Originality in Yemeni Advertising [Archives:1998/33/Culture]

August 17 1998

So you want to plunge into the 21st century. In fact, you want to join the leading edge of the 21st century civilization through the mind-boggling art of advertisement. But, you work in Yemen – a primitive environment where half the people are illiterate.
You want to announce your services and products. The modern ways, like advertising in the Yemen Times does not really help, if you want to reach out to the masses. You have to have new ingenious ways.
Yemenis have always found novel solutions to their needs. Now, they have proven it once again, through the special ways and means they advertise for their products and services. It is new, it is distinguished, it is effective.
Uniquely Yemeni:
Abdullah repairs tyre puncture. He has a small place on Taiz road. Nobody can see his little shop, or know about his service, if it were not for the pile of old car tubes and tyres he has put in front of his shop.
Ali changes your car’s oil. He has a small place on the outer ring road, towards Asir. It would be hard to spot his little shop, had it not been for the string of empty oil cans he hangs in front of his shop.
Ibrahim has a place for fixing kamarriyahs. These are beautiful color glass windows. He leaves quite a few of his specimen and models in front of the shop to interest potential customers to look at.
Abdul-Karim sells water tanks. Now, he puts some water tanks on the road. He often fills them with something, lest someone should carry them away, without paying, that is.
Mohammed owns a grocery place. He sells mainly fruits and vegetables on Zira’a Street. He spends a few hours everyday, lining up the apples, oranges, peaches, grapes, etc. on display boxes outside his shop. You can’t miss them as you drive by. In fact, the assortment and color arrangement is an incentive for you to stop and buy a few. He does not mind if you pick from the display boxes, he will go back to fill the missing slots.
The scene is repeated time after time, and it covers many sectors and fields.
All over the world, advertising is a way of communication which offers many benefits to producers and customers alike. As the need for advertising grows more and more, we see many agencies that have started business. They develop techniques of making advertisments. Making adverts is a growing business whether it is on television, newspapers, radio, pamphlets, street signs, placards, and many other tools. Most of these are still not effective in Yemen. Besides, the costs are enormous for little shops and artisans.
While this Yemeni style advertisement works, it does have some drawbacks. Let me list some.
1) First and foremost, the artisan or shop-owner actually occupies part of the street for his exhibition. This means that pedestrian do not have enough room left to walk. Sometimes, the room left even for cars is limited.
2) If the display is for foodstuffs, exposing them to dust, rain, and other factors is not a good thing. Health hazards are even more serious when vendors sell things like sandwiches, sweets and other edibles.
3) Municipal authorities also complain because such use of space is neither paid for nor legal.
As our country moves to live by the same norms and rules of other nations, such phenomena will be less and less frequently seen. But I suppose they will be with for the next couple of decades.
Concluding, I have to admit that the phenomenon dealt with above reflects these two observations:
1) The creativity of the Yemenis.
2) The inefficacy of laws in Yemen.
By Nadwa Yunis,
Yemen Times