The Chillies: Awards, Scams and Ghost Ads

The Chillies is around the corner. Time for scam artists to show their true colours once again.

It is not wrong to say that advertising industry in Sri Lanka is largely run from Colombo; there is no noticeable work coming from Kandy, Matara, Galle, Jaffna, Badulla or any other regional centre. I may be wrong if the ever-so-interesting bus “decorations” qualify to be called advertising, that is. There are no ‘agencies’ outside Colombo since the whole country is such a small place.

There’s the Chillies, the SLIM’s – the People’s Awards, the Effies, the Reggies and various other industry accolades and titles, up for grabs every year. Also there’s the Sumathi’s, Sarasavi and all kinds of labels for the Advertising, Marketing and Media industry including the “Superbrands.” All this, for Colombo – a tiny city that houses 0.65 million people in 40 square kilometres of space.

Consider the total ad spend of the country, remove the political spending and I’m sure we are left with something that’s not even worth this many award ceremonies.

Too many awards, for a tiny industry in a tiny city. Looks like, and feels like, quantity over quality – doesn’t it?

Agree that the awards are meant to be “conceptually” very different from one another. The Chillies are meant to award creativity, the People’s Awards are for popularity and the Effies are for advertising effectiveness. The trouble is, when there is an overlap, and the market is too small to understand the difference or lacks variety to fill all the criteria, the “grey area” looks so grey that the whole awards business looks a bit dodgy and unclear.

Besides, the organisers come-up machinations to ensure the metals go to those who are in their favour. Pretty much like patting one’s own back, or you scratch mine and I’ll scratch yours, really.

Ok, we have the international judges. But no amount of great judges will be able to conduct a clean business in a place infested with crooks. Just like FP7 Doha winning at Dubai Lynx (and Cannes) with some ghost ads, only to be exposed later and eventually get stripped off the titles and thrown in the hall of shame. If the crooks could fool Cannes and Lynx, the Chillies is peanuts for the local masterminds.

The awards need to earn their credibility. I think People’s awards are pretty decent, largely due to Nielsen professionalism, but then there are some who depend on Lanka Market Research Bureau (LMRB) for research too. The last time I read a report from LMRB, it stated “Style” enjoyed a top spot in magazine readership, when in fact, the magazine was discontinued more than three years before the report came out.

The tiny city of 40 square kilometres is filled with the best and the worst, the good and the bad. The honest and the devious. In a country where there is no respect for the consumer, where there is no self-discipline or moral code of conduct, who are we kidding really?? Just like LMRB and Superbrands, the Chillies 2009 is also not going to be any different this time either.

Image: One of the FP7’s ghost ads. Check out http://adsoftheworld.com/media/print/samsung_wf338aab_ink to see the rest of the campaign.


Ramboda Pass, Saudi Arabia

It’s funny how we the islanders of Paradise keep looking for things that remind us of home when we are overseas. Missing home may be, or just craving for a good rice and curry meal perhaps. Whichever it may be, we tend to look for things that remind us of home and draw comparisons.

And I found Ramboda Pass, driving through Saudi Arabia.

There were the hairpin bends (‘dangerous curves’) carved out of the mountains. There were road-signs indicating “falling rocks.” There were the roadside stalls and then there was the tunnel too..! But the stall sold fruits, not veggies. The mountains were dry brown, scattered with rock formations – not lush green tea bushes.


Oh, the monkeys were a bonus (I think they are a kind of baboons, they had pink butts). They reminded me of the ones in Ohiya (World’s End) Area with longish hair; this one was quite used to sit next to the vehicle and share our food.

The dried up ‘rivers’ like the one in the second picture overflow quite ruthlessly, creating ‘flash-floods’ when it rains in the mountains. Rest of the year, it remains a dangerous reminder.


In love with Abha...

This could easily be my paradise, my home” lying on the green grass in mid-afternoon, I thought to myself, as I brushed away the soft purple flowers that kept falling on me in the gentle breeze.

The sky was blue and the day was beautiful. Abha was basking in sunshine and looked gorgeous. I was in love with Abha.

I almost forgot that I haven’t seen any feminine contours in a while, they have disappeared under the shapeless black abayas in this land. I almost forgot that I’m with a dozen guys who’ve been on the road for a while. Scruffy, shabby and unshaven, we looked like a bunch of hooligans walking out of a Western movie set. One could’ve easily expected Clint Eastwood to be the next guy joining in the gang. A week of driving across the country, topped up with an agreement to stay unshaven did not constitute to anything pleasant in our image. (Remember the journey that started with the Yemeni tea? We are still on the road) We were a bunch of ugly guys, looking even more uglier by our own choice.

Abha could make any road-weary gentleman forget about his decency and do the most unusual, out of spontaneity; lying there, watching the blue skies above me, I thought to myself. I had an annual-grin that stretched from ear to ear, and I was happy. I was thinking, I was dreaming, and I was reminiscing. Life throws in little surprises at the most unexpected moments.

I was lying in a public park, in the most popular local tourist destination in Saudi Arabia – Abha. It felt like Nuwara Eliya this time of the year – 15 degrees centigrade. It felt like my post-A/L trip around the country with my buddies, only this time, I was staring at the sky, very much sober.

In a country where nothing but sand dunes stretch from one corner to the other, Abha is a beautiful oasis in the mountains that brings back memories of home. Sitting nearly 7,200 feet above sea level, the chilly evenings remind me of my growing-up years in Diyatalawa. Lying in the grass, I was picturing myself running around the Army Polo Grounds and collapsing on the green grass when I ran out of steam. Once down and rolled over with my back on the grass, arms and legs stretched in four directions, I never had the heart to stop watching the clouds race after one another. They would create strange formations while battling to gobble each other up. I would spot faces, animals, and fun shapes that kept appearing and disappearing against the blue backdrop – I could just lie there watching the sky forever. The marvel of nature never ceased to fascinate me. It was peace, it was serenity. It was one of those beautiful moments, simple pleasures, in life.

I was having a similar moment, a few decades later. In the most unexpected place, mid-afternoon. It was the same sky, no clouds, and there were pink flowers instead of the pine needles.


Sunday, April 26th.

The stunning beauty that is Abha... and admiring her at sunset.

More to follow.


Who the fcuk is Yolanda Foster?

This morning, I receive yet another Amnesty International Public Statements that is distributed to the media personnel. Which, assumes that the Sri Lankan Armed Forces are using heavy artillery against the civilians in the No Fire Zone. I’m outraged, and I decide to visit the Amnesty International website. Chose “Sri Lanka” from the scroll-down menu and clicked “Go.”

And what did I get?

“There is no Amnesty International Presence in this country” says the official website. WTF? So WhoTF is this Yolanda Foster – the “Sri Lanka Expert” then? How dare could she talk about my country without even being on the soil? This isn’t the first time this so called expert gets her panties in a twist, she seems to be doing it on regular basis.

Amnesty International – a well recognised humanitarian organisation – is fast losing my respect because of such nincompoops who pretend to know the situation better than all of us. In my not-yet-awake zombiesh state in the morning, I decide to reply to the media group, hoping that someone somewhere would look at the facts, without blindly quoting AI “Sri Lanka expert” who seems to know shite about the ground realities.

No Fire Zone is very different from the Amnesty International’s perception. It’s a haven for the LTTE to hide amongst the innocent civilians. See the pictures here.

Anyhow, this was my quick reply to the sender Jim McDonald and the group:

It appears to me that AI continues to “assume” facts that may portray a politically elected government as bad as an illegal terror group.
“However, the government appears to have resorted to the use of heavy weapons such as artillery, which is intended for use on conventional battlefields and are not capable of pinpoint targeting. The use of artillery in densely populated areas is likely to lead to indiscriminate attacks.”
Sri Lankan Forces have released a surveillance video (http://www.army.lk/vgallery.php?galid=20) that clearly show an LTTE tank in action, firing away from the middle of the No Fire Zone. The same tank fire was directed at fleeing civilians yesterday morning, according to the reporters from the national television at the front-line who also witnessed the three LTTE suicide attacks.

Sri Lanka Air Force also released videos that show thousands of civilians held at gunpoint by the LTTE.

If the military intention is to use heavy arms fire as you insinuate, they could have done that weeks ago. Having observed, identified and recorded LTTE gunfire positions, including their last remaining battle tank, it would have been a matter of two or three rounds of fighter jets flying past the No Fire Zone to eliminate the last remaining LTTE positions.

The government’s interest is in the innocent civilians, even at the risk of sacrificing some of their own forces.

According to Al Jazeera’s David Chater reporting from the front-lines this morning (22nd), Sri Lankan military is resorting to “Minimum Force” to open up safe passage for the civilians, and that the Tamil Videos that are seen on international television are “old Propaganda Work” carried out by pro-LTTE elements. Reality, is obviously very different from the propaganda work.

He also added that the civilians are facing catastrophic conditions, they are “in terrible condition, but very very relieved” to have escaped the terror grip of the LTTE.

It is the LTTE using small-arms fire, artillery fire and heavy fire aimed at the innocent civilians who are trying the escape from being used as a human-shield. LTTE even resorted to use suicide attackers on their own brotherhood they claim to protect. Also, I’m sure most of you must have seen the last week’s video of the child whose legs were chopped off with an axe, in front of his own family, by the LTTE as a “punishment for trying to escape” the No Fire Zone. One would know who has the civilian interests at heart, if one sees that gruesome, horrendous atrocity.

Here’s a last thought: The government observed a 48-hours ceasefire on the 13th & 14th of April. Nothing changed for the civilians, they were still stuck in a hell-hole. If the LTTE holds fire for 48 hours, everything would change for the civilians.

AI, please stop assuming facts. The world today is more intelligent than you think.

Thank you.


Pressed “send” and I felt a sense of relief, I felt good. For my tiny contribution in defending my nation the only way I could, under the circumstances.

By the way, the video of the legs being chopped off is absolutely grisly, ghastly and gruesome – too horrible to post here. I could email that to anyone who wants to see it (and volunteer to suffer for the rest of their life with images of torture and torment, and blood-curling screams of agony and pain) – you would know the true face of “Tamil Liberation” when you see it. Al-Qaeda are angles, when compared to these LTTE barbarians.


Roof above your Head? Roof above your Land?

Went missing from the blogsphere for a few days and spent the past couple of days in a convoy on the road, discovering Saudi Arabia.

Our journey begins at the heart of Jeddah, on a fine Thursday morning. Fadi picks me up just after 7.30 and we drive off to our rendezvous point. We arrive there a tad too early and decide to stop for a sandwich while we await the rest of the crew. I seem to have a knack for finding road-side eateries even here, and we settle for a quick breakfast: kidney-sandwich and complimentary cup of tea. The front of the shop reminds me of our hopper-joints. Six or seven extra large copper cauldrons – not the hopper-woks – steaming away on gas burners in a row. The battered kettles are decorated with hand-written Arabic that describes the concoction brewing inside. I settle for a Chaii Adhani (Aden-style tea, from Yemen) which I must say was quite a pleasant discovery for a guy from the island of the finest tea in the world. Chaii Adhani is tea with milk, but generously sprinkled with cinnamon powder. Sipping a lovely cup of tea that should have been one of our inventions, I wondered why we had to learn the art of tea from Yemenis, of all people. We grow tea, and produce the best cinnamon in the world, and yet, we are made to learn how to mix the two from foreigners.

Such is irony of life.

The Arabs are not only imaginative in their brew, they are also clever at other things. One fine example could be found just a few hundred meters away from the sandwich café. This quite unusual construction is possibly a world-first and deserves to be in the Guinness Book of World Records – if it isn’t already there yet. There is a house in Jeddah that’s built under the shade of a gigantic roof that covers entire plot of land from one corner to the other. The mega construction is about seven-stories high at the shorter sides, the middle must be reaching 9-10 stories easily.

What a unique way to protect one’s self from the burning sun that shines upon the Arab world, reaching 50°C and over in summer. And here, there are only two seasons: Summer, and December. The house must be cooler and nice inside – its got a roof under a roof; probably the Arab owner must be growing oranges and strawberries in his back yard in the shade in December.

Things people do when they don’t know what to do with their pocket-money, I thought to myself.


April ain’t Christmas, but it’s New Year!

I get woken up at the wee hours in the morning with some door-bell ringing under my pillow. It isn’t the time to contemplate or question why I set the door-bell ringtone as the SMS alert, my brain isn’t awake yet.

So it is the Sinhala Tamil New Year in Paradise, and the wishes keep pouring in, filling up my SMS inbox. For some unfortunate mortals like us – who are far away from home – it’s yet another day at work. Another day, another dollar. Be it Tokyo, Shanghai, Jeddah, Toronto, Connecticut or London.

From what I hear, the mood at home is not as celebratory as it would have been, or should have been. There is a certain somber feeling in the air – all of us are feeling the suffering of our fellow countrymen. There may be joy and happiness over-pouring in one’s own cocoon, but the island at large isn’t in the mood for fire-crackers and laughter. We cannot ignore the war. It doesn’t matter which side of the earth-bund your opinion lies, this is one of the most significant days in our calendar that reminds us how closely inter-knitted, and inseparable, the Tamils and the Sinhalese are, in Paradise.

Economic situation has only added to the misery. Pavements of Nugegoda used to be very different just before the New Year, in the good old days. The excitement is gradually disappearing year by year – slowly, but surely. Or I’m just getting old sooner than I ever imagined.

I call home, wish my parents. And call my favourite cousin who has been giving me some attitude, just because I didn’t ask him to pick me up from the airport when I arrived in Colombo for the big-match last month. I thought I was doing him a favour, but wasn’t so it seems. Amends made, albeit some sense of hostility. Some of us Sri Lankans get offended if favours aren’t imposed on them.

I make a few more calls and pull myself out of the bed. Do the usual round and settle for some pita bread and hommus. I wish I had a nice “avurudu” (New Year) breakfast, instead. Kevun, kesel, kiribath...

I turn the television on, and sit in front of my laptop with a cup of tea.


Well, I have a pleasant surprise. A new year gift, all the way from Tokyo. Sach the one nominates a couple of my blogposts for the Top 100 Sri Lankan Blog Posts Book Project by Cerno. One on Sri Lankan Superbrands and the other on Being a Single-Dad in Colombo. Whether they get published or not, this, indeed, is a grand gesture from a fellow blogger.

Suddenly, it feels like New Year. In the middle of the desert in Saudi Arabia.

Sach, thank you. And may a hundred Sakura flowers shower on you when you walk the lonely streets of Tokyo.

And, Happy New Year – to all of you.


Toyota Corolla vs the Apollo 11

During a meeting with one of my clients yesterday, I made a startling discovery. Startling to me, because I never paused to actually think of such mundane things in life.

Can you believe the car you drive in pot-hole filled narrow streets of paradise is more intelligent than the rocket that carried people to the moon and back? Today’s Toyota cars (as well as the others) boast of so much sophistication and technology, the Apollo 11 fades in comparison. From the more familiar VVT-i, SRS and ABS to Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) – to satellite navigation and auto parking – cars today carry more computer chips than Armstong’s lunar vehicle. Can you ever even think of comparing a trip to the moon with your grocery-run?

The first ever Apple Mac that I used in Sri Lanka was the Classic II in 1991, probably the first ever to arrive in the island. It had a 512k hard disk. To put things in perspective, that’s half a floppy disk, 0.05% of 1GB USB stick, and smaller than most of my emails.

It had a black & white screen with less resolution than a PDA or an iPhone.

In the early ’80s, I sat in front of a Home Computer for the first time in my life. It was a Sinclair ZX81, that was plugged in to the TV screen that acted as the monitor. And I wrote my first programme, beginning with: Let “milk” = X...

Today, there are no “Home Computers” and I walk around with a laptop that’s capable of editing Toy-Story, in my back-pack.

My work as an Art Director in an advertising agency for the whole year of 1996 is archived in a 88MB Syquest Disk. Now I consume more data in chatting with my family on Skype in just 3 hours.

Our domestic telephone line in Nugegoda had just four digits. Diyatalawa house had just three digits and we had to call the “exchange” and “book a trunk call” and wait by the phone for anything between 5 to 30 minutes for them to connect the calls. Now I walk around with a little gadget in my pocket that not only connects me to anywhere in the world, but also takes pictures, records audio and video, and checks email as well as offers a multitude of other tasks.

My mother waited for six years to get a telephone connection in the early 1980’s. It takes less than an hour today, kind of an OTC (Over-the-counter) affair, just like buying medicine from a pharmacy really.

My father paid a sum of Rs 62.50 to STC Prep as Grade 1 admission fees when I was a kid. The fee included books as well as the term fees. I paid around Rs 140,000 to have my son admitted to one of the Colombo schools, and the books weren’t even included. That’s over 2,200 times more, in just 30 years!

All this, I have witnessed in my lifetime. And I’m not even 40 yet!


Newton’s Law & the Undesirable Bloggers of Paradise

I know I should’ve paid more attention in my advanced level Physics class – to the subject, not to the pretty teacher. Mrs K was quite something, even more so complicated than the subject she taught. She was the kind of teacher every young lad wishes for, and she was the kind of teacher who makes every boy-student wish he was good ten years older. Never thought that the boring stuff in A/L class would ever be used in real life, but suddenly, I find myself with a keen interest in Physics, Newton’s Laws, to be precise.

Newton’s first law, which is often referred to as the law of inertia, is simplified as:

“A body persists its state of rest or of uniform motion, unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force.”

There had been quite a number of “unbalanced forces” acting upon the “bodies that were in a state of rest or of uniform motion” in the local blogsphere, and the results have been quite entertaining to watch. Some were well deserved victims of such forces, but some, like DeeCee weren’t. The poor lass got hit by shrapnel, very hard.

“To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”
says his third law. This, somehow, seems invalid in Paradise, just like the recession and the laws of economics that doesn’t affect the island nation. We seem to defy convention somehow. “Equal and opposite reaction” is not what the bloggers who lack good judgement and common sense practiced in Paradise, they just took pleasure in hitting hard and blowing things out of proportion. Worse than my 11 year old son playing Counter-Strike on a good day. At the end of the game, there was shite all over the place. Lots of casualties, but the terrorists are still at large.

Blowing things out of proportion is not heroism, unless you are mentally disturbed or secretly Taliban. As far as I know, we the bloggers of Paradise are a peaceful bunch who enjoy a certain level of camaraderie and we do not entertain trolls, bullies or anything undesirable in our back yards. Arrogance has no place in the civilised world. Threats don’t mean shite to us. Professionalism is not limited to worlds, it’s how one conducts himself in public that matters. Age is not in the numbers, its the maturity demonstrated that matters.

One of the best advices I have received in my adult life, is from a great man I admire the most. Talking of what he would wished me to be, my father uttered just two words. He said, “be nice.” Yes, son, just be nice to people.

Going back to Newton, the law number two says:

“The alteration of motion is ever proportional to the motive force impressed; and is made in the direction of the right line in which that force is impressed.”

Which, simply put means, if the Bloggers United push the undesirable ones out in a certain direction, he is bound to travel in one straight line. Straight to hell.

Now, that’s a thought.

The second law also explains Gravitation, which reminds us of how hard we could fall, no matter how high we fly.

Thank you Newton, now I understand how Physics and the forces work, should I ever decide to put them to test.


Seduction. Religion. Immorality.

Can the course of an entire human life be determined by the colour of a piece of fabric?

Sitting on mountainous heaps of unsold fabric (black fabric, to be precise), a merchant who lived thousands of years ago answered with a vehement ‘yes’.

Suleiman Al Baghdadi had left his devoted wife and said goodbye to his kids in Baghdad before travelling to what we know now call Saudi Arabia. He was confident that here, his tight delicate black weave would be in great demand.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Nothing he did could entice people to buy his fabric. People just weren’t interested in black, not even at a fraction of its original price.

Running out of time and money, he considered returning home empty handed. And as the days passed, the thought of shameful retreat grew louder that the rumbling of his empty belly. Hope was all but lost, when a stranger told him to seek out Al Darami.

As a devout Muslim, Al Darami refused to assist the weary merchant, unless he agreed to pay a sizeable ‘Zakah’ to the poor upon the success of his trade. Suleiman agreed, and they became partners.

Days later, words of magnificent beauty were on everyone’s lips. Both young and old recited the poem’s melodic verses. But it was the women who let the words enter their hearts. Deeply within, each woman wished, hoped and quietly prayed that it was she who had the object of the poet’s desire.

Ask the black veiled beauty;
What has she done to my devout piety?

My clothes I’d folded for ablution, when in front
of the mosque she stood to increase my confusion.

My prayer and faith grant back to me, for the sake
of Mohammad’s religion, do not torture or kill me.

Who is this beauty draped in black that Al Darami writes of? Do I know her? Rumours reverberated across the city. In every Majlis and every household, the identity of this mysterious temptress was debated. The only clue as to who she was, lay behind a delicate veil. A black veil.

Suleiman’s fabric had not changed. It was still black. Only now, everyone’s perception of black had changed, thanks to an advertisement disguised as a poem. What was once seen as boring, demure and depressing was now mysterious, alluring and worn by women who controlled men’s hearts.

The future was black. And Suleiman Al Baghdadi couldn’t have been happier. Rolls of black fabric were soon replaced by rolls of coins – all because of something as complex as a simple idea.

Absolute proof that Creativity Pays.

Why did I post this here?

This house-ad (self-promotion) done by LOWE Middle East & North Africa is currently decorating the Advertising Industry magazines such as Arab Ad, Communique and Campaign in the Middle East.

I just wanted to make a quick point.

That copywriting isn’t dead yet. That people love reading (that’s why you are here) – and they would read every line of body copy if the ad is cleverly written, insightful and engaging. Right?


Advertising in Sri Lanka: Part 4 - True Creativity

Is this the quality of the Creative Raw Material?

I was quite disturbed and disappointed by the JWT Creative Director’s recent argument on layout vs composition. Disturbed by the level of wisdom demonstrated, and disappointed at the fate of local creativity at the hands of such exceptional intellectual or creative authority.

“In the good old days there was headline, body copy, subheads, logos... all those things, flashes... (but) now really all you have is one big picture area and a logo. So, I mean, where’s the layout in this? Because all you really have to decide is where does the logo go.”

“So here’s my point of contention: In the eighties and the early nineties, there were actually elements that need to be laid-out - like the headline, subheadline, bodycopy... tag line etc. But now all you really see is a picture area and a logo. So there is no layout involved – its just you need to decide where the logo goes. So that’s my point of contention. It’s not about layout anymore, it’s about composition.”

Quite shocking, really. A creative director not familiar with principles of design. Or in simple, in print advertising “composing” is “laying out” (or layouting) in layman’s language. Composition and layout are like hand to the glove; inseparable, one doesn’t mean much without the other.

Makes one wonder why does JWT Colombo need any Art Directors in their creative department, at all. International brands are governed by Brand Guidelines that dictate where the logo goes, and the local brands are usually run by marketers who are quite capable of guiding an agency on where to put their logo. Now that’s not rocket science, Einstein, is it? Especially since there is no composition involved in doing an ad.

If this is the calibre of creative thinking found at the top level of creativity in the island, I wouldn’t blame anyone for importing the mediocre, or work-in-progress creative talent from India. The bitter truth is that the expatriates are much better than the above species, by far.

Savior of the mediocre mind: ‘Mother & Child’ Advertising

This also must be the reason why our island is inundated with “mother & child” creativity. Take a picture of a mother & child, add the packshot, slogan and the logo... and viola! – you have a press ad, ready to run. Add a jingle, and you have a television commercial. A mother & child formula:
– works for Pears or Baby Cheramy
– works for Comfort
– works for Anchor, Newdale or Highland
– works for Signal
– works for Astra margerine or Prima bread
– works for Atlas ball-pens
– works for Cherry QQ cars
Works for almost any brand or product, literally. All one needs is to decide on the age of the kid and the scenario: an infant for Baby Cheramy and school-going kid getting in to the Cherry QQ. Get the picture?

Jingles are just half-a-step away from the centuries old, very primitive and the most basic advertising technique in Sri Lanka: the drummer-boy, aka the Viridu kaaraya. How far has the ad industry evolved ever since?

If JWT is a good example of the level of creativity that prevails in the island, I’m not surprised that the ad industry at large has failed to progress any further from the mother & child creativity and the irritating jingles.

Advertising is much more than pretty pictures and catchy slogans.

Open a magazine or a newspaper and you will notice the clever work of our advertising art directors – creative geniuses at their best:

  • typography sucks. When Sinhala, Tamil and English fonts are on the same page or the logo, there is hardly any synergy: serif in English, sans serif in Sinhala or Tamil. How many fonts should one use to make an ad “creative” – eight?
  • there is hardly any sense of scale in their heads. Newspaper and magazine carry articles written in 8pt and 9pt; their ad next to the article carries copy in 14pt or 18pt. Our eyes are used to picking up 8pt letters on every page – and the 14pt body copy is going to be a definite eye-sore. That’s why a poster should not be “reduced to fit” a newspaper full-page.
  • there’s no apparent understanding of the mediums and their differences either. People read magazines and newspapers at leisure, posters just fly-by, on your way from point A to point B. That’s why a press ad shouldn’t be enlarged to a poster. Present the content accordingly, and “compose” the ad logically.
  • no one seems to know how to type an apostrophe or a quote, or how to avoid the ‘lifeless’ apostrophe that is set by default. And they call themselves designers and art directors.
  • oh, and the bad photoshop jobs? Some are just like the bus graphics – no sense of scale or proportion.
  • resolution issues and pixelated images? Not even some Ingrin graduates know how to calculate the image resolution to match the output device.
  • how many art directors know the basics in RGB vs CMYK usage? The loss of image detail due to black-substitution? If they knew the importance of colour, they would have demanded Macs long time ago.
I can prepare a long list of evidence that demonstrates the true calibre and potential of the creative guru’s in the market. They scream for “craftsmanship” even without knowing the basics of art direction. Not a surprise really, after hearing the JWT epilogue at the Death of Layout.

Creativity is an inherent talent which cannot be purchased at a road-side “Graphic Design Institute.” Most of the advertising crowd I know in Paradise are not as good as they think, and their biggest problem is their attitude. I haven’t seen such arrogance – not even from advertising greats like Neil French who is known for his ego. In case if you are wondering, yes, I have met the man himself in person while working at the big red agency.

For some reason, we have been encouraging this culture of arrogant ignorance in the ad industry and it makes me ashamed to call myself a creative from the island. Perhaps, for the majority, the attitude is just a camouflage that disguises the vast emptiness that occupies their heads instead of the gray matter.

This is the kind of meritocracy that dominates our media. Originality = 0/10; Conecptual value = 0/10; Art Direction = 0/10... nothing more than an eye-sore. Is it Simple? Meaningful? Appropriate? Relevant? Topical? No, no, no, no, nope. This is just a bad ad, done for a decent client. How sad!

The original ad was done for Nissan Armada – the full size (8 seater) SUV that is “big and spacious” – the whole concept was based on the fact that the Aramada could might as well be an aircraft.

Then there’s the true talent: people with sense of colour, an eye for detail and a nose for great advertising that works.

Who are the truly creative people?

People are born with logic or magic in their brains. Creatives are the right-brained ones with the magic, their true genius has the ability to sprinkle a bit of their magic dust on a piece of mediocre work and converting that to outstanding advertising.

Genuinely creative people, are a passionate bunch. They are the kind of people who find absurdities and abnormalities intriguing, not repulsive. They are the ones who thrive amidst limitations and challenges. They are flexible and adaptable, they are open to different ideas and willing to find new routes to success. They think out of the norm, outside the box, looking at problems from a new perspective. They take risks, they go where the average mind is reluctant to wander. They possess the courage, endurance and resilience to keep fighting, accepting the struggles and strife that litter the road to success.

Creativity in the advertising context, is usually linked directly to the number or awards it wins. “Creative without strategy is called art, Creative with strategy is called advertising” – says Jef I. Richards, speaking of the difference between art and advertising.

Brilliant advertising on the other hand, may not necessarily win awards, (except for Effies perhaps) but would move good off the shelf – while leaving a smile on our face. “Big ideas” could come from anyone: all it needs is imagination.

Advertising brilliance is also a direct result of relentless pursuit of excellence. That’s why they say, creativity is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Passion for perfection makes the difference. They say God is in the details.

Brilliant advertising comes out of creatives who are born creative, and are imaginative, passionate and in pursuit of excellence – to state the very least.

Having said all that, how many genuine creative minds do we have in the ad industry in Colombo today, I seriously wonder.

Previous posts under the same topic:
– Advertising in Sri Lanka: Part 1
Advertising in Sri Lanka: Part 2
Advertising in Sri Lanka: Part 3


Hidden Treasures of Galle

Sri Lanka is known for its record number of holidays. We might be at the top of the list of countries with the most number of holidays, but we do not have the habit of taking month-long vacations like the West. There are no summer holidays – there’s summer all year, and there is no winter or spring-breaks.

However, almost every month has a “long” weekend: a full-moon day immediately before or after the weekend. Or some other holiday – religious, national or international, falling next to a weekend. And we are known for our quick, long weekend trips.

The country is dotted with an amazing collection of unique places to stay – from beach resorts to bungalows to jungle retreats, if one desires to step out of the norm and discover something new. We actually do not need a month-long vacation to rejuvenate ourselves, a quick break, a couple of days in an idyllic setting is all that’s needed.

Even though on the ‘premium’ side, Kahandakanda is one such place, just 15 odd kilometres away from Galle, along a narrow winding road that leads inland, away from the beach that we’d like to usually stay. Skip the beach, take the narrow road, and get lost in the greenery and find yourself at Kahandakanda – a getaway for the ones who seek to escape from the hustle and bustle; it’s an indulgence that’s hard to forget.


Do you Believe in Miracles?

“I do the impossible, but the miracles are usually left for the Man Upstairs” read the last line of my email to an account director in my agency yesterday. I was pissed-off, one of those days at work.

Then, I heard this news in the evening.

A nine-year old girl falls from a balcony of a 14th floor apartment, and survives the fall unscathed. “I heard her scream as she plunged to the ground” a witness said. “I did not know where the screams were from until I looked up and saw her landing on a car.”

“It was surreal! What amazed me was that she jumped off the car and walked away leaving behind only a few blood stains” the witness said, adding that he rushed over to her to comfort her and calm her down as she sat at the entrance to the building, and cried.

She was taken to the hospital moments later where she was kept in the Intensive Care Unit as a precautionary measure. The doctors were amazed that despite the fall, she sustained only minor scratches and bruises and there were no serious fractures.

In the grand scheme of things, there’s no rhyme or reason. Some people are just lucky and some incidents are nothing short of miracles.

Anyone believes in miracles? Is this story true?

Take the poll, see what people think:

April Fool’s Day tricks people. Some get caught in lies, some get caught in the truth thinking it was a lie. Click here to verify the story above.