Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hum Ad Kyon Dekhte Hain?

I had written this in May 2006. I hope that after completing marketing management course of first term, I gain fresh insights into advertisements --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hum Ad Kyon Dekhte Hain? "Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does."[Steuart Henderson Britt, advertising consultant, 1970.] The importance of advertisements for business can never be over-emphasised but the view from our side of the fence is certainly not so charming. Most of you, at some point or the other, while watching ads would have wished for a button on your remote which will allow you to fast forward those annoying ads. But since I have already phrased my title question in such a way, I will write the article defending ads , instead of deriding them. I don't know about you but I watch the ads because they provide me with a heady cocktail of humour, conspiracy and controversy. You want to make a successful ad , then mix humour and controversy in the correct ratio and you have a successful ad (Is that ratio 1:1 or the other way round? ). It only helps me that these days ads on TV have become more wittier and snappier than PODD (i.e. Plain Old DD Days). Seriously, who of you really minds watching that little girl in the Asian Paint's ad saying," Papa!Chintu na pata nahin subah se kya cutting-shutting kiye jaa raha hai?" or that boy asking his mother ," Par dhishum-dhishum to Pepsodent ka kaam hai naa? ". After watching that pug dog follow that boy in Hutch ad , I have become more considerate towards dogs following me. Kya pata kis kutte mein mere mobile ka network ho! Coming back to the reason for my ad watching (which , by some coincidence , also happens to be the raison d'etre for this article), I like those ads which use humour well . Humour sells . Period . If an ad maker manages to tickle his TA's (Target Audience) funny bone, then he has hit the bull's eye. He can just tear those pages from his marketing book that talk about " Brand Positioning, Creating ads which endorse the values associated with the product, Brand Recall", if he knows just one thing - how to create ads that can make others laugh. You can put the Fevicol's ad of "Pakde Rehana Chhodna Nahin" or most of the Amul ads in this category. That paint ad "Wah Sunil Babu Naya Ghar Nayi Gadi" should also come here. Now, before I digress, let me tell you something more about humour in ads , rather the lack of humour in some ads. Some ads are so shabbily conceptualised and egregiously executed that you can find yourself smirking thinking, " Oh! I could have done better than that". During 2003 World cup, Reliance was aggressively pitching their Reliance India Mobile (RIM) . So, they roped in Sehwag. Now, the ad agency made a complete hash of the whole idea. If you remember that ad , it showed Sehwag taking guard and a boy in the stadium getting a call from Sehwag's mother. That boy sprints to the crease, gives Sehwag the RIM and after talking to her mother, Sehwag hits a sixer. Now, no matter how much we Indians love our mothers, there is a limit to the emotional blackmailing these ads can resort to. In short, the ad agency made an apology of an advertisement---a perfect example of how an ad should not be made. On top of that, Sehwag was a complete let-down in that series. So, it was particularly irritating to watch that ad just after Sehwag has been caught in the slips "fishing" wide outside the off-stump. In the final match, Australia was batting first and Ricky Ponting went berserk, hitting fours and sixes at will. Then one of my friends, after watching that Sehwag ad for a dozen times, remarked ," Lagta hai Sehwag ki maa ne Ponting ko phone kar diya hai." Another one said, "Abe baaki network mein to wrong number India mein hi jaata hai...RIM mein lagta hai South Africa tak cross connnection lag jata hai"....:) Another category of ads which I find quite interesting is those mud-slinging ads brought out by two big companies, who dominate the market of a particular product---some sort of duopoly situation.These two companies may decide that the best way to increase their market share is to reduce the market share of their rival. (Looks like they were looking out of the window when their teacher was telling the story about how to shorten a line without rubbing it off---You draw a bigger line above it) . So, they start ads which hit out at their competitors. One of the earliest in this was that blockbuster "War Of The Mints" . We had the Nestle's Polo mint with a well-entrenched market share and a catchy punchline "Mint With The Hole". Now, Candico lauches it's own mint and runs a print campaign showing a guy with a hole in his head . Written at the bottom of the page ," Do you have a hole in your head? Then, why should you eat mint with the hole?". And, their cheeky punchline was "All Mint , No Hole". Then, there are the Pepsi and Coke mutual-stabbing-advertisements. Though there are legions of ads made by them deriding the other, the Sprite ad with " I Want To Do!" was a knock-out. Trust me when I say I stopped "Doing The Dew" after watching that ad. P.B.Shelly will excuse me if I paraphrase his "Winter-Spring" quote as " If ads come, can controversies be far behind?". Indians love controversies and rumours. (You must have heard that joke where a person 'A' tells his colleague that his daughter has joined dance classes. Next day, boss of 'A' threatens him that if he immediately doesn't forbid his daughter from working in dance bar, his job will be in danger!) In fact, the only group which loves controversies more than the Indians are the 24 hour Indian news channels! (If there are any Indian readers of my blog, I hope they will forgive my presumptuousness...:)) So, there was this ad of (Guess, Who Has Just Heard From Us...On a side note, somehow I feel their punchline seems perfect for the endless tele-callers whose calls we receive only to reject the various products they are selling----Idea ka Post-Paid Connection,ICICI ka free Business card,One way ticket to Timbuktu....give me a break!).I am talking about that "Hari Sadu" ad.The first time I saw it, apart from the ingenuity and crispness of the plot, I was particularly impressed by that person playing the role of boss---a perfect picture of arrogance and condescension. So, imagine my surprise when I find this innocuous ad has been dragged in a controversy. Apparently, a boy whose first name is Hari wants Naukari to pull out this ad because he has been teased by his friends. He also threatened a court case. You will agree with me when I say that possibly no one can make a bigger mountain out of the smallest molehill than this boy. Now, let me take you back by a decade , to 1995-96. I was in my teens, P.V.Narsimha Rao was being voted out, Sachin was at his peak in that World Cup and a person carrying Mobile phone in India would have got as many stares as an orange elephant would have got. There was this controversy about an ad featuring MS & MS(no, silly, not Mallika Sherawat and Manmohan Singh...It's for Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman) who were stark naked but for their "Tuffs shoes" with a snake strategically positioned to hide what we all wanted to see.There was a huge uproar and even a court case was filed against them. This is 2005-06. I am of approximately the same age as Aamir is in RDB. PVN has already floated a new political party in heaven. Sachin is struggling with his injuries (Tennis Elbows, Squash Shoulders, Carrom Calves...pata nahin kya kya..). Now, you don't get stared for keeping a mobile phone but for not keeping one. As for the "Tuffs Shoe" like ad, open "once-sugar-now-shit" Times Of India (TOI) any day, you'll see such ads on every page. Last heard MS & MS were thinking about switching over to some other decent newspaper to protect their yet-to-be-born baby from TOI's corrupting influence! Hello! Are you awake? Good. If you have read upto this point , then some of you may have formed the opinion that ads are as meretricious as a peacock's feather-- beautiful to look at but with no practical use. Let me tell you a small incident which took place around two years back to clear this misperception. A gentleman used to provide me tiffin for dinner and used to charge Rs 1000 monthly. Now, all of a sudden, without rhyme and certainly without reason, he raised it to Rs 1200 monthly. This 20% hike was a little too much for me to digest at that time. (Heck, even if you factor in a 5% inflation, 15% is a pretty stiff increment..). So, I told him that I'll stop taking tiffin from him and will ask some other supplier. He tried to convince me and I tried not to get convinced. Our discussions seemed to go nowhere. Finally, after some 10 minutes of rallying the verbal tennis ball, I found a smash return. I said, ''Sir, jab wahi safedi wahi jhaag kam daamon mein mile to koi woh kyon le yeh naa le?" (Ã la Deepika Ji in that Surf ad) . And that was it. (Point-Game-Set-Match and the winner is Bomu). He raised the rate for others but I continued getting at the old rate...:) Now, let me stop here or else this short article will expand like Ram Gopal Verma's new movie announcements. I definitely don't want it intrude in the space of novels. There is far less competition here. Before I go, let me tell you about a good FM ad. It starts with that song from Zeher, " Agar tum mil jaao , jamana chhod denge hum"....And then the voiceover says, " Are Kyon nahin chhodenge jamana...introducing Nestle Fresh and natural Dahi"....:) So, to sum up, I think you would have understood why I so love following ads. And, if you share my passion for understanding the psychology of persuasion, advertisements, their making and adore PJ and PP (Prasoon Joshi and Piyush Pande--Muunchhe hon to Piyush Pande jaisi warna na hon!) , then let me give you an unsolicited advice. The next time someone asks you, " Aap Ad Kyun Dekhte Hain?", you have two answers, two choices, or if you like Matrix, then let me give you two pills (the same which Morpheus gave to Neo...I managed to collect them after the shooting was over..). If you want to be rude, in-the-face , you take the red pill--then you can just dip his head in betel filled water like that Paanwallah does in Chlormint ad and say, "Doobara Mat Poochna!". On the other hand, if you want a less aggressive answer, you take the blue pill--then you can just twist your mouth like that boy eating Melody chocolate does and say , " Melody Kaho Khud Jaan Jaao!". Disclaimer:-- If in trying to be funny, I have somewhere gone overboard and sounded caustic to any group, please remember that I-as- a-person disclaim responsibilty for what is written by I-as-a-writer. So, unless and until you are absolutely sure that you'll catch me writing something i.e. I-as-a-writer, don't come with your loaded guns. You may end up blowing the brains of I-as-a-person, spend your rest of the life in prison while I-as-a-writer may continue writing trashes like this. Also, I know I have a very bad habit of writing long sentences and then punctuating them even more shoddily. So, please don't tell me about my hanging commas, misplaced exclamations and my right brackets wondering, "What the hell I am doing here when there is no opening left bracket?". Perhaps that is the reason "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" by Lynne Truss is not one of my favourite books.

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