It is said that the man who made the most money in the California Gold Rush was a gentleman by the name of Levi Stauss.
But Strauss wasn’t a gold prospector. He was a businessman who used to make, amongst other things, comfortable denim jeans. Rough, sturdy and comfortable work pants that the prospectors could wear while slaving over their endeavours. Levi’s, of course, then grew into the international brand that it is today.
The Levi model was used by many. In the “dot com” boom of the late nineties, the websites themselves weren’t making much money; it was the companies that were providing hosting services and web servers that made the most money. Some of these hosting companies would have known for certain that some (or even most) of the websites they were providing services for would go kaput soon. As would have Mr Strauss, about the prospects of his prospector-clients.
In the last elections, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan had a nice ka-ching(!) season, when he sang some of the election anthems from both PTI and PML(N). No need to be so judgmental. A girl’s got to eat.
We had a similar situation in the elections campaigns of the 2018 polls. The PTI, knowing its target demographic, crafted a series of beauty-shots of their chairman staring wistfully into space like the Bonanza and Oxford ads of yore.
The PML(N), which had the best ads of the season, has some tongue-in-cheek campaigns, in addition to their own versions of Bonanza ads with the elder Sharif pouting and the younger Sharif supervising infrastructure projects.
The PPP’s ad campaigns were the most admirable ones, which might not have hit the right registers in terms of getting votes, but spoke about the right things, whether or not they got votes.
This piece is about a particularly successful one of the League’s tongue-in-cheek ads. An uncle (presumably) and his nephew are playing a game of carrom board where the uncle schools the youngster (who is a PTI supporter) in the achievements of the League, compared to the cipher that the PTI had proved (according to him) in the province they were running.
It was a nice, cute ad. Though it made fun of the PTI, it was not mean spirited towards the supporters, because the kid was his nephew whom he loved. It even ended with the uncle pleading with the kid to return back to the game.
All well and good. Till someone in the PPP’s media camp got the idea to take the exact same actors and spin it in favour of the PPP. This time, the youngster schools his uncle (respectfully) in the merits of the Sindh government’s health initiatives.
Not only did this ad take the same actors, the director also replicated the mise en scène of the previous advertisement. It had ended up looking like a series of ads, that discuss a progression from worst to better, and better to best, with the PPP emerging on top, at the League’s expense and, of course, a bit of its own.
The actors themselves, wouldn’t be too bothered if one were to ask them why they shot an ad for both parties. First of all, thinking that the League is better than the PTI and thinking that the PPP is better than the League are not mutually exclusive points of view. One could argue (if one were so inclined) that this is a wrong view to hold, but it doesn’t have any internal inconsistencies.
But the actors would contend that even if they were to make ads for both PTI and PML(N), they still shouldn’t be held accountable. They are providing a service, after all. And they are doing it for a fee. Some people are gym instructors, others are architects, others sell insurance, and others sell fried chicken. Just like them, these people are also professionals who earn a living through their craft. Judging them would be akin to judging the television channels, newspapers and websites that run ads of all political parties.
As the now legendary stand-up comic Dave Chappelle says about trusting celebrities: “I don’t even know my people listen to me. I’ll say anything. Like, I’ve done commercials for Coke and Pepsi. I don’t care what the f**k comes out of my mouth. If you want to know the truth, I can’t even tell the difference. All I know is that Pepsi paid me most recently, so it tastes better.”