Advertising not for the Public Good [Archives:2000/04/Focus]

January 24 2000

Common Sense
By: Hassan Al-Haifi
“Look at all that garbage that has been put on our streets. Everywhere you look there is an advertisement that haunts your eyes as you try to find some scenery that will appeal to your taste”, said the passenger as he boarded the mini-bus on the Sixty Meter Road intersection with Hadda Street.
Another wiry passenger who boarded before him said: “Why you can’t even see the mini-busses anymore in the streets because your view is blocked by these ugly posters that have come to cover just about every space of view there is in the capital city.”
“Drink this! Eat this! Wipe your nose with this! All along the city streets that is all one sees. In fact there is no more horizon left in the city and visibility has been reduced to a couple of meters only by these ugly posters that have occupied every ground, wall and air space”, said one of the two students who interrupted their discussion on the horrors of the blackboard jungle to talk about another horror that has overtaken the city.
The last riding passenger continued, “From all the advertising that one is finding on the streets of Sana’a, one would think that the city is the biggest market place in the world. Never has so much ugliness smeared the streets of any metropolis. Imagine the pains this brings to the thousands of poor people who are looking at those sumptuous meals in these ugly posters when all they can eat only comes from the leftovers that the affluent have filled the city’s overfilled garbage bins. In fact it seems that our city was destined to become the abode for all kinds of garbage, whether leftovers or advertising garbage”.

The mini-bus driver adjusted the mirror after the departing obese passenger literally rolled out of the front passenger seat of the mini-bus, and expressed a sigh of relief at the departure of this overweight regular passenger of this mini-bus. The poor guy has contracted with this mini-bus driver to come and pick him up daily from the Endowment Government Offices just across from the UNDP office. The passenger had always knocked the mirror as he struggled to find the fare for the ride from his tight clothing. The driver expressed a sigh of relief at the departure of this passenger at the Mujahid Street intersection with Hadda Road: “I do not know why I always get stuck with the most difficult passengers. I felt sorry for the guy as I saw him always being rejected by the other bus drivers because of his weight. I decided to accept his offer to double the fare if I would pick him up daily during the workweek at 3:00 PM for the front seat. I thought, ‘well what the heck, if it guaranteed one passenger a day and it is along my route’. Little did I know the awesome difficulties of carrying so much weight. He displaces the rear view mirror at least five times during the ride with his head. His perspiration literally fumigates the air, adding to the awful smell of all the garbage found in the streets. His breath always reeks of onions or garlic. God knows how many onions the guy eats! I suggested to him to reduce the intake of onions. But he protested vigorously, on the grounds that onions and garlic are medicinal foods! In fact his pockets always contained at least one oversize onion and at least three garlic bulbs. On top of that, there is the problem of shifting gears when this guy is on board.
Because of him, I loose at least three passengers, who refuse to get on when the perspiration odor hits their nostrils.””Look pal, there is nothing that the City Secretariat could do about the problem you have with this passenger”, said the advertising complaint passenger, continuing, “but one would think that the capital municipality could at least not hurt our sense of sight by this ugly smear of our airspace. Wherever you turn your view is blocked by a poster or an oversize can of powdered milk, that can meet the milk needs of a family of five for ten years! It is hard even to tell what the weather picture looks like any more, as every time you want to see the sky in the horizon, you wind up seeing a naked infant with a fluffy diaper and his bare chest, stating that ‘not even Tarzan had it so good!'”.
The driver also remarked: “For us the problem is those ugly posters that are found in glass cases in the middle of the streets. The reflected car lights from those cases at night are driving hazard at nights, especially in rainy days. They also block the view of pedestrians behind them who may at any moment jump into the paved road and then you have a dead or injured passenger under you. I tell you those people at the Capital Secretariat have no idea that they have become accomplices in half the traffic accidents in the city! The other half of the accidents are caused by poorly cleaned or maintained cars, which the city municipality should prevent from being on the streets. We have often tried to convince the traffic police of the hazards of these ugly advertisements, but they state that the Capital Secretariat uses the money from these advertisements for the clean up of the city. What a joke! I have not seen Sana’a clean in over ten years!”
One of the students said, after managing to get his books in stacked order after the rubber band that was holding them broke, because they were beyond what the rubber band was able to hold together: My father always spoke of how Sana’a was once the cleanest and most environmentally pure metropolis in the world, twenty years ago. Even despite the simple make up of the municipality structure then, and the relatively simple means at the disposal of those in charge of the city, the city had no garbage heaping up all over the streets of the city. The city trees did not have thousands of plastic bags hanging like fabricated fruit on them. There was absolutely no sign of this ugly commercial trash that has plagued the skyline of the city. Of course there was no problem of obesity either as people only ate just enough to keep their bodies going, not stagnant as our last passenger was.”The other student, feeling sorry for his friend, passed an extra book strap he kept as a back up strap for his books to his friend and helped him tie his books together. He then said: ‘I am glad that the country side is still not smeared by the ugliness that has filled Sana’a’s streets and walls. In fact, every time we go back to the village, we make sure to knock down every advertising poster that is on the road, especially near our village. When the people ask us why we do this, we just tell them that we only come here to escape all the ugliness that has smeared Sana’a by all these posters.”The guy who began all this talk about advertising posters commented: “The worst part of this all is that the pedestrians are finding that whatever little sidewalks they used to have now have been blocked by the oversized pipes and columns that hold these ugly advertisements on. Look at those poor pedestrians trying to find space to trod as they try to get from here to there. On top of that, street intersections can now only hold two pedestrians at one time trying to cross the street because of the limited space left by these ugly posters.”The problem really entails the poor taste that has overtaken the City Secretariat in letting this advertising fever get out of hand. What good is putting all this garbage in the city walls and grounds, when people are hit with such difficult economic conditions.” That was the statement of the passenger who replaced the obese passenger picked up one block later.
“I say the residents of the city of Sana’a should all sign a petition demanding that the Capital Secretariat remove and cease this ugly smear of our airspace within one month or else they will be all subject to destruction by the city dwellers”, said the student who is now happy after his friend has solved his problem of keeping his textbooks and notebooks together. He continued, “Nothing will make the school kids happier, after they have already destroyed half the schools in the city and ran out of things to destroy in the schools, then to be to hit the city advertising trash, where they will find sufficient enough material to destroy in order to let off some steam from the pressure brought on them by the poor conditions of their schools.”