Hopefully, Blogger should fix this problem soon.
Oh by the way, how is Wordpress..? ;) Wondering if the grass is greener on the other side...
When we moved to Colombo five years ago, he learnt the ABC’s of Buddhism. He used to go to the temple with my sister, he was fascinated by the little rituals. He loved to light the oil lamps and joss sticks, he liked arranging the flowers on the offering table at the temple and he loved to sit around the Bo tree scribbling in the sand, watching people chanting aloud. An occasional firefly or a bug would draw his attention and distract him, but he was a well behaved kid once set foot in the temple premises.
Then he moved to Dubai to live with the mother and came back an atheist a year later.
So I wondered how did he become a Christian, out of the blue.
Apparently, every evening he follows his boarding-school mates to the Chapel where he gets a chance to pray. He says he likes to kneel down and ask God for all his wishes to come true.
And he loves the fact that he gets blessed at the end of the service. “Paap, the father keeps his hand on my head and says ‘God Bless You my son, Rafael!’ and it makes me feel good...” he says in a cheerful voice over the telephone as I enquire about his new-found life in the boarding school.
As long as the religion teaches morals and provides him with guidance in life, as long as it gives him hope and instils faith in him, I wouldn’t care too much about the label it carries.
When it comes to one’s faith, does the label really matter? Either way, I’m just glad that my son is in safe hands. ;)
Belgium’s favourite baby elephant Kai Mook (Pearl in English) was famous from the moment the country saw the first ultra-sound scan. When her mother became pregnant, the Antwerp Zoological Gardens decided to leverage the pregnancy to drive more visitors to the zoo. So they decided to share the news with everyone, got them interested and engaged in the story, making the whole of Belgium feel as if they were involved in the pregnancy.
“So just like any proud future parent, the zoo decided to show everyone the very first ultrasound. The scan was projected onto prominent buildings, along with a URL directing people to a central website, www.baby-olifant.be. On the site, the zoo not only invited people to suggest names for the baby elephant but also kept it updated with developments during the pregnancy. Daily news was posted onto the site, along with information about the mother and baby and a calendar countdown.
“The content was spread via social media with photos on Flickr and videos on YouTube. A tool was created to allow people to create a customized Facebook profile picture that featured their face with an elephant's trunk entering the frame and the message ”I’m also waiting for baby K.”
“When the labor started, interested parties were notified by SMS and invited to watch the birth live. Never before had so many Belgians watched a live event together online. More importantly, Antwerp Zoo welcomed 300,000 more visitors (200,000 paying) in 2009 than it did in 2008.” reports AdAge MediaWorks on the success of the communication campaign.
While ‘advertising’ in Sri Lanka is pretty much confined to traditional media, the rest of the world has moved on to ‘communication.’ It’s not one-way messaging on television, newspapers and radio anymore.
‘Advertising’ has evolved into consumer engagement – two-way communication. The world has moved on from traditional advertising to brand activation, digital marketing and beyond. Now with augmented reality, one could experience true-to-life 3D holographic rendition of any product right in their own hands, at their own leisure, creating an amazing brand experience.
At the same time, on this side of the Indian Ocean, we are led by agencies that are incapable of maintaining their own online presence (for example, JWT Colombo as not updated their blog in over 7 months!), let alone providing any brand with any sort of ground-breaking digital communication solutions.
We have a long way to go, don’t we?
For example, check out the Transparency International’s site where they list the 2009 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) and we rank at 97, while USA ranks at 19, UK at 17, Australia at 8, France at 24, India at 84 and Saudi Arabia at 63.
According to World Audit Organisation 2009 report, we rank at 76, while USA ranks at 16, UK at 14, Australia at 8, France at 18, India at 64 and Saudi Arabia at 46. World Audit compiles their evaluations based on data coming from NGO’s such as Freedom House, Transparency International, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and The International Commission of Jurists etc.
According to Gallup Poll – often referred to as the most reliable source of public opinion – corruption index in the above countries paint a totally different picture. According to the poll, Sri Lanka’s corruption index is 54.4%, while USA scores a higher corruption rate at 63.4%, UK 48.1%, Australia 36%, France 49.6%, India 77.2% and Saudi Arabia scores the lowest corruption at 34.3%. Lower percentages are better.
Now comes the truth. People in India and the USA think that their countries are more corrupt than ours, while people in the UK and France think that their countries are (almost) as corrupt as Sri Lanka.
And occasionally, these countries even withhold aid, claiming that WE are a corrupt nation!
Who would you trust? The NGO’s or the most trusted source of public opinion? Please check out the chart below and you will see the gap between the NGO data and public opinion for the countries that usually fund the NGOs. Compare that to the data of Sri Lanka or Saudi Arabia where the public opinion reflects NGO data.
Wouldn’t the American politicians invading Iraq for the control of oil business qualify for corruption? How would Bush+Cheney Business Enterprise that ran Halliburton and Blackwater etc escape the NGO corruption rankings? How would USA remain at the top when the level of corruption in the US is monumental..?
The truth is that we wash our dirty linen in public while the West doesn’t. NGO’s need to keep their funds pouring-in; they are either run by, or controlled by the West. They paint a bleak picture of developing nations as the most corrupt countries in the world, while conveniently ignoring the billions of dollars that change hands under their own tables, in their air-conditioned comfort. A traffic cop taking a couple of dollars instead of issuing a ticket makes it to their list, while high profile incidents such as the former British Transport Secretary who charged 5,000 pounds a day (=Rs 845,000.00) escapes the list. That would be equal to 1,690 traffic cops taking a bribe of 500 rupees each, a day. Not only that, 5,000 pounds is a teeny weeny amount compared to the millions and millions of dollars that change hands in the West everyday.
I’m not going to waste my time writing about NGO’s and how they manipulate facts for their own advantage. We’ve witnessed their antics as the Wanni region came out of the jungle.
Post war Sri Lanka is entering a new era. There is much hope and there are huge expectations. In our journey to recovery, our image plays a major role. I have written about what it means to maintain an image of a country – so let me finish this with a humble request to those who contribute to the mainstream media and citizen journalism.
Please, please don’t tarnish our image. Look beyond Sri Lanka, do a bit of research and follow independent, most reliable and trusted sources and look at our country from an international perspective. Sri Lanka is not as bad as you think. What you write goes out there in to the oblivion and it gets printed in an NGO report as “reliable information coming from Sri Lanka” – just like Amnesty International has “Sri Lanka Experts” when they don’t even have an office anywhere in the country. It doesn’t help when Minoli Frenandes says that “there are no independent reporters allowed in the frontline” when her Al Jazeera crew reports exclusively from the frontline.
Please don’t feed those who are going to rip us apart.
Please be responsible. Focus on the positive side of our beautiful island, the image of Sri Lanka – our little paradise – is in your hands.
I felt like sh*t last evening, going home. I was drained, I wished I were sipping a beer somewhere on a beach. Like my home, in Sri Lanka.
Instead, I was driving along the Malek Road, depressed, and feeling dejected.
This morning, I was itching to write what I felt inside.
So I did.
Having been part of the team that worked on (X) Brand Campaign, I think I have the right to express what I felt.
For me, last night was an eye opener.
As an agency, we have reached a milestone.
We are beginning to see Science overtake Art.
We see Logic overtake Magic.
And Quantity overtake Quality.
Last night, there was no Passion evident.
Last night, we have lost Inspiration.
We have become slaves to the system.
We have become the robots of the 21st century that turn out “artwork” – not great advertising.
If I had an iota of a hope of producing something award winning at (X agency), it went down the gutter last night.
I do not know about you guys, but I am a man of integrity and pride.
Yes, pride, not price.
I take pride in what I do.
We create art. We create brands.
We are not growing potatoes.
We sell advertising. Not popcorn.
This agency needs to learn to treat itself with self-respect and dignity.
We need to learn to respect our work, and more importantly, the people behind the work.
Once we learn to respect our work and take pride in our work, we will be able to walk in to a meeting with confidence and sell some great advertising.
But that, begins here.
Learning to treat individuals with dignity and respect starts in front of the mirror.
Learning to treat their work with respect, starts within the agency.
We are not a production line. We are human.
We are humans that are running out of steam.
We are humans of integrity, we are slaves to none.
Creativity cannot be mass-produced, it needs to be inspired.
Going back, the most troubling questions that linger in my mind are:
Is it Science, or Art?
Is it Magic, or Logic?
Is it Quality, or Quantity?
Are we human, or just a production line?
The answer would define the future of the agency.
And when will we begin to believe in our work?
When will we begin to see a genuine smile on a face?
Yes, we are striving towards change: change for the better.
Yes, we are all supportive of the change.
But it should not be at the cost of a single smile. ;)
* * * *
This is a note I sent this morning, after sitting through an internal meeting that demonstrated how disjointed an advertising agency could be. Like every business, we are also aggressive and bullish, but in the process we were making two major blunders: too much marketing knowledge and theories were killing the passion in creativity, and quantity over quality was driving people insane.
And we were forgetting to appreciate the foot soldiers for their commitment and sacrifices they make in their everyday life for the betterment of the agency.
The task is to write a dialogue.
The scene is home, his room is supposedly (supposed to be?) messy. The mother wants everything back in it’s place and the room tidied.
You know kids, they could never keep a tidy room. And the teacher thought this would be a good exercise, the perfect setting for a good, 10 minute dialogue.
And Rafael does his homework:
Mother: “Rafael... will you please tidy the room, NOW!”
He gets 2 out of 10!
In other words, if your child does not speak either Sinhala or Tamil, he cannot study in any government or private school in Sri Lanka. He would only be able to study in an “international” school – the kind that operates under business licences and not monitored or regulated by the ministry of education.
So why would schools such as Royal, St. Thomas’, St Joseph’s, Trinity or Museaus claim they have an “English” medium when half the subjects are taught in one of the native languages? What would someone who doesn’t speak Sinhala or Tamil do – go back to where they came from?
They say that the quality of a country’s workforce is a direct reflection of the standard of education. Ours, is in shambles. We boast of very high literacy rate, but send our kids overseas for higher education. As a country, we spend too much money in “purchasing knowledge” from the US, UK, Australia and Singapore (now India, Malaysia) etc, when, as a whole, we could have built fabulous universities with that money, right here, in our own land so that more and more generations could have reaped the results.
Our aging education module needs desperate change. It is the 21st century, yet we still don’t breed certain skill sets that are needed for today’s world. For example, the advertising industry needs creative professionals – but none of the universities actually produce them. I would love to hire a few art directors or graphic designers for our network overseas, but unfortunately, the Sri Lankans are not on par with the rest of the world.
Planners, stylists, animators and touch-point marketers etc will never come out of our universities. Jobs we do today should have been in our education system 10 years ago, not 10 year later.
Like this video claims, the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.
The radio took 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million, while Facebook did it in 2 years.
The number of internet devices in 1984 was 1,000. In 1992 it was a million and in 2008 it was a billion. Increased by a million times in just 24 years. When the world is moving at such speed, why are we stuck in yesteryear?
How will Sri Lanka cope when 2030 dawns..? Are we future ready..?
Coca-Cola remains the world’s biggest brand for yet another year – they have been so for the last 10 years and more. Japan’s top brand Toyota slipped a few notches and Apple jumped a few positions higher. Only the financial sector and automotive sector fell, while everything else – including luxury goods recorded an overall growth.
Rank, Brand, Brand Value in US$ Millions, Country of Origin, Growth, 2008 Rank and Most Common Slogan
|1||Coca-Cola||68,734||US||3%||(1)||Live on the Coke Side of Life|
|2||IBM||60,211||US||2%||(2)||Solutions for a Small Planet|
|3||Microsoft||56,647||US||-4%||(3)||Your Potential. Our Passion.|
|4||GE||47,777||US||-10%||(4)||Imagination at Work|
|6||McDonalds||32,275||US||4%||(8)||I’m Lovin’ It|
|10||Disney||28,447||US||-3%||(9)||Where Dreams Come True|
|12||Mercedes-Benz||23,867||Germany||-7%||(11)||The Future of the Automobile|
|13||Gillette||22,841||US||4%||(14)||The Best a Man Can Get|
|14||Cisco||22,030||US||3%||(17)||Welcome to the Human Network*|
|15||BMW||21,671||Germany||-7%||(13)||The Ultimate Driving Machine*|
|16||Louis Vuitton||21,120||France||-2%||(16)||The Spirit of Travel|
|17||Marlboro||19,010||US||-11%||(18)||Welcome to the Marlboro Country|
|18||Honda||17,803||Japan||-7%||(20)||The Power of Dreams|
|19||Samsung||17,518||S. Korea||-1%||(21)||Everyone’s Invited|
|21||H&M||15,375||Sweden||11%||(22)||Fashion Available for Everybody|
|22||American Express||14,971||US||-32%||(15)||Do More|
|23||Pepsi||13,706||US||3%||(26)||The Choice of the New Generation|
|24||Oracle||13,699||US||-1%||(23)||Can’t Break It. Can’t Break In.|
|25||Nescafé||13,317||Switzerland||2%||(28)||Awaken Your Senses|
|26||Nike||13,179||US||4%||(29)||Just Do It|
|27||SAP||12,106||Germany||-1%||(27)||The Best-run e-businesses Run SAP|
|28||IKEA||12,004||Sweden||10%||(35)||Make a House a Home|
|29||Sony||11,953||Japan||-12%||(25)||It’s a Sony|
|30||Budweiser||11,833||US||3%||(33)||The King of Beers|
|32||HSBC||10,510||UK||-20%||(27)||The World’s Local Bank|
|36||Citi||10,254||US||-49%||(19)||The Citi Never Sleeps|
|37||JPMorgan||9,550||US||-11%||(37)||Your Choice. Your Chase.|
|38||Goldman Sachs||9,428||US||-10%||(38)||Our Client’s Interest Always Comes First|
|39||Nintendo||9,210||Japan||5%||(40)||Who Are You?|
|40||Thompson Reuters||8,434||UK||1%||(44)||For People in the Know|
|41||Gucci||8,182||Italy||-1%||(45)||Quality is Remembered Long After the Price is Forgotten|
|42||Philips||8,121||Netherlands||-2%||(43)||Sense and Simplicity|
|43||Amazon.com||7,858||US||22%||(58)||A Real Company in a Virtual World|
|44||L’Oreal||7,748||France||3%||(51)||Because You Are Worth It|
|45||Accenture||7,710||Bermuda||-3%||(47)||High Performance, Delivered.|
|46||eBay||7,350||US||-8%||(46)||The Power of All of Us|
|49||Ford||7,005||US||-11%||(49)||Ford. Drive One.|
|50||Zara||6,780||Spain||14%||(62)||We Have a Dream|
|51||Wrigley’s||6,731||US||10%||(61)||Double Your Pleasure|
|52||Colgate||6,550||US||2%||(57)||The Colgate Ring of Confidence|
|53||AXA||6,525||France||-7%||(55)||Be Life Confident|
|56||Xerox||6,431||US||1%||(59)||The Digital Document Company|
|57||Morgan Stanley||6,399||US||-26%||(42)||One Client At a Time|
|58||Nestlé||6,319||Switzerland||13%||(63)||Good Food. Good Life.|
|59||Chanel||6,040||France||-5%||(60)||Share the Fantasy|
|60||Danone||5,960||France||10%||(66)||A Little Everyday Goes a Long Long Way|
|61||KFC||5,722||US||3%||(64)||Finger Lickin’ Good|
|62||Adidas||5,397||Germany||6%||(70)||Impossible is Nothing|
|63||BlackBerry||5,138||Canada||7%||(73)||Life on Blackberry|
|64||Yahoo!||5,111||US||-7%||(65)||Do You Yahoo!?|
|65||Audi||5,010||Germany||-7%||(67)||Vorsprung Durch Technik|
|66||Caterpillar||5,004||US||-5%||(68)||Earthmoving Solutions for Today’s Challenges|
|69||Hyundai||4,604||S. Korea||-5%||(72)||Drive Your Way|
|71||Kleenex||4,404||US||-5%||(74)||It’s Time to Let It Out|
|72||UBS||4,370||US||-50%||(41)||You & Us|
|73||Harley Davidson||4,337||US||-43%||(50)||The Legend Rolls On...|
|74||Porsche||4,234||Germany||-8%||(75)||There is No Substitute|
|75||Panasonic||4,225||Japan||-1%||(78)||Just Slightly Ahead of Our Time|
|76||Tiffany & Co.||4,000||US||-5%||(80)||America’s House of Design Since 1837|
|77||Cartier||3,698||France||-6%||(79)||The Jeweller of Kings|
|78||GAP||3,922||US||-10%||(77)||For every Generation, there is a GAP|
|79||Pizza Hut||3,876||US||-5%||(81)||Great Pizzas. Great Times.|
|80||Johnson & Johnson||3,847||US||7%||(92)||The Family Company|
|81||Allianz||3,831||France||-5%||(82)||Financial Solutions from A to Z|
|82||Moët & Chandon||3,754||France||-5%||(83)||Be Fabulous*|
|84||Smirnoff||3,698||UK||3%||(89)||There’s Vodka. Then There’s Smirnoff.|
|85||Duracell||3,563||US||-3%||(88)||Lasts Longer, Much Longer.|
|88||Ferrari||3,527||Italy||0%||(93)||Art and Emotion|
|92||Shell||3,228||Netherlands||-7%||(97)||You Can Be Sure of Shell|
|93||Burger King||3,223||US||New||Have it Your Way|
|94||VISA||3,170||US||-5%||(100)||Life Takes Visa|
|96||Lexus||3,158||Japan||-12%||(90)||Pursuit of Perfection|
|99||Polo Ralph Lauren||3,094||US||New||Get Involved. Volunteer. Exceed.|
|100||Campbell’s||3,081||US||New||Why Settle When You Can Select|
* Some brand positionings or slogans may vary from market to market. For example, BMW is moving towards “Joy” and it is no longer the “Ultimate Driving Machine.”
More than that, this goes to my good friend and former neighbour who now lies unconscious in a hospital bed in Medina, in an induced coma. He was travelling to Medina last Friday with three of his friends when a tyre blew in his vehicle, sending it rolling across the centre barrier to the oncoming traffic. Apparently, the tumbling vehicle rolled over five times and sent my friend D flying out of the window in the process, landing him on the asphalt hitting his head on the pavement.
Apparently, his skull is fractured, and there are some serious concerns that the doctors are not so sure of, yet. His parents have flown in from Lebanon and I cannot even go see him since the road to Medina is only open to Muslims.
I pray, and hope, that he recovers. Soon.
Saudi Arabia boasts of some of the worst drivers in the world. Looking at statistics in Saudi Arabia:
- more than 6,400 deaths every year from car accidents, which means, every 82 minutes one person dies of a road accident
- over 50,000 deaths, 300,000 injuries and losses of over 100 billion Saudi Riyal (= 26.6 billion US$) from car accidents in the past 10 years. Compare that to only 200 casualties from terrorist activities..!
- 4.3 million car accidents causing 86,000 deaths and 611,000 injuries in the past 19 years.
- 85% of accidents are caused by drivers violating to traffic rules
- 7% of injuries end with complete or partial disability
- and majority of hospital beds (up to 80% in some hospitals) are occupied by road accident victims, not people suffering from various medical conditions and illnesses.
Using mobile phones while driving is ‘supposed to be’ prohibited, but no one cares. Not even the cops.
There are no female drivers in Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive.
The eldest son of the family could get the driving licence at 16 under special permission in order to support the family if he has lost his father.
You can pretty much park anywhere during prayer time, just like the pavement opposite Odel.
My son was beginning his life in a boarding school. The books bought, bags packed, long lists completed and every clothing item clearly marked with his initials. Stitching three initials each on six pairs of white socks was only the beginning of an arduous three days for his grandma, but she was glad to help with the heap of clothes that lay in front of her.
“You will be locked out of the dormitories from three-thirty to five-thirty everyday. It would be up to you to sit in a corner and bury your head in grief, or make the best – get involved in any game or sport of your choice...” said the Warden, focusing his attention on the bemused child at the interview. There was a sparkle in Rafael’s eyes and I could see that he has taken an immediate liking to the idea of “compulsory playtime.” The little fella couldn’t believe that there are schools that encourage young boys to spend their time in the playgrounds, not only in libraries and study rooms.
At the end of the interview, he was smiling like a Cheshire cat and I knew he was going to like the place. One, there was a farm in the school. Two, there was a swimming pool. And there were many other reasons.
A week after the interview, with a heavy heart, my wife leaves him at the new school. He gives her a big hug and waves good bye. Not a tear in his eyes, he was ready to take on a new adventure in life.
24 hours pass-by, as we wait eagerly to hear from the new kid in school. He was supposed to call us back during his playtime Tuesday evening.
But there is no news and my wife begins to panic. She is worried if Rafael has slept well, if the old mattress was comfortable enough, or the food was good enough for his liking. She wants to know how he managed to wake up at 5.00 in the morning, when he is used to take a 5 minute nap on the bathroom carpet after waking up at 6.30 in the morning.
Finally, as the playtime ends, kids go back to their dorms and there is no news. My wife calls the school. “Oh, we have seen him with the boys. For a new kid, he seems to have loads of friends...” is the reply.
That, puts an end to our worries.
We leave a message with the school for him to call us back.
The next day, Rafael returns the call. He is bombarded with a barrage of questions on food, studies, living conditions etc., but every reply ends with the same sentence:
“...its all fine, I have to go, my friends are waiting...”
“...its all great, I have to go, my friends are waiting...”
“...its all okay, I have to go, my friends are waiting...”
Looks like the young man is going to be just fine.
Drove to the Immigration direct from the airport, literally, only to be disappointed by the fact that they were having a “half-day” in lieu of Milad-Un-Nabi, the next day. On top of that, being the last day of election nominations, Friday was a disaster in my calendar. Saturday the proper holiday, followed by the Poya (full moon) holiday the next day, I couldn’t have timed my trip any better..! Three days out of my precious 10 days in Paradise, gone without much achievement.
To top things off, I get stopped by the cops in a little alley-way near Paradise Gallery. They were bored stiff and randomly checking vehicles – and I have the uncanny ability to get picked more often than not. While pulling out the wallet I realise that I have forgotten my Silly Lankan driving licence in Saudi. Managed to negotiate a deal and escaped with a small “spot-fine.”
Went to the nearest police station like the good citizen I am, and shared my predicament. Told them that I must drive out of town – even though my wife could drive I have to take turns I said – and sought their advise on how to go about without the licence in possession. The ever helpful traffic police officer gave me a ticket that enabled me to drive for 14 days..! Upon my return, I gave him a thousand rupees to pay the fine (well, I was leaving the country the next day, weren’t I..?) and he obliged with much hesitance.
I like the way things happen in Paradise.
Had to drive to Nuwara Eliya on Monday morning but discovered a little “miss” in the car. Sunday bloody Sunday... Luckily, there were the “mobile unit” that could diagnose the problem, but the stores were closed and I had to postpone the trip by another day. Which meant, leaving Colombo at wee hours in the morning and return the same night, but the drive was quite pleasurable.
Back to the immigration. No luck with my son’s residency, he needs to get a new passport. Let him be an alien in my country, I thought.
Aah, PG Wodehouse is back at Makeen.
While I was looking for the Alchemist, my son buys a book titled “1,000 most disgusting facts” for his birthday. And another equally off-putting book on puke, pee and poo or something like that. He loves the slimy, scaly creatures such as geckos, frogs and snakes – and I wonder what he would grow up to be one day.
Ask for a gin n tonic aboard Emirates on the way back. The good man serves a cup-full-of-gin to his fellow countryman. A drink that was more like a gin n gin; and I wanted to tell him that my eyes were red due to lack of sleep, not alcohol.
Back in Jeddah. In a new abode. Just got the internet connection sorted, so here I am.
And let me leave you with a taste of the Middle East, found in my inbox upon my return. ;)