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May 23, 2012, Wednesday

Selling to the sky?

Recently I visited Manisa to watch the annual mesir macunu tossing event, a celebration of the start of spring that dates back to the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent when the sultan’s mother was cured of a dire ailment with a mixture of 41 ingredients whipped together by the local physician and dubbed mesir macunu.

It was a great day out, with a costume parade preceding the fun of trying to catch little packets of the paste as it was tossed from between the domes of the Sultan Camii by men dressed in Ottoman finery. But what really made the day for me was observing the antics of the locals who turned the crowd into a sea of upturned umbrellas, all the better to increase their chance of landing some of the packets.

If you’ve lived in Turkey for any length of time you’ll know that one of its great strengths lies in its advertising. Not the kind of advertising that lets you know something is going to happen before it actually does, of course -- that’s a whole other ballgame -- and I had had trouble enough pinning down the exact date and time of this particular event ahead of its start. No, I mean the more creative type of advertising that results in catchy images and memorable slogans, so it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise then to find that Turkcell, a company never known to miss an advertising trick, had seen the potential in those brollies and had rushed out a range of branded yellow ones that could be used to scoop up the macun.

That’s all a rather far cry from Göreme, of course, where we’re not quite such great shakes on the advertising front. Some hoteliers try hard with imaginative signs, and Coca-Cola has stepped in to offer a range of branded ceramic nameplates for local businesses. Otherwise, the most obvious advertising innovation to hit the village recently is also one of the least imaginative and most horribly intrusive, namely a giant screen that blasts out pictures of Turkey from on high lest any tourist should have managed to miss the brochures.

But here’s a great new idea that just plopped into my email inbox and it came not from a Turk for a change, but from the mother of an expat who’s been here to visit a few times. Why not advertise properties for sale with signs on the roofs pointing up at the sky so that all the people floating over in hot-air balloons with romantic fancies about starting a new life in Cappadocia in their heads could see them? Of course she had her tongue very firmly in her cheek when she wrote that to me but, hey, it’s not such a bad idea in marketing terms, is it?

At a stroke, we could solve the problem of unsightly “for sale” signs scrawled on the walls of otherwise lovely properties by redirecting them skywards. And why stop at the for sale signs? The hotels, the restaurants, the souvenir shops -- they could all produce special ads to go up on the roofs alongside the solar panels. Ah, but then the balloons are not supposed to fly directly over the villages lest they disturb the residents. There had to be a catch, didn’t there?

Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia.

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