Business, Industry

Guyana’s ugly ads need fixing.

So you have a business and you advertise. You, or perhaps your ad agency, designs something that looks like 'a set of words and pictures thrown into a square box on a page'. But that’s ok. You then spend good money to print it for all Guyana to see, only to have few or no one respond to your offer. What gives?

You are suffering from a classic case of ugly advertising my friend. The kind that never sells but only compels your customer to turn the page. Leaving them open to the other guy's sales leads.

Ask for some advice, I'll give it. Send me specific questions, if you feel your advertising could do with a face lift. This is no time to be lazy. Do something. You're loosing customers and paying to do so, every time you publish one of those ugly ads in Guyana's newspapers.


51 thoughts on “Guyana’s ugly ads need fixing.”

  1. Indeed ugly advertising is rapidly becoming chronic in Guyana.
    This is a positive step to open discussions and possibly lead to a greater understanding and apprecation of international advertising/marketing standards.

  2. The thoughtlessness that is being shoved to the Guyanese nation under the guise of advertising is not only reprehensible but galling. The entire sham that is the advertising profession needs to be burned to ashes then completely rebuilt by qualified individuals with sense, imagination and integrity.

  3. I partially agree Guyana Media Critic. Spare a few, the majority of Guyana’s advertising industry is a sham and probably deserves your proposed ‘burning to ashes’ approach. But sadly such lofty methods are not realistic. The guilty agencies will not just close down because a few activists kick-up online.

    The more effective approach would be to edify the businesses that contract them. Equip them with a real means of demanding better. That way, the agencies are forced to reform. Creating a place for the more competent individuals you speak of.

    As for now, a few of those individuals exist. But there's really no place for them in this crap infested industry that only wants crap.

  4. Best wishes on your equally lofty campaign. Burning every ad agency in Guyana may be more acheivable. Nevertheless one cannot disagree with you that the mindset – cheap, backward and skimpish – is what needs urgent revamping. it is an unenviable task that only the brave should attempt.

    There are a few companies, too few for satisfaction, which insist on decency but even decency is not good enough anymore. Those few ought to be commended, the rest who gravitate and support the crap need to be reprimanded with scorn.

    Again, best wishes in your campaign.

  5. Ha ha ha! Tell you what Guyana Media Critic? I'll cut you a deal! Let's try my lofty campaign first. If it proves to be lofty indeed, then we'll try yours. Together, we're bound to cause atleast a ripple, huh?

    Can't thank you enough for your wishes. Believe me I know, I'll need it.

  6. Not me darling. I dont have enough hours in the day to enjoy my coconut water in my hammock as I watch the sun bask over then set on the Essequibo.

    Why would I want to disrupt such brilliant peacefulness for advertising crap?

    I’ll save some cocnut water for you when you’re over or when you would have succeeded.

    Enjoy your campaign and tarry on bravely dear soldier.

  7. My two cents are two suggestions for improvement. They should perhaps best be attempted by the appropriate faculty at UG (or perhaps it is something that a publication like the Guyana Review can attempt).

    1. Advertising surveys – which ads are worth their salt in the mind of the end user?
    2. Media surveys – who watches what when?

    If we can have a reliable source that can provide that sort of information at least twice a year we would be well on our way. It would rule out completely some of those shambolic outfits parading as media houses from getting any ads whatsoever and rule out some of those equalling shambolic ad agencies from getting any contracts whatsoever.

  8. Thought you’d opt for the laid back alternative Guyana Media Critic. Most folks I know are smart enough to do the same. Trust me to be the stubborn one.

    Excellent suggestion! Research is definitely an area I intended to address. The need for it has come up countless times during discussions with companies. But most entities back-down when they hear how costly it is.

    It definitely has to be subsidized by someone or something. Maybe even the Stats Bureau could be influenced to establish a special department dedicated to spiting out reports twice a year. I wonder if they have it in them… hmm.

    Make sure you stick my coconut water in the refrigerator Chief! Changes are it’ll run sour by the time I’m done here.

  9. It’s much deeper than just ugly advertising. Many times the agencies hands are tied. They action excatly what clients want, and within low budgets. And the other issue not mentioned that is deeper, the message contained in the ad. Does it speak to the people it’s intended for. That is a function of the Advertiser knowing their not the agency. I’m not defending the agencies, however the advertising component can only be as good as the client demands it to be and is dependent on how much they are willing to spend.

  10. Anand wrote: “Does it speak to the people it’s intended for. That is a function of the Advertiser knowing their not the agency.”

    Now anyone who does not recognize that that is a load of crap has no business anywhere near advertising. If the agency does not know what the target group is what the hell are they in the business for. The agency HAS TO BE ABLE to determine what the target group is WHETHER OR NOT it is so advised by the advertiser.

  11. Media Critic, you have it backward. The advertiser has to determine their target market and educate their agency on it. The agencies are not mind readers. And you may be speaking about full service agencies that have that kind of data. That is not the case in Guyana. There are no truly full service agencies here.

  12. Further, that kind of service requires capital, the majority of guyanses companies simply don’t have that kind of cash flow to drill down to those details. Sad though that may be.

  13. Knowing your target market means knowing their likes, dislikes, age/ race demographics, where they live, how they make buying decsisions etc. This kind of data is readily available for purchase in many countries, but not here in Guyana. No such definitive studies are available here. My company had to contract an agency locally to conduct some of these studies for some of our brands, and they had to import the skill to get it done. Added to that the cost was in excess of G$2.5 million (USD$12,500.00). We were prepared to expend that money, the majority of companies here are not.

  14. I agree with Anand in both cases:

    • There are many instances where uneducated or unenlightened companies tell their agencies exactly what they want. And it so happens that sometimes they ask for crap

    • Also, brand positioning and the like requires a great deal of input from the advertisers (it’s their product they should have some idea who they want to sell it to)
    Alternatively, the agency can be commissioned to undertake market research that would guide the advertisers, if they are unsure, of the most profittable position and media.

  15. You guys are misreading what appears to be your own profession. You seem to be completely out of touch with the realities of your profession.

    For the most part advertisers in Guyana HAVE NO CLUE!

    GET WITH IT CHAPS! You as the agency have to do EVERYTHING (call it full service if you want) but do not expect Mr. Prakash from his Regent St store to turn up and your agency and know who he is targetting. He has NO CLUE boys!

    You have to do that for him. You have to provide the service. In fact you ought to provide the full service at the regular fee and then work to create the culture which can then be changed once there is the realization of the need for advertising.

    If you don’t then you will continue to run ramshackle organizations that continue to complain that advertisers DO NOT understand. That’s where Sharon has one up on you, she is willing to give it a go. You want to have change drop out of God’s lap and onto yours. The world does not work that way boys, learn and learn fast.

  16. GMC:
    My comments do not refer to Mr. Prakask from Regent St. that selling 2 yards of polyester.
    All he wants is an ad that says “Come an’ buy from me, I gat cloth fuh sell – $5 fuh a yard!!”
    And in his case he has only budgetted $20 for his “ad”.

    I am talking about companies with that would require this kind of research, for example, a beverage company would require proper research so they can effectively market their product to the customers most likely to make the purchase.

  17. Media Critic, I think it is you that cannot grasp the reality of the advertiser/agency relationship. Your comment ” YOU AS THE AGENCY HAS TO DO EVERYTHING” is erroneous and has absolutely no basis in reality. The agency works according to the advertisers budget, and what they want not what the agency “THINKS THEY WANT” otherwise that agency would be out of clients real fast. What you are advocating goes against the very tenet of the profession. “ascertain the needs of your customers and work to meet or exceed those needs”
    You seem to be going at this prob as one that stems from the agency, it does not in isolation. And no-one disputes that advertisers do not understand in fact that is central to my argument all along. However you GMC must understand that kind of knowledge comes at a cost and in guyana at a very high cost, one out of reach of most advertisers. Agencies cannot outlay capital to do these studies and then hope to sell it to their clients later, they would never be able to recoup the costs. Their is a big difference between the IDEAL and the reality. Suer we work to the idealk, but in a realistic way. And I agree this site can go along way to achieveing that, but the TARGET of this site has to be advertisers not the agencies. And I think that’s just Sharon’s intention here.

  18. GMC actually there has been one case that I am aware of where a local agency tried to do one of these studies on their own. I believe it was about 5 yrs ago. They then had to recoup the costs, they tried to sell the results, and were very unsuccessful. They lost alot of money on that attempt. Needless to say they won’t repeat that excercise. The Advertisers will now have to be prepared to foot the bill in advance for any such information. How many in Guyana do you think would be prepared to pay the associated costs for that info? And is our market diverse enough to warrant such studies?

  19. Anand, on your # 9 comment in particular:
    You are quite right that sometimes the agencies hands are tied. They work with clients who want to pay cents when the campaign requires dollars. But my argument is that of ‘concept’.

    The way I see it, there’s absolutely no excuse for ads that lack basic creativity and decent design. That’s a standard every agency in Guyana ought to have for themselves as professionals. Refusing to lower it, come what may. In the interest of good branding practices and their own dignity.

    There are effective alternatives for clients who do not have a large budget. Alternatives like direct marketing, strategic alliances and public relations. Agencies need to think outside the box and suggest these to them. But they seldom do.

    On your # 17 and the rest following:
    Again you’re managed to reflect the true picture. Everyone needs the research data but simply cannot afford it/refuse to buy it. Most of the time agency media planners (especially the inexperienced ones) just shoot blindly when booking space, based upon the simple assumption that ‘we have these media outlets and the best way to get through is to advertise on all. The outcome: The poor client pays through his ribs without reason.

    :: Lesson: There are effective alternatives for those who do not have a large budget. Alternatives like direct marketing, strategic alliances and public relations. Explore them.

    :: Lesson: Discuss your media schedule’s content with your agency. Question why they’re advertising on particular programs.

    It also helps to talk to a few people in the range of your target group. Ask them which programs they watch. What times they listen to the radio? Do they even read the newspapers? That sort of thing. You’d be surprised how much you will pick-up in the absence of hard research data.

    And please for goodness sakes, don’t advertise with every John Blow that has a call in program. Regardless of whether he’s a friend, or a friend of a friend. You’re wasting money in the majority of cases.

  20. Oh those call in programs. How many more music request/greeting programs can the guyanese TV diet take? Are they really that popular is it that station owners are just filling space for revenue sake?

  21. Sharon said:- “The way I see it, there’s absolutely no excuse for ads that lack basic creativity and decent design. That’s a standard every agency in Guyana ought to have for themselves as professionals. Refusing to lower it, come what may. In the interest of good branding practices and their own dignity.”

    This is certainly an issue, however it comes back to revenue and how the agencies here operate. All the agencies except for two of them sub-contract graphic artists. There are many skill levels among the graphic artist community locally and associated fees. So when an advertiser comes to you with a budget the agency then has to subcontract the graphic work according to the budget. “you get what u pay for”. Then there is the other side of the coin. The mainstay income of most of the local agencies comes from the small stores that have small budgets. How do u reconcile an adhered standard and image with revenue that puts a roof over your family’s head and food on their table. I don’t disagree at all with you that standards should be adhered to. But here it boils down to revenue first standards later. LOL…….another local tradition…….lol

  22. Make no mistake, their are several local agencies that can and do produce very good work that is of an international standard. In fact I do all of my TV ads locally for broadcast in the wider Caribbean area. And they are all well recieved and class with any other commercial broadcast in those markets, but again they are very very very very costly to produce. Less costly than if I had them done abroad, but still far far above what would be economically feasible to broadcast just locally.

  23. Anand, I believe TV stations are filling in the blanks like you said. Fooling themselves that a lot of viewers seriously enjoy that sort of foolishness.

    Ohhh but correction: There are a few folks that actually do.
    But reality check advertisers: They ain’t got the money to buy the products you’re advertising. They’re too busy sitting at home twiddling their thumbs because they’re not smart enough to get jobs.
    :: I don’t mean that in a rude way John Public. I just had to be frank.

    I hear your point on “revenue first standards later” Anand. Indeed, another reality we cannot escape in this ‘third-world’ economy of ours.

    But I admit. If what I’m hoping to achieve is to happen, I’ll obviously have to start with the companies that are in the ‘third-world’ but brave enough to be beyond ‘third-world thinking’.

    It’s the only way we’ll tackle the issues without allowing the depression of our economic disease to infect you.

    :: Lesson: Viewers of most call in programs do not have the money to buy your products. Someone else makes their purchasing decision. Target them.

  24. Well said Sharon well said. That is why I joined up when I got your email. Now is the time to start, it will be long, slow, but change is inevitable. And now is as good a time as any to get the ball rolling and people thinking differently. I’m looking forward to developments on this site. It really is an excellent concept you have.

  25. Sharon:
    I agree with most of your comments, but I don’t think we should get ‘bad talking’ the viewers that are watching call in programmes or any programme for that matter. We all have our likes and dislikes.

    Also, that particular demographic do make purchaing decisions. They might not be buying cars and houses. But they are certainly buying lower priced items; beverages, some household products, clothing, etc.
    As you asked initially, lets keep it clean and focus on the isse at hand.

  26. OOh.. forgot.. the part with twiddling their thumbs.
    Lets not forget the current situation in Guyana. Not all of those peiople are twiddling their thumbs because they want to… Most of them out prefer to be working but jobs are not readily available to them.
    That is, unless they are willing to ‘watchman’ someone house in the night.
    Or better yet, Mr Prakash store on Regent Street

  27. Thank you again Anand. I’m hoping that fellow businesses welcome the initiative just as warmly. Good luck in your everyday dealings and promotional endeavors. As promised. I’ll keep you posted regularily.

  28. Michael that is partially true. Many poeple out there choose not to work because the remmittances they get from family abroad when converted is in most cases greater than they would earn in a month as a domestic, janitor, watchman or gardener. Remittances are not tracked as income or taxed here in Guyana. The Western Union figure is USD$600 million annually. And we have about 5 other remittance services locally. Family abroad have become an easy source of income for many, why work? why bother looking for a job. If they get a job, you can bet the “family abroad” will hear of it and reduce the amounts remitted.

  29. I appreciate your comment Micheal. But with all due regard, these non-working people are getting their money from somewhere else to make these purchases. When it comes to reaching the masses worth spending your advertising dollar on, it's smarter when relevant, to bank on those with a consistency of income. Valid point nontheless.

    And Mike, there's a clear line between idle bad mouthing and speaking of the realities objectively. I believe I've included the fine print stating my position.

    I like to be nice too but I'm not prepared to bull crap anyone just becuase it's the pleasant thing to do. People need to spend their ad dollars based upon sound realities.

  30. I rebutted 2 points.
    1. The generalization of people watching calling programmes as having NO purchasing power.
    • They HAVE purchasing power (whether or not they get money from overseas or from underseas)

    2. The generalisation of people watching calling programmes as not being smart enough to get jobs.
    • Considering the economic depression that Guyana is stuck in, it is unfair to speak in such a manner of these persons.
    • Many graduate from UG every year with degrees and diplomas and have no where to go to work.
    The larger companies in Guyana can only employ so many of them.
    So most of them are forced to accept jobs for which they are over qualified. There are many typist and clerks with Computer Science degrees; likewise, there are many accounts clerks with CAT and other such qualifications.

    At the end of the month when they collect their pittance from their employers – after paying for basic utilities and buy a week’s worth of groceries. They have nothing left and have to call Auntie Pam and ask for a raise.
    Let’s not forget Guyana is a third world country… which basically translates to mean that the people bruk!

  31. Where are all these qualified people you speak of Michael. My company like so may others that suffer from migration, have a very hard time finding people to replace these vacancies. Computer Science degree holders are in fact in short supply. Most of the computer qualifications posted in the hundreds of resumes I get are from the comp schools and deal with 6 week courses in word, excel and basic knowledge. Degree holders are a rarity. I have advertised for several vacancies and 99% of all CV’s that came in did not meet the qualifications that i needed and that’s more the norm. And those qualification minimums were clearly stated in the ad. Most students these days seem to be rushing to CAT or ACCA. In the coming years we’re going to have an abundance of accountants that is unless migration doesn’t claim them first.
    UG only offers 2yr diplomas in Marketing and I’ve paid for several of my staff to enrol only to learn the course material is subpar, and in many cases no longer relevant to the world we live in.

  32. Strange:
    all of the young people I’ve spoken with are crying out for jobs or lamenting over their current positions.

    Maybe i’ll forward some resumes to Sharon and Anand.

  33. Maybe you should Micheal. But remember, having a degree only, by no means, guarantees the success of anyone. Many of these youngsters are indisciplined. And they feel that a degree is all that’s required to make it big. This leads to their disappointing destiny.

    The quality of their degree also needs to be taken into consideration. Our country has clearly failed them in that regard.

    In summary, not all who have degrees are worth their salt to the businesses that hire them. Strong drive, true ability and readiness to work hard must go with it. Young people seem not to get that.

  34. I think we are straying away from the original topic discussion.. and more generalisations are jumping out…

    Lets go back to the top when we were talking about market research and things like that.

    You are making too many broad statments are people that you know very little about.
    Have you done ‘market research’ on these youngsters that you are bashing? What prcentage of them is indisciplined? What percentage are whatever?

    All I am saying is that I don’t think it is fair to throw out these statements.
    I was once at home, without a job. I didn’t twiddle my thumbs though..(not sure how to do it anyway)

  35. We only strayed away from the point temperorily because we were trying to facilitate your comments as you may notice Micheal.

    And as it relates to broad statements, we have to speak broadly because we’re not pointing out individuals here. You are also equally guilty of ‘broad’ statements if that’s what you’re calling them. You present your research and I’ll present mine – the volumes of business owners crying the same reports.

    And Micheal come on. You ought to realize by know that we’re not bashing anyone. Get off of that. We have nothing to gain from it.

    We are simply dealing candidly with factors that influence buying decisions (among a whole other load of irrelevant stuff you insist on bringing up).

    I’m really sorry about your experience when you were jobless. Most of us have them. We shouldn’t allow it to cloud our focus though. Let’s blog on once more about fixes for the ad industry, shall we?

  36. Guyana Gyal wrote: “And if the idea is sold properly to the client, he’ll buy it.”

    So clients are only MEN GG? See how perception kills reality?

    Anyways is allyuh fighting for equal rights, not me.

    Watch yuh words darling.

  37. Ah! This is the perfect example of how important it is, in advertising also, to avoid gender issues.

    Sexist language offends a large portion of the population. And you don’t sell to anyone when you get them angry at you. So it’s a point worth making.

    The days of the ‘advertising man’ and the ‘salesman’ is over! It’s now the ‘advertising professional’ and the ‘salesperson’.

    When your agency presents copy for your approval, be aware of these gender issues. Ask them to rewrite the ad in a way that comfortably allows ‘safe’ communication with your audience.

  38. It is where the work of professional communicologists are not respected. The average Tom, Dharaj and Harrynauth thinks he can write text and scripts for ads but it is a precise profession requiring specialist expertise, training and an immense awareness of social and cultural trends among a litany of other things.


  39. Guyana is a breathing heaven for unqualified copywriters. Every Dick and Harry writes ads.

    Insist on higher standards when it comes to your advertising. It makes the difference whether your ads sell or not. That crucial!

  40. i have recently entered this site and reading some of the backwards and forwards on quality advertising, research, media viewership, target audiences, budgets and everything that comes from or supposedly comes from an advertising agency. in guyana, we have lost all these necessities since the 70’s when there were about 5 advertising agencies. today there are in excess of 25-30 agencies doing what, god in heaven knows. everyone with a computer and graphic software is now a qualified agency. guyanese businessmen are fast asleep failing to realise that dog poop ads reflect on them being dog poop companies.
    i had returned to guyana in 1994, made an impact and phased it out eventually out of sheer disgust and frustration as advertising being treated as a “oh is de advertising agency calling, give he a lil ad fo do le we patronize he”

  41. Hahaha! Sorry to laugh Nicholas. But what you said was so funny… and also, so right.

    The root of our problem really stems from the lack of value many companies have for professional advertising practitioners and their efforts. Many corporations shun and belittle true creative work. Frustrating the good souls out of the business.

    That creates the heaven for the amateurs you speak of… spitting out ‘poop’, a dime a load.

    But I tell you Nicholas… you’re wrong about one thing. It’s changed now. It’s the amateurs who manage to have ‘the agencies’ and the professionals are sitting at their computers with the printer. Either starving for business or packing a suitcase to leave.

    In Guyana, it’s mediocrity and sub-standard advertising that has the demand. If you had the nerve to swallow your integrity as an advertising man and produce nonsense – you might have been rich!

    But if like me, you strongly believe they’re some things money can’t buy from you, you’d be saying the things you’re saying to me now.

    Hang in there.

  42. i really am not too sure that even the amateurs are making money. the problem is really many folded.
    first of all, when the best of ads are done most of the placements in the print media is a sight to behold. the agency is then caught between a rock and a hard place.
    second, the media commissions of 15% hardly covers the transportation in getting the ads, not to mention paying a media traffic staff.
    thirdly, with the absence of a retainer fee, the agency will more than likely fall on hard times sooner or later. the result? an agency will more than likely be faced with a conflict of interest situation and may well end up looking at other means that is totally away from advertising to help sustain the agency.
    fourthly, most guyanese business persons tend not to take their businesses too seriously. my case and point is that imported soft drinks and beer should have been made to work harder to get a share of the guyana market. if you look at the packaging for the imports, they are changed and upgraded ever so often while ours are still stagnated after all these years. maybe since i was born.
    things will have to change though, as a matter of fact i think there will be forced change as the money dwindles and there will be a fight for market space.
    after all these years, i was finally approached by a client to help in arriving at an advertising budget for a year, and where and when a higher portion of the budget be concentrated. afterall, its really a waste that the budget be spread or the advertising be agressive even in the known slow periods.

  43. In my opinion, CSME will be the turning point for Guyana. It will be a change or die situation. Businesses and agencies alike, will have no choice other than to raise the bar. It’s the only way they will compete in a real economy. In the real brand world that is coming.

    The smart businesses will start right now. Becuase they know to themselves that building an invincible brand never happens over night. It’s a journey of tiny steps – the right steps.

    Those that are far ahead will obviously stand a chance of being in the race. The rest just won’t qualify becuase they haven’t trained. Like the olympics really.

    Best of luck with your new client. Work with them and do amazing things!

  44. CSME could be a whole other conversation altogether. i read once that advertising and publis relations do not start and stop with an advertisement, commercial or media press release. part of the planning usually covers a whole host of other areas that usually are unrelated but linked. a manufacturer putting out a bad product with a wonderful advertising campaign will supr sales which will eventually die down to a trickle. guyanese are more than likely willing to use locally manufactured goods, but what happens; no research is done on the packaging, the quality of the product, the labelling, market testing etc. the boss likes it and that is that. in other words if you do not like it well dont buy it thats all. take for instance, what are we doing to counter the imported beer and drinks. not much, just complain. its easier.

  45. I believe we should continue to import foreign brands. But we need to import sensibly.

    A market that offers consumers a variety to choose from (both local and foreign goods), is the sort of market we ought to cultivate as a growing nation.

    What I do have a problem with though, is the manner in which our local products tend to promote themselves. Sloppy packaging, inconsistent quality, unreliable shelf-presence and a lack of the basic consumer research you speak of Nicholas. That’s where we need to shape up… and shape up fast.

    As manufacturers and business people, we need to learn how to compete with ‘real brands’ (which happen to be the foreign ones for now), in the real ‘brand world’. We won’t get that level of exposure if we don’t import to some degree and battle for market share.

    Then, during battle, if we can chalk-up some medals like real soldiers, setting aside our substandard practices and lazy sobbing, we’ll be able to successfully compete on our local shelves, as well as the international ones. Leading to the improved economy we only seem to dream about.

  46. As to the link between a product, it’s advertising, public relations and the lot, indeed… what you’ve read is true. They are all connected though different in their mechanics.

    What connects them should be a common aim – to sell a single ‘brand’. If that single brand image happens to be squared and orange, customers will recognize it when it’s squared and orange. If that brand’s personality is vibrant, fun and helpful, then every single advertising message and public event should be designed to reflect these characteristics.

    That’s where the skill of good advertising, marketing and PR comes in. Professionals are able to remain highly creative within the confines of strong brand values while amateurs will struggle or abolish the brand’s values all together. Watering-down the brand’s impact with mixed messages, inconsistent visuals and total chaos really… as long as ‘the boss likes it’.

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