If anyone has been following the news and trends on social media over the last couple of days it’s hard to ignore Etisalat’s latest marketing effort. Essentially Etisalat have hired several A-list celebrities from Hollywood, Bollywood, and locally to “challenge” customers to find an offer that Etisalat can’t match or beat, naming the campaign under the hashtag #EtisalatChallenge.

A few questions ran through my mind right after I had seen the initial commercial, where celebrities introduce themselves followed by “I challenge you”. First was “Gerard Butler?” The second question was “What challenge?” I mean they made it seem like they were at business war with 20 other telecom companies in the UAE, versus the reality that they have one single competitor. The final question was, “Why this campaign?” Of all the things they could have done to connect with the customer, improve services, or engage with the community, someone thought this was the best way to go.

This is hard but I am just going to come right out and say it Etisalat, people don’t like you, but not in the way you think. It’s not like we sit around everyday hoping you will fail and wishing your corporate demise. We don’t like you in the way that we expect so much from you but you keep letting us down. You know like a famous sports player who never shows up to practice, ignores her or his team, and doesn’t engage with fans, hence never truly living up to their full potential. We want to love you, but you don’t really do much to earn that love.

The reality is that you are one of the UAE’s corporate gems, if not “The Gem” as the largest organization in the country, and commonly in the same discussions as companies like Etihad, Emirates, or DP World. However not in a service excellence perspective, but how you are one of the true local organizations that have grown to have a significant global footprint.

The discussions around Etisalat as an organization should be one associated with a strong sense of pride. The same way people associate GE with the United States, BP with the United Kingdom, or Alibaba with China. But when you ever bring up Etisalat in a conversation it’s almost always related to problems, frustrations, and a wish that things would improve.

The statement “Why should they improve when we have to deal with them whether we like it or not?” is all too common. This is where being a monopoly doesn’t do much to help the way the public perceives you when you fall short. Yes I am aware that Du exists but you are four times as large in market cap, with similar structures, which makes it tough to call them a legitimate competitor.

Speaking personally as an Etisalat customer and one that wants to see you succeed, not just in terms of growth and profits, as you are the largest contributor outside the oil sector to the UAE Federal Government, but succeed in how communities and customers feel about you.

With all the money you spent on celebrities challenging us, you could have spent it on things that can make the lives of citizens and residents better. Things like community engagement, free fun fairs for families, sponsored development workshops, youth programs, the list is endless. That would have won the hearts of the community; it would have shown you want to get closer to your customers beyond our phone lines and Internet connections.

Additionally, you could have advertised how you are aware of grievances in the community and are trying to improve your services; a little humility and self awareness can go a long way. You could have promoted new packages that increased your social impact on various communities like your “Freedom Plan” which offers discounts to people with special needs.

However I think it is safe to say that your A-list challenge has done nothing but increased the distance between you and the customer. Please believe me when I say that you have already given us enough challenges as it is. It shows no care for how people like me, the average consumer, feels, when you pay someone millions to tell me to find a better deal in a country with only one other service provider. As a matter of fact it feels like you’re making fun of me.

Not all is lost Etisalat, actually very little is lost, at the end of the day you are a billion dollar enterprise that will continue to make billions of dollars regardless of how we, the customers, feel. At the end of the day the decision is yours if you want to live with us, or above us. I certainly hope it’s the former, because I think so much good can come of it, that communities can thrive when you show us you’re listening, when you show us you care, and when you show us that the only challenge you are trying to solve is to how to make us happier.