[By Prasanna Nara]
I was thirteen when my mother decided to take up a course in copywriting with an advertising agency. She always had a passion for writing and was finally able to pursue her lifelong dream now that her children were all grown up. Every other day she wore her best blouses and hurried to classes after sending me off to school. I remember feeling so happy that she finally had something else to do while my siblings and I were away at school. However, she was also becoming increasingly stressed with her workload – not to mention the fact that she still did not know how to use a computer.
“Prasanna!” she would scream, “How do I put a document into my email?”
“Mum, you have to save it first then attach it into your email,” I explained as calmly as I could.
She stared blankly at me. Oh gosh, I thought to myself, I am going to have to give her a course in ICT too. I spent a few hours every day with my mother teaching her basic computing skills. There were many fights, laughs and heart-to-heart conversations. She would tell me all about copywriting and what she learned from her classes. The more I listened, the more I began to feel fascinated with the advertising world and everything that went into producing a single advertisement.
A year later, my mother “graduated” from her short course and started applying for copywriting jobs. She worked for interesting clients such as Nestle and boring ones that mostly consisted of housing projects. When she was out of ideas, she would ask me to help her out and together we’d come up with wacky and creative taglines. Meanwhile, I couldn’t get the concept of advertising out of my head. I loved the idea of creatively persuading someone, directly or indirectly, to purchase a product or subscribe to a service. It was pure genius, and I wanted to be a part of it. I paid closer attention to all sorts of advertisements I came across in mainstream media as well as online media.
After taking my first class in Mass Communication, I was sure that I’d love to pursue a career in advertising. I felt like Alice exploring “Wonderland” for the first time, full of curiosity and excitement. It became a burning passion of mine to analyse advertisements. I looked closely into what the copywriters really meant, what sort of approach they were taking and who they meant to target. I compared our local advertisements with international ones. Perhaps Malaysian advertisers were more controlled in creativity because of political and religious restrictions. Perhaps some of the advertisements were annoying or controversial on purpose so that the public would talk about them. Just the mention of advertising would set me off on a tangent and get me rambling.
Leo Burnett once said “Good advertising does not just circulate information. It penetrates the public mind with desires and belief.” Many people have the misconception that advertising is purely displaying facts and information about a particular product or service. Others might also say advertising is a way of cheating consumers into buying something that they don’t need. I fell in love with advertising because people in this creative field take so much into account before producing a single brochure or pamphlet. Psychology, politics, business and economics are all considered before the release of an advertisement; these factors are just hidden beneath all the creativity. What the public do not realise is that the subconscious effect of advertising is the reason that they have subscribed to ASTRO and buy their children Koko Krunch.
To me, being an advertiser is like being a ninja in the real world. I want to push the limits of creativity and make people see things differently. I want to show my fellow Malaysians that advertising is not just a visual you see on a billboard, but something that influences our perceptions and can make a change.