A night out with Mr Cuervo
So the other day I was at this party.
You know… one of those random parties where a cocktail of nationalities and industries mingle polite conversation with dashes of need-to-know gossip. The kind of party that can either be the toast of the Dubai social calendar or fizzle out into a number of sub parties that, at best, leave you talking to the same people you showed up with. This particular party was working out quite nicely, so credit to ‘Dermondt’ the party liaison.
I was chatting to a fellow ad man about industry salaries or how certain campaigns registered on the crap-o-meter and how certain campaigns that were labelled as crap weren’t as crappy as everyone made out, when I was cut off mid-sentence by the kind of entrance that would put Jack Nicholson axing his way through a door of the Overlook Hotel and shrieking ‘Here’s Johnny!’ to shame.
There was nothing particularly ‘ownable’ about the character who’d just walked through the door other than his lack of ‘ownability’. He oozed effortless pretension, his smile exuded an aura of dishonesty, his perfectly styled hair looked like his GQ library was full of torn out pages he used as references during his frequent visits to Tony & Guy. His clothes and shoes inspired a new model of fashion retail whereby you give window mannequins names allowing customer to stroll into a store and try on an ‘Exclusive Youseef’ or ‘Bad Boy Roy’ (fragrance included). Though I was sure I’d never seen him before, something seemed familiar.
He began sauntering through the room, hugging people who I was pretty damn sure didn’t have a clue who he was. His handshakes alternated depending on who he was saying hi to, from the basic hand-to-hand all the way to the African American right shoulder to right shoulder brotherly love embrace. He interrupted three ladies in the middle of their conversation to deliver all-round compliments so impeccably executed his mirror must have shot itself.
And I was up next. I braced myself and crossed my fingers in hope that this was not going to be a time defying activity, where seconds suspend brevity.
‘Yo!’ he smiles. Ok, interesting segmentation, I guess it may be my loose jeans.
‘Hi, how are you?’ I politely respond.
‘Fine, fine…I know you!’ he confidently declares.
‘Here we go’ I think to myself.
Thus begins the name-throwing guessing game. On the 6th round of ‘do you know’ my phone rings ever so expediently. Our conversation ends there. As the night continues, no matter where in the relatively spacious 2 bedroom Barsha apartment I am, his voice carries ubiquitously in the background. Most of his sentences kick off with an ‘I’, though on one occasion I did hear a name (perhaps a reference to himself in the third person?).
Toward the end of the night, as the tequila kicked in, the revelation struck! I knew who he was – He was to me what water is to a fish, and that’s probably why I couldn’t recognize him. He is everywhere, all around me; I hear and see him constantly, a hundred times a day…he is bad advertising.
He is the advertising that thinks it knows me and as a result categorizes me. He is the multiple and contradictory face of corporations with no identity, talking to different categories with affected sensitivity. He is that condescending barrage of mindless compliments that leave you yearning for a phlegmy cold. He is the impeccable packaging that roots itself in the ever-changing zeitgeist of the ‘now’, the packaging that masquerades in post modernistic values like individualism and freedom while standing for nothing short of the contrary- conformity. He is the hypocrisy of a personal message in an impersonal manner, the tedious advertising that made heroes of the inventors of TIVO and DVR. Finally, he is the advertising that enormously overestimates the role it plays in people’s lives…
So, despite the next day’s hangover, I have tequila to thank for two things: First, for sparking my revelation. And second but more importantly, for speeding up the inevitable response to bad advertising-helping me forget.