December 26, 2005

Jordanian English “Life Style” Magazines: Elitism manifested, deluded & superimposed!

When I sample through such magazines, I immediately imagine an English single mother dating a Frenchman with a troubled sex life and a financial leverage to drink tea at the Dorchester hotel in London, in contrast with the profile of their potential readers from Jordan’s upper spheres!

First of all, why are they in English? I feel the big “I am Hypocrite” superscript floating on top of me right now since I am blogging in English, yet I still don’t get it, many magazines around the world are specialty magazines with limited readership that targets a limited specifically-interested niche willing to pay a premium for a magazine that wobbles about the bizarre interest they may have, and I know for sure that there’re business that exploits such interests whom are willing to pay a premium to advertise on these specialty magazines…. Nothing wrong with that (in terms of business)

But this is not the case with “life style” magazines; by definition they should be generic, variant and diverse in essence, as the sum of its material and editorials should have the widest circulation and appeal possible! So how could this be the case when the first thing such magazines do is minimizing their readership circle to the English-speaking niche only!

Perhaps they publish in English in order to "reach out" to the assumed-to-exist like-minded mindsets? and I ask; since when does mentalities can be profiled based on language?

They might be profitable for some awkward reason that mostly has to do with the conjured dynamics of the Jordanian marketplace… but definitely they have no clue who are they selling their magazines for and who's reading it.

I still feel mystified whenever I have the opportunity to vigilantly read through these magazines (frankly to avoid obscene imagery) as I am not sure who are they targeting? Just for once, I would like to plot a pattern of potential readers that fit a certain trend in our Jordanian society that can be identified by the publishers as a potential customer?

I feel disgusted every time I quote glimpse of the disgraceful publication “Layalina”, though I applaud the way they have conceptualized the magazine and how it gained steady foot in the market, the people behind it obviously did their homework, they identified a paying niche that would like to see people and be seen with people around town, and envisaged a magazine that fits their level of intelligence and involvement; minimum reading and maximum visual stimulus at a rather small premium with lots of potential advertisers! Later on, the poor "Layalina" punters are now paying to get their pictures floated on it while the magazine itself is being franchised around the region… a fine entrepreneurship example... alas in the wrong direction.


But the case of “Layalina” is solid even in the face of a fundamentalist like myself, I can confront its editors and ask them “Who reads your magazine?” and they’ll have an answer ready for me; I’ll give away my new car for anyone who can concisely outline the profile of the potential, say “Luxury” or “living well” magazines readers without referring to the fact that they have money to fork around on pointless publications!

Then comes the issue of content: The etiquettes of eating deserts? How to dump your boyfriend painlessly? 10 ways to enhance your sex life? 54 ways to know that he was cheating? Things to consider before buying a Yacht? How to get over an affair? Choosing the perfect Cigar to go with your cocktail party?… Oh’please… where do they think we're living at, my stomach is aching!

Thier professoinal look and feel, and the high caliber writing they may sport is not in question here, it just doesn’t make sense, which part of our culture do these magazines represent? What background do they come from? Do they reflect our reality as a whole society or just samples of unique individuals or phenomenas from it, or perhaps a mere imaginary society that is assumed to exist in the superb of Amman?

Why can’t they address serious issues rather than mimicking editorials and superimposing them upon the helpless niche that barely understand proper English yet alone to comprehend what it means to have a genuine “life style” in the first place?

Why can’t they tackle issues that are truly crippling the niche society they are targeting and the society as a whole: issues like the social inequality we live in, the surge in divorce rates, premarital sex, teenage pregnancies, insect sex, and tragic stories of gambling & alcohol poisoning… mind the cant-see-but-pure-evil rhetoric here

This might be too much to ask from a revenue seeking magazine, a publication full of such gibberish won’t sell for sure, but at least, when these magazines decide to get serious with their editorials, then at least they can pick issues and stories from our local environment!

At the end of this indiscriminate bash on a whole industry, I find myself obliged to credit “Jo” Magazine for they truly stand apart from its peers, despite the fact that they suffer from the same confused image they reflect, in general however; they exhibit sincerity, objectiveness and a professional editorial feel throughout the magazine, as they mostly seem focused on whom they’re targeting… I wish they do away with the semi/naked imagery and pointless articles!

December 25, 2005

A Speculation: MobileCom’s shy “Orange” rebranding!

I am a loyal MobileCom customer, though I do find myself skeptical of how they ran their business ever since they entered the market 5 years ago with a favorable duopoly that could have been better utilized to rapidly capture market share and block the polarization of the market to avoid creating a mammoth out of the first operator Fastlink!

Beside that, it seems they have finally understood the dynamics of the market despite their years of shameful financial performance and ridicule market penetration, a bit latent perhaps; but in no contrast to Fastlink's practice, who only realized the true potential of the market when it felt the nearing of competition, which proved to be impotent at the time!

It is no secret, MobileCom is JT’s baby, and JT is France telecom adopted baby, the latter have many operations around the world, and most of it’s mobile networks are branded as “Orange”, a brand that originated in the UK.

For the past two years, I was aware that MobileCom was enjoying a degree of technical backing from France Telecom through its Mobile arm “Orange”, especially with the entrance of XPress as a new player in the local market with incomparable set of technological credentials, as they tried to patch up a service similar to the latter’s push-to-talk offering...

But only recently did it become apparent that Orange is now influencing MobileCom in terms of marketing and branding!

MobileCom website had a recent facelift, and not surprisingly, it used the exact template used by most Orange websites around the world (there are 15+ of them). And despite the different tone of the color orange that is used in the coloring scheme, everything else is almost identical…

Enter their running ad campaigns, they have standardized the use of black background and a certain font and layout that are also consistent with Orange branding throughout their operations around the world. My speculation would be that MobileCom are in the middle of a shy rebranding, perhaps in the coming months they’ll boost the tone of the orange color to match Orange’s distinct level, and later use the same packaging style, price-plans structures dictated by Orange until the switchover becomes a matter of a mere overnight logo swap -almost.

The benefits will be that MobileCom will enjoy the powerful synergy stemming from the utilization of an international brand (perhaps mobile content blah blah), and enhance their market penetration and segmentation capabilities.

On the down side, it’ll definitely loose its local feel as a Jordanian operator, as well as the perpetuating benefit for being the first to dedicate a portion of its resources to offer tailored packages to the service men and women of the Armed forces. A major backlash can also be expected if it was associated with Orange's Israeli operation, as the brand "Orange" in general is widely recognized as an Israeli brand here in Jordan, this is not the case for sure, yet such misconception would require heavy campaigning in order ot be addressed, without anticipating it to be cleansed any time soon.

Yet another twist in the Jordanian mobile communication sector that will only enforce its utter uniqueness!

December 10, 2005

Typicalism

Since everyone seems to be in the business of coining terms these days, I’d like to have a go on that and perhaps credit myself with some novelty while I'm on it!

I’d like to coin the term “Typicalism”... It is already underlined with a red scribble by the spell checker, and Google returned no credible references for it, so I’ll entertain no claims over it, perhaps I can prefix it with the tag “Jordanian”... Now, allow me to dwell upon you with what I mean with it!

Basically, it can be either a syndrome that people who are usually identified to be “typical” suffer from, or it could be the social phenomena of being unable to identify the people around you or their acts with anything but being typical, a matter of crude perspective really!

One cannot help but notice how typical people can be sometimes! It is not that one can be so full of himself that he can no longer appreciate genuinely distinct individuals or their perspectives, but in our lame society that oozes with “typicalist” tendencies, people seems to be easily polarized and unconsciously segregated into mimicked herds sporting replicated and consumed ideas and point of views that seems to be viciously dull and awfully repeated over and over again.

The interesting aspect of typicalism though; is that people from different circles of the society can find themselves –to the awe of those usually at top- conjugated together under one “typical” perspective, especially when it comes to affairs that is widely viewed as a social axiom of an obvious nature!

Consider this: if you happen to be in your mid-to-late twenties and essentially unmarried, and you happen to be in a Jaha, engagement or wedding, you can easily identify an obvious trace of typicalism by observing the swarms of annoying sweet-talking wholehearted -allegedly- complements and pats-on-the-shoulder from every other co-guest: in the line of “3ugbalak… when you'll get married?” or “Shed il-Himmih… bidna inshoof 3arees”

Or consider this one: you are a Tawjhi student, and everyone starts treating you with flaring typicalism, be it your close family, extended one or even your all-over-the-place neighbors, you get bombarded with the same old questions, recommendations, directions or merely the uncalled-for motivational I’ve-been-there old Tawjhi stories! In return, you as a frustrated Tawjhi student; cannot help but retaliate with acts of utter typicalism, such as finding a strong urge for a private tutor, or skipping family functions to go out with friends in the name of studying! In case you fail to skip it, you blame your engagement with those many family events for your poor performance!

Or you can consider this one: if you happen to sport a fist-long beard, then you should expect to hear the same set of mimicked comments, advises and lectures from almost every other person you meet, wither someone he's acquainted to you or a complete stranger! -Personally speaking- No one seems to be able to amaze me with an alternative perspective when it comes to beards! from the open-minded claimants of western Amman to the bored passport control officers at Queen Alia airport, typicalism vividly manifest itself in the terminology used, objections, speculations and facial gestures; it just repeats itself whenever a beard is sighted!

Regardless of your age, sex, ethnic background, upbringing, level of education or current mind-set, you are bound to be suffering from one symptom of typicalism or the other, and therefore you are bound to have been the victim of circumstantial typicalism at best. Cases like the above are numerous, I can pat my chest with confidence and swear with my semi-shaved moustache that everyone can think of a personal yet typical encounter with our society -or a member of it- that rings a bill or two.

I must admit though that typicalism is not much of a serious deficiency as social profiling -for instance- may will be, you’ll find them conjugated when someone is at fault with profiling, but it doesn't necessarily have to be the other way around, for typicalism at worse can be an annoying little gesture, comment or advise that most of us can hear and let-go in peace despite its repulsive and aggregating nature.

Typicalists -or tepe(s) in slang- are mostly harmless people in essence if took at face value, for they are by definition typical people going about thier lives in a typical manner and sporting typical views!

Typicalism is trait that thrives in oblivious and debasingly-hallow societies, especially when there’s no strict code of conduct in place for either people to go about their lives on the basis of freedom of choice, or preferably an enforced yet consistent and unprejudiced set of rules, references and directives.

December 05, 2005

I’ve been promoted; so where is my laptop?

Consider this: he’s been promoted recently, they modestly fixed his salary, pumped-up his title with a resonating Chief, Senior, supervisor, executive, Team-leader or plain-old Manager, in a choice of pre or post fix to whatever dull job title he previously held, with pressurizing loads of new responsibilities and deliverables, and… that’s about it!

No company mobile-phone, vehicle or fuel-vouchers, no closed office with an indoor window shaded by a tilting shatter that intrigues voyeuristic tendencies, and there’ll be no upgrades to a “privilege” laptop. He starts anticipating the next business cards printing cycle to condole himself and reinforce the fact that he’s been promoted, but for months, he’ll be stuck with either no cards in the first place or a scarce of old ones that basically belittles his new self -or position depending on how personal he perceives his career!

It is unfortunate really, to find employees identifying progress and growth during their career with such mediocre measures that usually have little to do with the job they’re paid for!

This starts from the moment the employee is inaugurated by receiving the branded neck-band or Yo-Yo like retractable attachment-bit that ends with a company idea-card; the latter usually comes in either cheap glossed carton or RFiD plastic in case the company has invested in some useless access control & attendance monitoring system.


He’ll be embracing this token of belonging at all times; during lunch breaks, after hours hangout and sometimes until late hours, priding himself for the mere thought of being part of an organization! A climax may be reached if the company happens to be a teleco, a high profile IT firm, or a medium-size regional office of an international company with an in-your-face foriegn name!

The new employee goes about his business, wither he was an oven-hot fresh graduate or just a second or third timer, in both cases, the first 6 months usually sustains the propelling motivation to prove oneself as a worthy employee despite how he managed to get aboard the company: family business, Aunt happens to be the HR manager, or a just-a-three-month training post that ends up to be a permanent position in utter mystery.

Then, the employee unwillingly start noticing the benefits that the big guys get or fight for if they lack, he’ll see his supervisor fighting for privileges their peers might have, and his section manager fighting to elevate himself into a closed cubical instead of being exposed to the general public and vulnerable to interruptions, and the department manager (or DIE REC TOR) fiercely and competitively battling others for more authoritarian grip over ambiguous inter-departmental affairs …

Gradually, the innocent employee finds himself engaged in a reorientation trip in which his focus on his job lessen in favor of how to climb up the hierarchy, and instead of meeting his career objectives that he ripped of from some career-clinic website, he gradually becomes obsessed with how to leach onto the organization and benefit from the same bounties his superiors are reaping while he’s being paid peanuts.

Much to be said still; about email wars, protocols & To, CC & BCC skirmishes, the mid-management dilemmas of who’s got the steadiest authoritarian fist around, and the disrupting competition over who’s got the strongest promotion indications… all but too much of an electrified and sickening environment!

These are few excerpts from a reality many Jordanian and Middle Eastern companies live by! I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a worldwide phenomenon, but I can imagine that in developed economies, the effects of corporate immaturity is remedied by advance management techniques and optimal utilization of a well planned human-resource requirements and the development of organizational-behavior scholarly that disciplines the overall interactions among employees.

A proper culture must evolve to complement the huge professional and capable work force in Jordan, a culture that does not identify its work with company idea cards, hyped and hallow job titles, lunch breaks at Mecca mall, discussions about email heroines and unnecessary attention to privileges and office politics. A culture that prides itself for being an efficient, dedicated and quality-centric in essence, and view this as the mean to excel personal career profiles and success stories.

December 03, 2005

An epitaph: Amman lost its eighties flavor!

Dedicated to a generation of Ammanites who embraced the eighties with pride…

“Flippin heck… what the hell is this doing here?” this is the –mostly- innocent swear that I utter every time I pass by Mecca Mall… since when was it feasible to go for a large scale shopping center in the first place? What’s this Gulf-states-feel of it? I can’t help but be sorry for Ammanites being spoiled with a choice of 20+ food outlets all gathered in one place, along with a multi-screen cinema, a bowling arena and -that’s a new one- a laser-gun shoot’em up recreational facility! Where are we at? California, it becomes surreal with herds of teenage –and more mature- punters lurking over there speaking with an agitating accent…

Back then, there was a different destination for the limited choices one may fancy in terms of food! For Shawerma, there was –and still to some extent- 2nd circle’s Reem, for Falafil, it can be argued that Rainbow’s Al-Quds shack was the place, for hummus and fool there is Hashim El-Balad, fancy some Italian food; perhaps bad-business-conditions-turned-me-into-a-cheeky-nightclub Alferado would have been a delight, Chinese, there was of course Abu-Khalil... and so on and so forth.

Back then, the trendy few had to scroll the streets of Jabal Amman, Shmesani and later Swefieh for scrupulous boutiques to lay their hands on quality import clothing, what all these designer names doing cramped up next to each other at Malls and “brand-names” street?

Fancy bowling instead of watching a 1-year old film on either Philadelphia or Concorde? Then unless you are an elitist Automobile Club member or a friend-of, then Abul-Dahab center was the only destination.

Amman has changed, and it is not mere face-lift indeed, Yes, I declare my contempt for the littering of its streets with liquor stores, swarms of bars, nightclubs –the glamorous and the kinky cheap ones- along with massage-houses and gulf-punters caf├ęs, but…

…This is not what aggregates me to post this lament, for I basically feel that Amman is loosing its touch as a place where its locals pride themselves with its uniqueness instead of its replicated modernity, mind you… but the uncomfortable sense of familiarity across certain aspects of middle eastern cities such as Dubai, Amman, Beirut, Cairo …etc is utterly alarming? Despite the fact that we still have our delightful seven-hill layout, retro landmarks such as Al-Burj and Al-Iskan… no urban development can wipe those out, or would it be the case?

Where are the Viva cola signs, where are the billboards advertising Mr. Chips fake-gifts? Since when did Safeway stopped being the “hip” place that lures crowds into on weekends? Where are the 10-piaster kiosk phones? Where are the poorly branded restaurants –yet serving good food- such as Submarrine Al-Rabyih? What’s up with skating Palace now a days…

Amman’s eighties era has survived up to the early nineties, I’ve lived through its later days, but got sincerely addicted to it as I hear passionate tales from my older cousins and friends who lived this period that can be deemed with semi-cultural isolation or latency and utter genuine 7afrtaliness.


At the end of this elegy, I long for another trip to Amman, in search for any remaining traces and tokens from its not so distant past, in the midst of urban development, and cultural-conservational city renovation, before business owners opt for colorful logos and billboards and drop the cheap straightforward signs, to perhaps eye kids still favoring Ras-il-3abid over Snickers; munching on Jabri’s Taxi & red race-car Askimo instead of Galaxy ice-cream, and taste a back-then satisfyingly delicious Nabil burger without having my taste buds reoriented to enjoy only US franchise gourmets!