A caring husband surprises his wife with a shiny, red car wrapped up in a beautiful white bow. As he eagerly takes her, and the rest of the family, out to see her present, they observe a similar scene unfolding in the neighbours’ garden.
However, the neighbour has bought his wife a bigger, sportier and more expensive car. As the first family watches the neighbours’ wife screaming ecstatically about her flashy new car, they get more disappointed with their gift. The first wife then returns the keys of her smaller car to her husband and storms back into the house.
This is a television advertisement for a leading telecommunications company. Although it may be attempting to be humorous, it is anything but. The idea that the latest and most expensive thing is always the best is not always true and definitely should not apply to gifts.
As we prepare for the last few hours of Ramadan, we are striving to feel humility and thankfulness, and strengthen family relations. We are trying to abstain from feelings of spite, hatred and jealousy as well as from food and drink. This is always a special time of year, when we get to know our neighbours and deepen our existing friendships, as we send and receive dishes and pray Taraweeh together in the neighbourhood mosque.
The best-loved activity for families, all over the region, after breaking our fast, is without a doubt sitting together and watching our favourite family-friendly television programmes. Advertising agencies around the region are acutely aware of this, and they vie for airtime to reach the maximum number of viewers. Along with our families, we are watching these advertisements repeatedly and taking in these messages – whether we want to or not.
Another leading telecommunications company has a clever advertisement that depicts a father lining up his sons and subjecting them to an “IT devices raid”. The father checks each of his sons with a hand-held metal detector to ensure that they are not concealing any mobile devices. The sons must place their phones and tablets on a table before sitting down to join their family for iftar.
This advertisement says that, while it is important to be connected in the virtual world, an actual gathering is even more important. Considering that it is in the advertiser’s interest to keep us plugged in, this commercial seems to show that the company really cares about its customers, their families and their feelings during this special month.
All companies should realise that consumers in this country are extremely sophisticated. We are highly educated, well-travelled and have available to us the very best of brands from around the world.
The “leverage point” of any advertisement is where the viewers relate the message about the product to their own value system. Consumers can become displeased with a company when they feel that its values are different to their own. Any messages from a company will give us an impression of the brand which includes much more than just the product’s features.
In much the same way, we as individuals are like a brand and the messages we send also reflect on us.
It is the time of year when we should be ruminating on the type of messages we are sending to our WhatsApp groups, Facebook friends, and Twitter and Instagram followers.
When we broadcast messages, images and videos, we should be aware that these messages say something about the type of person we are. Social media messages can be fun and entertaining, but it is not just their content that matters; the amount and quality of those messages sometimes creates an impression, too.
We should ask ourselves a few questions before we press the send button: Would we send this message to our parents or children? Would this joke cause offence to our colleagues? What is our intention in posting this holiday picture?
Let’s make sure our messages do not leave a bad taste, like the one left by the television commercial about the cars.
Reema Marzouq Falah Al Ahbabi is an Emirati homemaker and MBA graduate
On Twitter: @rm_ahbabi