The past two Sundays have gone by without me putting to paper anything that has irked me in the course of the week. It is something that is unusual –I have published a blog post every Sunday for the past two years– which obviously did not only bother me but worry me too. Not so much for disappointing any faithful readers of my blog posts but that I had lost touch with one of the few things I am fond of –reading and writing. Because, I failed to do any reading for pleasure within the same period I failed to write anything. The plague worried me so much I got superstitious at one point, wondering if the rainy season had in fact come baring a reading and writing drought for me whilst the rest of my Agrarian fellow Ugandan citizens thanked the NRM government (ahem)… the heavens for sending us clouds everyday in the past weeks.
Having resigned to the conclusion that the rainy season is ironically a drought for me, I set out to watch TV on a chilly Sunday (at the time of writing). That turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I got something to rant about a few hours into my TV watching. How? Sunday is synonymous with boredom. The dullness is not only a preserve for you (and me of course) as there is barely an event happening that will brighten up your day. Similarly, it is the day TVs also air what I will call the chuff of TV programs especially the local TV channels. Most of what is aired is aired are repeats of programs screened earlier in the week for whoever missed to get abreast and for a change, the fresh program is a news bulletin –a bulletin on a day void of activity since Sunday is a non-working day. And, the local channels jumped on to the idea that screening kwanjulas (traditional wedding ceremonies) throughout Sunday evening was the best way to expend their broadcasting time taking a commercial break every other instant.
The commercial breaks are what irked me. They are the reason I got something to pen home –a blog post to clear the cob webs that had gathered in my blog. The adverts aired on our local TVs (those on radio too although they are not my focus today) are meticulously pathetic. One by one, they all seem to have been neatly put together to make you grit your teeth with disgust. Not one, not two or three but nearly all adverts on local TV make one wonder whether the current campaign against Arts subjects and courses at university should not be put on hold until a miracle happens in Uganda’s marketing field. Uganda needs more doctors, that I strongly agree but going by the adverts showing on TV, I do think Uganda is in dire need of a new crop of advertising gurus. Assuming what is being taught is relevant and can be applied in present times then we do need a new breed of marketeers to change what we the viewers are being served in an effort to make us consume whatever products the adverts portray. (Incidentally, I’m no expert in advertising; do not take this as gospel truth. I am speaking as a disappointed viewer/consumer who feels he is getting a raw deal.)
First case in point, the one that opened the can of worms; a father, on night duty serenades his daughter away at home via a phone call with a Luganda lullaby. The advert promoting a telecom product. And, is marketing one of the biggest telecom companies here in Uganda. My issue with it is; the advert is mechanical. There is barely anything natural about it. The voice of the father does not sooth but rather awakes a sleeping child. Secondly, times maybe changing but African fathers are yet to adopt domestic duties –including tending to the children. The lullaby in question put me to bed two or so decades ago but that was only after a soothing voice brought me to my knees. Which I doubt the father does in this case even if the daughter succumbs to his pleas. However the manner in which she succumbs too, is debatable. Under natural circumstances, the child who would have been floored by the lullaby would natural wander off into slumber-land but the child in this advert is stone-cold sober and fashions a strong goodnight to the father. I am no script writer but the little music; dance and drama I did in school taught me better. Combine that with commerce; in no way does that advert excite me to purchase the product being peddled.
The next perpetrator is a cosmetics firm largely dealing in creams and oils for ladies hair. It is a local firm. I grew up listening to one of its adverts where a man in Rukiga goes, “konka ***** konka *****” to this day, that advert is still playing. But, that is not their worst. It is one in which a local gospel artist screams her lungs as she does in her popular songs that makes me wonder if the producer of the advert is not suffering from hearing problems today. My guess would be, the script for the advert read, scream your lungs out until the whole Uganda learns about these beauty products. It is quite clear, what Ugandan businesses do is get a local celebrity to be the face of a promotion campaign which in itself is right but not a thing is taught to the face of the campaign about how best to portray the product. Like in the case of case of this particular firm.
Similarly, another advert that caught my attention –which will also be my last citation–, is a cosmetic product advert tailored for school age going Ugandans if I’m to go by the numerous adverts of this product that have featured a very young girl singing praises about how the product does wonders not only on her skin, but those of her school peers too. In adverts where she does not feature, other kids roughly her age suffice. All this product’s adverts have one punch line though, “we (or I) use ****** jelly because…” I do not have a solid case against the product’s adverts other than the fact that they are a poor excuse of a nursery rhyme. They remind of what we referred to as “speech day” back in primary school where pupils outdid themselves in reciting rhymes for their parents on the last day of school. Each word was animated with a matching gesture to emphasize the point. That is the script on which ****** jelly adverts are built. Let them come up with something new and fresh, the “speech day” concept has served its time and should be set free.
There are a host of adverts I could fault but will end at those. Before I pen off (I nearly let these slip through), those adverts with an animated accent of someone West Nile region or Western Uganda region, speaking either broken Luganda or English also need to be laid to rest. Sincerely speaking, this is 2015. Ugandans deserve better. Those adverts are not only inappropriate but have long expired.
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