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Anti-heroin ad campaign
Afghanistan currently produces two thirds of the world's heroin (Interpol
). Poppy farming became an important money-maker in Afghanistan some 20 years ago when the mujahedeen needed quick funds to buy arms and training to defend Aghanistan against the Russians.
While it is not known how Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda organisation gets its funding now, it is not unreasonable to suggest that a great deal of its funding in its early days must have been from poppy farming. They needed money to buy guns, training and legitimacy and the practice in those days was, as is now, wide-spread.
If they'd never dabbled in it before, the doubling of poppy production in Afghanistan over the last three years to over 5,000 tonnes makes poppy farming much too big for Al-Qaeda to ignore. Christian Science Monitor hints that bin Laden does have interests in the trade
. An allegation supported by the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies which goes further by accusing bin Laden of trading heroin for weapons
. The drugs could have been that liquid heroin nicknamed Tears of Allah, which according to "Russian intelligence" is produced by him
Hence the new slogan for the next anti-heroin ad campaign, "Shoot heroin and support mass murder
". I reckon as long as institutions like the Red Cross can take advantage of the suicide bombing to seek more funds, I don't see why the Drug Council can't make use of it too.
I've been told Osama and bin Laden aren't common names but they also aren't unusual. My inquiry into the matter is curiosity. I was just wondering how many people in the US right now have either name. And what they're think of changing it to.
Or for that matter, how many people have been named Adolf Hitler since WWII.
Just. Bought. Diablo. II. Must. Spend. Entire. Weekend. Playing. It. Ignore. Food. Ignore. Bed. Ignore. Bathroom. Yes. Master. Diablo. I. Hear. And. Obey.
My mirror site is now up!
Over a month ago
, the webdesigner for soniatrevino.com
got caught by yours truly in the process of stealing my code. Specifically it was the top frame (that I've since lost interest in keeping) and included the randomising pictures and the menu.
is now up. It turned out to be a Plano, Texas hair salon. Part of my top frame code is still there (including the same top-light-bottom-heavy frame structure). It also has the randomising pix which Paul's treated in exactly the same single-tint and four colours. He's also using Hostedscripts
, the remote CGI host that I use.
THIS took him a whole month to complete?! For all the aggravation I was hoping Paul would do astounding things with the site like having animation that shows different hair-styles. It turned out instead to be a pretty pathetic single-page display -- something a 10-year old might do with his first coding assignment. I think Paul IS a ten-year old, and you'd probably agree with me if you check out the comments he left on this blog entry
Sigh. I'm the only blogger in the world with my own mirror site. But all I got was another template. Dammit.
I visited my shrink today to a) complain that the Risperal
he gave me was having no effect because b) I was still having anxiety attacks.
This latest attack was as irrational as usual and was about the behaviours of my colleagues. Or rather what I was reading into them and how I was over-reacting to them. I thought it might have something to do with my irrepressible need for attention and approval.
He spent the entire session telling me (by using architectural analogies) that I should try to assess the situation calmly, compare the behaviours with behaviours in other similar circumstances, learn to view the behaviours more positively or at least for what they are (instead of reading motives into them) and to scale back the intensity of my reaction.
He also advised me that many people tend to react defensively or in an uncertain manner when faced with typically aggressive behaviours or assertive behaviours, both of which I tend to employ. I should be more sensitive to the insecurities of others and I shouldn't expect other people to be sensitive to me. He described me as hypersensitive.
My shrink always explains things as though he were an architect. I guess he figures since I'm also in a creative line of work, that I would understand him better. I think one of his favourite patients must be an architect.
Finally he told me Risperdal might take a couple of weeks to calm me down. Then he charged me another RM48 for two more weeks worth of the little white things.
There are only two kinds of Muslims...
How come Osama bin Laden doesn't send a message of condolence for attacks on Muslims in other parts of the world
but will send one for attacks on Muslims in Pakistan
? What's he trying to say... that Muslims not living in abject poverty are bad Muslims?
Don't nobody move! I'm Malaysian!
"Malaysia is a Muslim country," my friend Kate revealed to me despite the fact that I live here and that it isn't a Muslim country. It just feels like one because the only thing moving around here are the flies.
Kate made that remark while we were discussing the possibility that she might visit this country. The write-up on the State Department website that she was pointing out to me actually says that Malaysia is a country run predominately by a Muslim government. That's only by default because the racial mix of Malaysia is 50% Malay, a race which inculcates Islamic values in their young from the moment of birth. Kind of like how cowboys brand cows.
The Muslims who live here aren't the fundamentalist Uzi-waving kind. (Ironically, the Uzi is an Israeli-made weapon.) They're at the exact opposite end of the spectrum. They're the hash-smoking kind whom you can never get a decent cup of coffee much less any attention from in any restaurant even though you're waving a loudspeaker with Liza Minelli at the speaking end. You can actually walk up to a Muslim here and kick him for no apparent reason and the only thing he'll do to you is give you a good sulking.
Which is not to say that they don't have odd habits around here. For example, it isn't unusual to see some women covered from head-to-toe in black gowns. But that's the extreme exception not the norm. They don't scar women here at birth like they do in some Muslim countries. They're more civilised here. They marry them.
Malaysia's racial mix is actually over 30% Chinese and that ratio is more or less reflected in the make-up of the government. The rest is made up by Indians and Americans and other hambuger-eating species. That's right Americans live here too. In fact Malaysia is one of the safest Muslim-run countries in the world right now, if not the safest country in the world.
People here don't walk. They slither. The heat is so heavy, you can't do anything else but. Anybody thinking of committing a crime, much less holding a session of throwing Molotov Cocktails at Americans, would have to downgrade it to hurling a well-timed puff of bad breath or two.
Not that anybody would even think of commiting any kind of violence, much less politically-based violence. The last time there was a riot here, two kids yelled 'fire' in a crowded cinema. And then all the patrons slithered out.
The police loath troublemakers. There might have been one or two people here who started cursing Americans in public on 9/11. But the police would have clamped down on them very quickly. Otherwise they would have disturbed the flies.
My gratitude to several people who are helping me out in my search for people to put me up on my States-wide trip. I didn't ask them for help, but they saw my post and kindly volunteered space on their websites. Thanks!Mad MitchUmamitsunamiZmrzlina
And to those who helped publicise the quest, thanks!! (double-exclamation)PerceptionsSix-Layer Kate
The job: why
I wrote those two entries about my job earlier to dissuade further queries about my job. I loathe a great deal of it because it is more a quagmire of politicking and agenda-wrangling than doing anything useful.
If you were confused or astonished by the examples I gave, then believe me, it gets worse. You don't want to know what I have to do to conceive an ad (politicking with the creative director), to get approval for an ad (politicking with account servicing), to sell an ad (politicking with the client), to get one produced (politicking with production houses) and to get one to run (more politicking with the client). And in the end, the ads often serve no purpose because they fulfill anyone else's agenda except the consumer's -- those who want and need useful information to make consumer decisions that benefit them in some fashion.
That folks is what advertising is all about. It ain't art, it's politics. But, it does pay well and I get to go to work in jeans and t-shirts and legitimately spend most of the day in "deep thought" (aka day-dreaming) because I'm "conceptualising" :-)
Osama bin Laden - King of Porn
Haha. Have you heard the latest assertion about Osama bin Laden?
According to a BBC report, it seems the top technology experts of the University of Michigan have "searched" 2 million porno images
from the internet looking for hidden messages in them between Osama bin Laden and his cronies.
Talk about taking advantage of a bad situation! Guys, get your dicks out of your heads and go do something useful. Muslims as fundamentally right as Osama bin Laden would never even conceive of being associated with the stuff. All his supporters would ditch him if that were true.
Or maybe it's a planted FBI story to erode Osama bin Laden's grassroots support because the Afghanis are tuning to BBC, more than ever
I hate to be really mercenary like this but I like to think of it as doing my part to save thousands of jobs. Apparently American planes aren't the only things that are falling like flies. So are the prices of their fares.
I think I'll purchase that flight to the States for next year right now when they're at their cheapest. Don't look at me like that. It makes sense. And besides, it's what the people at the airlines want me to do too.
So which website do I go to for the cheapest flights? Got any suggestions?
My job: the first step
Simply because my job function (copywriter) is specialised doesn't mean that I don't consider the various issues that come with a business in communication. There are no absolutes. Success is based on the successful forwarding of agendas, personal biases and assumptions (false or otherwise).
However we can minimise faults and maximise long-term communication and possibly business success through critical analysis of the information and the situation at hand.
As soon as I get a brief I have to consider first whether the client really needs advertising. Even though I am paid to create advertising, I also feel that I have a responsibility to both the product brand and the consumer which may not necessarily be best served with advertising. To do this I have to examine very closely the marketing and the business situation that the product is in and to consider the consumer purchase habits.
For example, one of the products I might have to sell is a travel bag. And the bag is the biggest bag in the world and can fit just about anything in it including the kitchen sink. However, it has faulty zippers. It would be very easy for me to sell the bag in ads as a 'big bag' but no one would buy it because it has a reputation as faulty. I would then have to advise the client (at the detriment to the agency's spend agenda) to spend money fixing the product problem first. And I would be justified in doing so from the agency's point of view because it promotes faith in the client that the agency does have the product's best interest at heart. And this faith would pay off in a smoother and perhaps more lucrative client-agency relationship in the long run. (Oh, how I wish that were true since the management of most ad agencies tend to consider only short term gains instead of long term ones.)
Or for example, the product is a limousine service that's truly top class. It has all the works inside, jacuzzi, massage parlour, tennis courts etc etc etc. Needless to say it costs a pretty penny to rent. The client wants to run a campaign in the national newspaper to sell it. I have to consider that a) this is not a service that a customer might casually consider using; b) those who can afford such a service don't necessarily look in the newspaper when sourcing for it; c) this service is so expensive that only a select few in the world would even consider it. Therefore, considering the potential customer's media consumption and purchase behaviour, would advertising be the best way to target this consumer? I think not. And I have to recommend to the client that the best way to go would be direct mail or a website which can be better targeted to the extremely select group (such as CEOs or more likely, secretaries of CEOs) that consider using such a service. Advertising is better for targeting mass audiences, but why would we want to spend the excessive amounts of money needed to do that when we already have the names and addresses of the exact people we want to target and have the means to do so without having to clutter up newspapers with ads for services which most people who read the newspaper couldn't care less about?
What complicates this early part of the process is that various agendas have to considered in the balance of things. For example, does the client not care about the product? Some clients might not if the management of the product or service is supposed to be sidelined for sale to another company or transfered to another division of the business. In which case, going through the process I outlined above may simply serve no purpose other than to antagonise the client because as far as he is concerned, it is tedious and isn't necessary.
Why does it fall on me to tackle these issues? It doesn't. Everybody in the agency shares this same responsibility from the finished artwork artist to the account director. (Although we can't really expect the FA artist to consider all these things because she may not be as clearly informed of the marketing situation as the account director and it isn't the most efficient use of the FA artist's time and skills.) Everybody, by right, has a say because the success of the agency is reflected in the success of the brand... besides which I am the only one in the agency educated in marketing and advertising, much less been to university. (Sigh. That sounds rather pompous of me.)
Advertising isn't easy. There are lots of issues that I have to consider before making decisions and recommendations to my clients, even before I even think of the fun part which is creating the advertising.
My job: how it begins
I am a copywriter in an ad agency. By definition, I write the copy (originally, a technical term from journalism for 'the words') of the ads. My function begins with the delivery of a job requisition (or job req) to my desk.
The job req includes a job brief which describes what the client wants out of the advertising. It might include a marketing objective such as a sales target within a specified time. But that's not the only objective I might be asked to fulfill. Sometimes it is a media objective (eg the client has been offered a media space, such as a billboard somewhere, at a discount by a media owner and wants us to fill it). Sometimes it is a political objective (eg the client's annual marketing budget renewal deadline is close at hand and we are asked to finish the entire budget as proof to her bosses that the client is doing her job). And sometimes it is an insecurity objective (eg the client's wife or rival has noted to the client that she doesn't remember the last time she saw an ad with the client's product logo which then motivates the client to combat his feelings of inadequacy by commissioning an ad -- this objective is often disguised with the title of 'awareness-building'). Objectives are often inane, illegitimate and have little to do with the role of advertising.
To add to the confusion, the ad agency itself will have its own agenda which it adds to job reqs. There are usually two: a creative agenda and a spend agenda.
Sometimes the creative director (my boss) will decide that a product is worthy of special creative attention and will ask a creative team to do an award-winner ad, sometimes called a 'scam' ad. These ads are usually used as a morale booster within the creative department, or a way to keep the people in the creative department on their toes or to increase the stature of the creative director among his creative director peers and among his peers in the agency management.
A spend agenda comes into play when the managing director or financial director of the agency instructs the creative department to propose more ads to the client to put pressure on the client to increase her media spending budget. As much as 99% of any ad agency's income come from commissions from media owners. The more ads the client runs, the more money the agency makes.
So an ad doesn't necessarily have to make sales to be considered a success. Based on the objectives I've listed above, if an ad runs at all, it is considered a success. The agency and the client often do not know if the ad has created more sales (the objective those outside the ad industry will assume is the objective of advertising) or more awareness or has increased the likeability or esteem of the brand among the target audience. Consumer research has traditionally been so badly done that little emphasis is now placed on it. Vague guesses, biases, assumptions and personal agendas have more place in the strategic function of an ad agency than consumer research findings.
(If anyone is interested I'll probably write about how I tackle a job. Later.)
I've been shying away from my blog for a while. I was accused of being callous twice over the last week because of what I've posted, mainly because I didn't show reverence or recognition of what went on in the States last week and what is still going on and the issues surrounding it. (So I felt inclined to delete my entries twice.)
I'm not advocating that we should forget what happened. Nor am I advocating that it wasn't bad or that people deserved it. Nor am I trying to be insensitive. Nor am I being uncaring.
I've been quite unaffected by it all. Which happens to be my good fortune. Now I'm just going to publish some other kinds of stories which have nothing to do with any of the issues reported on the front pages or will be over the next few months.
And it's my right not to be made to feel sorry about my decision either.
I have a friend. Or had one. I believe I lost her last night when I didn't show enough grief over what happened around the States in the last two days.
I cannot begin to mourn the terrible loss of life and the senselessness of it. Not because I support terrorism or barbarism. My reasons have to do with the fact that any ability to feel empathy for those in pain was conditioned out of me in childhood. If nothing else, I can only express my sense of loss in the emptiness I feel when I miss her.
All day yesterday I thought about the terror that people on those planes experienced as they watched the first plane hit the South Tower and knew that they would share the same fate. I didn't get too far. My mind quickly found something else to distract it in self-preservation.
I don't know anyone who was killed or was a victim of the crashes. I know of only two people in New York
and they were both home at the time. I managed to ascertain that immediately via ICQ as soon as I saw the BBC report. Unlike one colleague, I did not have to wait for hours to be assured.
Colleagues from the New York office immediately sent everyone in the worldwide network emails to let them know that the entire office, which is close to the Financial Center, and our clients had been safely evacuated. The events seemed impossible to believe until I saw the photo of the plane coming around the South Tower moments before hitting the North Tower.
It is the distance, the physical as well as the emotional, that keeps us from reeling from the sheer weight of the terrible things that happen around the world. It is often that distance, that keeps us well and sane, which we take for granted. I am most grateful for the fact that, as my New York friend puts it, luck has spared me from witnessing the horror first hand.
Mobile phone jammer
I've got to get one of these Wave Shield jammers
. Every cinema should have several of them placed all around the theatre. And cars must be forced to have them installed as well to prevent accidents caused by idiots driving with one hand on the mobile phone instead of two on the wheel. I'd carry mine everywhere
just to be certain that I never hear the words,'I'm on the bus...' ever again.
There's one made for Malaysia and Singapore mobile phone signals. Unfortunately it costs GBP126 (USD$170).
I'm in a place called Genting Highlands
who has been posted to the Starbucks at the First World Hotel for a couple of months. She felt so miserable, how could I resist the temptation to see her and torture her further?
Genting Highlands is a resort on a peak called Genting Sempah in the hill range north east of Kuala Lumpur. It takes about an hour to get there, unless you have a taxi driver who thinks he is Mario Andretti. Toh the taxi driver, charged me RM42 (USD$12) to get to Genting Highlands which is a very reasonable price. But it was expensive in comparison to the bus fare which is RM5.80 (USD$1.80).
Honking his horn all the way up the intestinal twists of hill road, we listened to a tape of people singing Hokkien songs with rude lyrics referring to poor people who make a living cleaning up shit in toilets. Toh says he works half a day, making three or four trips to Genting daily. After paying off the ridiculously-high rental charge from the cab company which is usually RM300, he barely manages to eke out a living which he admits he blows on Guinness and gambling in one of the Genting casinos.
It is 19 degrees Celsius in Genting, says the huge digital temperature display in the lobby on the First World Hotel. That's a blessing from the usual 34 degrees Celsius elsewhere in Malaysia. The cool but humid atmosphere covers the entire vicinity of Genting Highlands in a thick white mist which obscures much of the road on the way up. The highlands aren't very tall (a sign a few minutes before we reached the peak states that we're 5344 feet above sea level) but they're high enough so that the sea of moisture that's blown in off the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia and gets trapped on the hill range.
The resort has expanded several hundred hectares over the years since it opened shortly before the Race Riots of the late sixties. Lim Goh Tong, who virtually owns the entire peak, managed to secure the license just in time before the largely-Muslim controlled government shifted to a more conservative stand regarding gambling. Genting Highlands is currently the only place that is allowed to legally operate a facility in the entire of Malaysia, which is not so much a testimony to Lim Goh Tong's luck but more to the millions he pays into the coffers of the government and its politicians. The amount is so astounding that he has even got the Prime Minister Mahathir writing the foreword of his autobiography which is published on his website
Lim Goh Tong's company, Genting Holdings Berhad, has flourished so well that he owns two of the largest and most profitable cruise liners in the world, Star Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line, as well as power stations, plantations and mining rights on oil and gas reserves. To say that he's rich is like saying Joan Collins is old. "Genting," Joanne supposes, "supports the entire economy of Malaysia."
Although Genting Highlands is Malaysia's version of the Las Vegas Strip, it doesn't have the glamour. Its promotion material bills it as the 'City of Entertainment'. Certainly it has enough rooms to build one. It claims to have the world's single largest hotel with over 6,000 rooms. However, it doesn't qualify for a six-star rating because the hotel doesn't have room service or a pool. Not to mention house-cleaning is so bad, it wouldn't surprise me to trip over long-forgotten corpses from the Communist Insurgency of the '70s buried in the dirt under the windows.
We can't say that the management of the hotel didn't try to glitz it up. The walls of the lobby are lined with statues reminiscent of Greek gods and goddesses that look like they carved with an envelope opener. Despite the good intentions, they're more successful at being a mockery of the statues at Versailles than they are a tribute to them. By contrast and by default, the view of the green hills surrounding the resort is wonderful. All the wild animals have been chased off them thanks to the construction groups, but it's the romantic in me that still believes that there might be a mousedeer in there yet.
So what is there to do around here? Whatever you decide, don't take the rollercoaster ride, advises Joanne. 'It's rickety.' That doesn't leave much except for the gambling. People from all over Malaysia come to gamble at the casinos. So do people from China, Taiwan and Singapore where all gambling is illegal. In China, gamblers are executed
by firing squad on live national TV held at a stadium filled to capacity. It doesn't take a genius to figure that the odds at surviving at the poker table are better at Genting. It's only a five hour flight from Guangzhou to Kuala Lumpur International Airport and from there an hour to dozens of tables of blackjack, poker, roullette, craps, bacarat and slots.
What's the attraction, I just don't understand. The tables pay awfully to the winners. You only win half your money if your hand beats the dealer's at blackjack, not your entire pot. And you have to pay a RM2.50 entry to sit at the table. Yet when Joanne and I have dinner after her shift ends at Starbucks, the canteen is filled with children and women. None of the men, we notice, are to be seen.
Genting is undeniably fascinating, kind of like the way the staunchest Christian fundamentalist always cranes his head to gaze upon a burlesque house. Muslims, who consider gambling faham
or unclean always find their way to Genting, usually on the pretext of attending a conference. But it isn't a place you'd like to find yourself at again and again, unless you were a gambler overly-convinced of your immortality. Certainly the management of Genting don't think too highly of the locale they oversee. I looked and asked everywhere for that one piece of evidence that a place takes some pride in itself but came up empty-handed. Genting does not print picture postcards of itself.
In all the electronic organisers I've had, I use one of the customisable address lists to create a death list. The name of it is usually something like 'If I die, call:". It's a list of people to contact if anything should happen to me.
It includes roomates, at least one colleague, all my friends from abroad who would otherwise have no way to know why I haven't written for ages, my closer friends and my lawyer (if I happen to have one). It's a very trim list. And it also includes the passwords to my email accounts so that everyone on my email list can be informed of my demise.
It's one of the strange things I do. But it seems sensible considering that in most cases, there is the distinct possibility my electronic organiser will survive me.
New mobile network
I've got a new network provider for my mobile phone. This one is more internet-friendly than the others in Malaysia.
With it, you can send me SMS (short text messages) directly to my mobile from ICQ. I've already set my ICQ details to allow reception of this. Mac and Windows versions of ICQ can do this.
You can also send me SMS through email and I can reply to your email via SMS on my mobile too. Just email your message to: email@example.com
. You don't need a POP mail account. Web-based email services such as Hotmail can be used.
Or if you have a mobile, just send me a SMS from your phone to mine, wherever you are around the world. I should be able to receive this if your mobile network provider has an relationship deal with mine. Such relationship deals aren't often well-publicised so give it a shot even if you aren't certain. The number to send to is (+60) 123509130.
All this means is that I can now be contacted cheaply and efficiently wherever I am and wherever in the world you are. Even if I am away from my keyboard.
Kelvin, my art director and I alighted from the elevator on the 16th floor of an office building called Menara Millenium for a meeting with a client to discuss the advertising campaign for a mint sweet called Artic.
Me: Hmmm. I think we're on the wrong floor. (The logo on the door says Phillip Morris, the cigarette company.)
Kelvin: (To a passerby) Excuse me miss. Can you tell me where the offices of Kraft Foods are?
Passerby: This is the office.
Me: (Getting a sick feeling in my stomach) Oh my god.
Kraft Foods markets (and sometimes produces) confectionary, sweets and health foods such as Post Cereals. Foods that kids eat. To think that a... nicotine... producing... company... makes them. Argh. I feel disgusted. With my ad agency and with myself too, for not resigning from the account immediately. (I'm too well-paid, and besides, I'm a slut.)
I think some mentally-lazy bastard Malaysian journalist is planning to rip off at least one of the entries in this blog. Google pinged my site yesterday twice within one hour first using the keywords 'fewer Malaysian flags' and the second time 'Movie watching and Malaysians'. Those are two of the very topics I wrote of within the last week or so. The IP addresses of the seekers were from a local ISP called Jaring and they came from within Kuala Lumpur, using Jaring's exchange at Bukit Jalil. The timing and the exactness of the search terms is too much of a coincidence.
If you are the stupid bastard Malaysian journalist who is doing that, let me remind you that I am faster, stronger, more skilled at combat than you are. And it isn't impossible to find out where you live. Hypothetically-speaking, a call from a very charming aide in the Ministry of the Interior, which is virtually above suspicion, can be made to your boss' secretary and details such as your mobile phone number, a description of your car, your entire itinerary for the whole week and even your identity card number (for a 'strictly routine background check') will be divulged.
Some people threaten to kill without really meaning it. Like kids at play screaming 'I'm going to kill you!'. But make no mistake. If I can beat a guy half to death in the muay thai ring just because my coach told me to, consider very carefully what I will do to someone who rips off my intellectual property.
I am nothing if not motivated. I will be reading the newspapers very closely over the next few weeks and the magazines over the next few months. And I will be looking out for YOU. No matter how cleverly you think you disguised the prose, if I get it in my head for a moment that you took some fraction of your story from my blog, issuing legal threats, calling for help or dialling 999 on the phone will not save you... in time.
I'll be busy in the evenings after work over the next week or so. I'll be trying to install Greymatter
, a publishing software similar to Blogger
but more complex because it requires installation and some programming know-how.
sites all use Greymatter and not Blogger and I'd like to start from there so that I can seek advice from the people at Citystories and I can use their scripts.
The bottom line is I may not be publishing on this blog so often for a little while. My free time will be trying to update myself on the use of Greymatter, XHTML, Photoshop, and perhaps even PHP and Adobe Illustrator.