Ramsey Naja: Back to school. Again

Ramsey Naja is CCO at JWT MENA

Now that the back-to-school campaigns are done, dusted, and consigned to that folder labelled “recycle for next year”, I hope that everyone responsible for those cruel abominations will reflect on the damage they have done and repent in the most meaningful way their faith provides.

For an industry that prides itself on feeling the consumer pulse so much that it borders on sexual harassment, the sheer callousness these campaigns represent is frankly mind-boggling.

Here you are, jauntily skipping between autumn leaves as you try to catch that colourful butterfly when, bang, ‘back to school!’ barks that billboard at you, ‘back to school!’ screams the shop front and ‘back to school!’ is the reminder from every media channel you come into contact with. It is enough to make you feel like the victims of a vast conspiracy concocted by brands that just hate to see you having a good time. Worse, it is enough to make you hate those brands for the rest of your life.

So allow me to apologise, please, on behalf of all of us, to every child out there and to every child that we have been, not just for putting them through that same traumatic experience every year, but mostly for the neglect that this repeated faux-pas represents, along with the barbaric lack of empathy it suggests.

Our industry has regularly reinvented new ways to celebrate Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Eid and World Hugging Day. It has come up with delicate and sensitive ways to communicate with diarrhoea and hemorroids sufferers and invented a blue liquid for you-know-what.

And yet, come September, it blunders and blusters in the most heartless fashion, and with our most vulnerable audience. In fact, we’ve been doing this for so long it is no wonder the new generation hates our guts.

I know this sounds frivolous. After all, back-to-school campaigns are meant for parents. Indeed, that same billboard announcing the bad news to pupils is likely to make its intended target actually dance with joy and relief. But regardless of such considerations, with the arsenal of tools and channels at our disposal today, not to mention the kind of thinking that enables us to sugar-coat the bitterest of pills, we would be fools to keep recycling that obsolete package. If we want to enlist new fans to our industry, we might as well go back to school ourselves.

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