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Ad, bad and dangerous

india Updated: Sep 14, 2011 23:44 IST
Sharon Fernandes
Sharon Fernandes
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

‘Got milk?’ A simple question asked by any celebrity with a milk moustache in place is all it took for one of America’s longest running advertising campaigns for the California Milk Processor Board to be a hit.

While the best ads have always been reflections of aspirations, the Government of Pakistan put its best face forward — read: Benazir Bhutto — in an ad in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, asking Americans a question: ‘What other country can do more for your peace?’

This half page ad was put out on the 9/11 anniversary. While the world at large mourned the loss of American lives on the fateful day ten years ago, this ad came across like a cabaret at a funeral.

Awkward to say the least.

Armed with statistics on the loss of lives that Pakistan has suffered, it goes on to say that “since 2001, 180 million have been fighting for the future of the world’s 7 billion.” This makes the iconic US Army-Uncle Sam ‘We want you’ seem like a nervous suggestion.

Social networking sites such as Twitter have been abuzz on how this ad leaves a bad taste in the mouth. There are tweets reminding everyone how Osama bin Laden was found in Islamabad’s backyard and underlining how Pakistan has been the Taliban’s favourite playground.

The statistics on the number of bomb blasts, suicide attacks and monetary loss (‘$68 billion’) to Pakistan’s economy being rattled off in a country’s newspaper on a day when the country is coming to term with its own loss is more than just bad form.

Imagine India putting out an ad saying, ‘I heart America, but I hurt too’.

Never mind that we may not be sophisticated enough in our pop cultural communications chic to put out an ad like this. But despite the political crassness we are witness to day in and day out, we won’t see any of our many victims being hauled up to serve as an exercise in image-building to prove our credentials as a nation also under terrorist threat.

We had a bomb blast rip through the heart of our capital two days before the 9/11 anniversary, but the statistics stayed in the newspapers, not pushed to billboards or self-serving ‘announcements’.

Of course, Pakistan suffers immensely from terror.

The plight of Pakistanis who have suffered needs attention. But surely not in an ad put out by Islamabad on a day when America is remembering its victims of an attack targeted against America.

The pertinent questions to be asked in Pakistan are way more important than setting up a rhetorical query in the form of asking America, ‘Who can do more for you?’

Maybe what Pakistan needs to do is take out a full page ad in every Pakistani daily with the tag line, ‘Got democracy?’

But then, what purpose will that serve the powers-that-be in Islamabad?