Advertising and politics have so much in common that it is scary. Whereas advertising is an openly sponsored, non-personal message to promote or sell a product, service, or idea; politics is the process of making decisions that apply to members of a group. Not much common there, you may argue, but things become clearer once we stop analysing them from a purely academic standpoint. We all know advertising is not about satiating needs but initiating wants. For instance “Maybe She’s Born With It, Maybe It’s Maybelline” by Maybelline, “A Diamond is Forever” by De Beers, and “Eat Fresh” by Subway. Therefore a great advertising campaign not only helps position the brand, but also creates an image of superiority in the minds of the public, all the while instigating a “gotta have it” feeling. We also know politics is about finding what people want and turning it into a need. Roti, Kapra aur Makan promised by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto during his 1970 campaign, “Read My Lips, No New Taxes” promised by George H. W. Bush in 1988 and the pledge for “Change” by Barrack Obama in 2008 are a few examples. A great political campaign not only covertly or overtly, seeks to influence decision-making, but also attempts to create an image that the politicians are problem-solvers and that “everything is possible” under their tenure. Both advertising and politics are multibillion-dollar ‘industries’ — some call politics a “multibillion dollar racket” — both aim to influence people’s choices through clever wordplay, both invest heavily on calls to action, and both refer to what they do to achieve their goals as a campaign. But the similarities don’t end there. Every great advertising campaign and each exceptional political campaign share some key marketing elements, five of which are as following: First, fear is their favourite weapon, so they wield it freely to paralyse us: don’t go into the sun without putting this cream on or you’re skin will darken, only use this soap to wash your hands or you will be exposed to deadly germs! When it comes to politics, the same strategies are deployed: vote for us or risk losing your sovereignty, vote for us or the economy will suffer, vote for us or risk being governed by looters. Fear helps start wars and fuel them, but does fear ever help win wars? Only if your enemies are scared of you, and sometimes even your allies. Politics is about finding what people want and turning it into a need. Roti, Kapra aur Makan promised by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto during his 1970 campaign, “Read My Lips, No New Taxes” promised by George H. W. Bush in 1988 and the pledge for “Change” by Barrack Obama in 2008 are some of the few examples Second, each advertising campaign employs the ‘you’ attitude: it’s important for you to use this cooking oil so you can remain healthy, whatever we do we do it for you, if we don’t have it you don’t want it. By convincing us that the business is offering their products at throwaway prices and that they have nothing else to gain but a better life for us, businesses thrive. And this includes the business of politics. Hence the only reason politicians are running pillar to post is because they are worried about ‘you’: we want you to have clean drinking water, we want you to have un-cumbersome access to justice, or we want your children to be educated. All we need for you to do is to put us in power, they seem to be insinuating. Maybe Charlie Chaplin had the politicians figured out when he said, “You need power only when you want to do something harmful, otherwise love is enough to get everything done.” Third, what makes an advertising campaign more engaging are the discounts: 15 percent off on entire stock, up to 50percent off, sale sale sale. It seems they’re out to make us believe that if we miss out on this chance, we will never get a similar one again. In politics they’re always offering discounts but we don’t notice as they’re always only offering them to their own: be it Meesaq-e-Jamhooriat, National Reconciliation Ordinance, or NAB’s plea bargain, they’re all forms of discounts offered by politicians-in-office to politicians-not-in-the-office so the latter remembers the good turn when they’re in office. Fourth, to be a memorable advertising campaign, it must offer “double dhamakas”: buy one get one free (or BOGO), buy two for the price of one, buy three and the fourth one is on us. Of course the price has been raised — or adjusted — on the ‘payable’ items and we’re somehow paying for the free item too, but as long as the business says it’s free and we believe them, all is good. Similarly a political worker will launch their kith and kin with great fanfare as if he’s offering a sacrifice to the gods. Hence if we vote for one party, we not only get the leader of that party but also his sons, his daughters, his wives, his brothers, his nephews, his nieces ‘for free’, Of course they’re there to serve us. And they will insist upon serving us. Whether we like it or not! All industrialisation hinges upon the capacity-and propensity-of humans to dream. More often than not it’s the industrialist’s dream to make it big while minions work tirelessly to achieve what they think is their dream. If you’re a dreamer, you’re in luck as everyone is out to sell you one. Likewise, a great political campaign weaves a dream and ensnares the voters to be an active part of that dream. The more primal the dream, the more voters a campaign will win; “Make America Great Again” beseeched Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump, “Sub Say Pehlay Pakistan” promised Pervez Musharraf. A dream gives voters something to admire, while the government takes care of its “investors.” Everyone is out to sell us their ‘product’ and we can’t help but buy it. They are in the business of selling dreams and we are the consumers. I believe it is high time we redefined politics as the following: politics is a covertly sponsored, overtly shameless, stilted message, designed to hard sell an impractical idea that the people still buy, as all other options have been eliminated by a glib politician. The writer has been writing for screen, page, and stage for 18 years. When he isn’t writing, he’s learning. He tweets @Jawwaddaud Published in Daily Times, September 24th 2018.