?

Ebrahim Hasan said...

All advertising must be based on research. The research part is the Account Planner's job. Account Planners are too rare, and together with Arabic Copywriters, they are the rarest breeds of ad pros in the region.

The AP would be the one tasked with understanding diners' taste buds, identify new trends as soon as they emerge, and measure the impact of an ad campaign once it's out.