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I’m a huge fan of TV commercials when they’re done right (i.e. creative, funny, daring, bold); and so it was with great anticipation that I scored a ticket for the annual showing of Night of the AdEaters: a global traveling advertising extravaganza that plays in major cities around the world.

I had attended one of these shows in ‘simpler times’ a few years ago at the ‘Shaab Park’ cinema, and I had not been back to see them in a while. This year the show was held at ‘The Avenues’ Cinema; first of all, the lobby looked like a nightclub, and I mean that as a compliment! (Full disclosure: It was my first time ever inside ‘The Avenues’ Cinema, mainly I boycott ‘Cinescape’ and their censored movies out of principle).

The invitation stated ‘6.30 pm’ and I got there on time only to find that the actual screening would start at 7.30 pm – in the meantime I thought to myself ‘why not visit the various promotional stands’ – giving away everything free from coffee to doughnuts to shampoo to sushi, all to the accompanying tunes of an over-excited (yet admittedly good) DJ who pumped the slamming House tunes to unreasonable volume, adding to the nightclub vibe I mentioned earlier… with the obligatory pause for the Prayer Call (Athan).

An hour of this was more than I could bear so I went for a stroll aimlessly around the mall, came back just before 7.30 pm, foolishly thinking the screening would start on time. By the time the attending crowd – made up mostly of self-congratulating ad industry people (see: jerk, circle) herded into the theater as it was already approaching 8 pm. On each seat, ‘Zain’ (the main sponsor) had placed a bag full of “goodies” including the usual giveaways (t-shirt, coasters) and a rattle made of clapping plastic hands and some geeky ‘neon’ eye-glasses. The clapping rattles were meant to encourage “audience participation”, to encourage loud applause whenever a great commercial appeared (You can see where this is heading, right?).

After a shaky welcome speech by Zain’s ‘Public Relations’ people, and an introduction to their new “Create” service, we then had to sit through a seemingly endless stream of Zain commercials. Did they not know they wouldn’t hold a candle to the masterpieces of creativity we were about to watch?

I am forever amazed at people’s ability to regress into childhood, and in really big groups; last night was no exception. The audience of full-grown ‘professional ‘adults kept shaking their rattles in full force at the slightest provocation, regardless of what we were watching. I kept praying for the novelty to wear off, again banking on everyone eventually getting bored or annoyed with the rattles and settling down to enjoy the show. But no, the noise kept on unabated… if there was anything to be heard it was drowned out; if there were any witty jokes in the ads, they were lost.

And if all that wasn’t enough… I had the misfortune of being seated next to two overweight ladies who provided us with a running commentary throughout the screening – they simply would not shut up! Oh and they rattled nonstop… I know we’re not watching a serious film requiring total silence, but do I really want to hear this woman next to me commenting loudly on every commercial? And rattle too?!

Yes I”m talking about you, the silly cow, third center row from the back!!

When the first intermission came around, in the interests of saving my sanity I made a dash for the door and got the hell out. On my way out, I complained about the stupid rattles and I was told that they do this every year, and for no particular reason other than they think it’s ‘fun.’

It’s a real shame because there were some truly wonderful ads being shown, but I can’t imagine ever sitting through something like this again, so I won’t be coming back. EVER!!

Note: Their second showing is tonight at 6.30 pm (meaning 8pm?) – you have been warned (if I were you, I’d stay home).

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