Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Rebel with a cause

I have been keeping my own counsel with a couple of issues burning in my heart lately. Issues are never issues, are they? They are often symptomatic of something else deeper. In my case, what remained buried deep was that I viewed the establishment with utter disgust.

I grew up a rebel, harboring a complete contempt for the establishment borne from the months of incarceration Dad had unfairly been through just because he had an opinion. As a child, I struggled with questions from classmates about Dad having to confess publicly on TV for the supposed crime of dissension and the humiliation of having mum and I featured in the newspapers as the "dissident's family". I grew up fast as an 8 year old learning to tell the difference between lies, truths, fluff and packaged truths. Hence, I am in Public Relations.

So what I had experienced recently, had come back to haunt me, and filled me with immense disappointment at the thought that the same blokes, inflicted with the same narrow-minded and myopic disposition now helm the establishment. 34 years on, nothing has changed.

Last month, I launched a consumer insights-driven campaign that drew a lot of positive feedback for cutting through competitive clutter. I was very proud of that campaign as it had responded to consumer perceptions by educating them on the need to close a gap.

After a week of running the campaign, we were told to pull the plug on it by a newspaper executive because somebody senior within the establishment possibly couldn't read English enough to understand the copy and fully appreciate the intent behind it. The establishment thought that I had "sullied it's efforts to build a viable financing system". And this was verbally related to us through a very frightened executive of that newspaper whom, when pressed, would not reveal who the clown behind the wheel was. And funnily, that clown was too busy pretending to be the circus ring-master that he or she declined to provide a written explanation of why the establishment was arbitrarily interfering with the commercial decisions of a company with a responsibility to educate the public about the inherent need to close the gap. I had to contain myself from going out to apply a license to use the Speaker's Corner as I worked with the team to alter the copy with the aim of toning it down.

Thankfully, the campaign continued with new ads that had copy which "sullied my intent to do what's right to educate consumers on their needs".

Till today, I am flabbergasted that there is still no explanation for that ridiculous episode . I felt gratified that my bosses had some sense of humor and thought that it was great that the campaign had "gotten the right folks talking".

Another incident a few months ago had also gotten me snarling at people who wore a badge and brandished a clipboard while working for the establishment.

David had been in executive search for the last 21 years. Yet recently, he was told that he needed to obtain a new license for his practice. "A new regulation," the clipboard-toting, wind-cheater wearing civil servant said, " and you need to complete an examination too."

David saw the humor in it, but I didn't because it only meant that they had effectively "handicapped" him for a few months while he sorted his paperwork.

We found out over the months that these blokes didn't know a regulation from the instructions manual of their Transformers toy. They even made David sit through a course meant for Maid Agency owners and he sat and passed the examinations for it too. So if anyone of you is interested in hiring a maid, David knows everything about it.
Several wasted months later, he is now brandishing a new license for his practice and a clipboard too.

Today, one of my staff wrote on her Facebook wall " If you can't fight and you can't flee, ... flow." - Robert Elliot.

I disagree. If you can't fight and you can't flee, ... Force. One has to force a stand. I refused to pull out my ads at the arbitrary command of someone who had no courage to come out to explain his point of view but hid behind the skirt of a newspaper executive and his establishment badge. I did what I can to tweak the ad message and continued to run with the campaign that I knew was doing the right and responsible thing for consumers.

I want those who read this blog post to know that great marketing is not about putting the fluff around a product or a service. It's about communicating a single-minded truth to consumers to get them thinking about erasing the blur between the lines of what they need and what they want.


  1. Courage saves the day. Everyone's day! Congrats!

  2. Thanks darling. I just wanted to do the right thng.