Thursday, May 10, 2007

Has Indian advertising truly arrived, globally?

Monojit Lahiri attempts a reality check...

In recent times, the media has gone gasp-pant-poof-yess at India’s ad presence (read Cannes) abroad! They speak breathlessly of the awards we scooped up, honours bestowed to our leading lights and status accorded to our work and industry at the “Oscars of the ad world.” They freak out on the ‘bhav’ given to our local dadas (Piyush Pandey and Prasoon Joshi) and boldly declare that internationally we are no longer perceived as pariahs, third world wannbees, seventy fourth from left, hysterically crazed to enter any which way into the magic list... But stars in our own right. A massive India presence (agency, clients, communication specialists and press) reflects the galloping enthusiasm and growing confidence of Brand India in the global scheme of things. No question about it – India has arrived with a bang in the ad world space!

Ujjal Sinha, the feisty CEO of the Kolkata-based Genesis Advertising (with branches in Delhi and Mumbai) finds it difficult to keep a straight face for long, and soon gives up! “Hey c’mon guys, you can’t be serious! Despite our humongous size, we don’t come anywhere near Australia or even Brazil ! They scoop up at least ten times the amount of awards we do with much less song and dance!” Sinha believes all this hoo-ha is very much a part of our national character and points in the direction of our annual fling at the Oscars. “The crazy hype is strictly locally generated, invariably leading to the predictable phooossss!”. He admits that we have certainly made marginal waves – thanks largely to Piyush Pandey’s relentless efforts but we have miles to go. “At best we have scratched the surface. Do we have a Neil French or John Hagiarty amongst us? We certainly have the talent, drive and energy and seem to be moving in the right direction. However, these are early days. The trick is not to get carried away, but consolidate on our strengths till we arrive at a time when we are celebrated on our own terms.”
Sushil Pandit – CEO of the Delhi-based, The Hive – however, marches to a different beat. “I think Indian advertising is a world in itself and it needn’t bother or worry about the global picture. No other country can even hope to match it for complexity, challenges and opportunities it throws up. Languages, consumer segments, affordability, price points, passion, desire, wants, needs, aspirational quotients... We have all the ingredients to be unique and self sufficient in a holistic fashion.”

Pandit, now warmed up, turns up the heat when he says that he believes a time has come when, instead of the world judging Indian advertising, we should start judging them! “The quality of our stars showcasing international juries across hi-profile ad-forums appropriately reflects our status on the global stage. There is neither any reason to be defensive nor seek approval from the West!”

O&M’s Piyush Pandey appears less euphoric & more realistic. “Our advertising has certainly come of age when you compare it to the average quality of advertising on TV across the globe. Our stuff is certainly better & more interesting than most others. However, it is that top 5% where we have to break into.”

The mustachio dada believes that we are still evolving and we have some ground to cover. In the West, some commercials are made at a budget that would exceed the entire media budget of some of our biggest spenders! Our talent lies in maximising results from minimum resources – no mean feat. “Everything considered, our recent performances at global forums and meets, the spark and quality of ideas from our youngsters and general standard of work produced has certainly created a buzz and expectation internationally. We have made our entry and we need to translate that expectation delivers outstanding work on a regular basis – something I am confident we can do!”

Pops Sridhar of Leo Burnett agrees, “I have been fortunate to have witnessed the entire drama from Act one... the emergence and ascent of our home-grown talents, the fade out of the phirang hot-shots, integration of the two worlds and the growing confidence and stature of our very own ad scene at global forums. The transition and journey from a white man’s domain to the Made-in-India stamp has been very special, and today we have proved to the world that we are second to none. Every single American agency located in India is rocking without any expat presence, something that you cannot say about Korea, China or even Japan.”

Mohammed Khan, as always, tempers this debate with sophisticated wisdom. The fact that the country is making great progress and Indians are making a mark in every sphere globally, he believes, is something that no one can deny and is hugely praiseworthy. “However, to ride on that and conclude (insist?) that we have made big waves and become a force to reckon with, is utter rubbish! We have not. We are (at best) just about beginning to draw attention. The one making waves is Brazil, who ironically is not even an English-speaking country! They have a very special Brazilian way of creating ads that are wacky, sexy and extremely endearing, which seems to be a huge hit in the West, totally disproportionate to the tiny size of their country. More power to the elbow!” Khan believes that if people are waking and looking at us, it’s largely due to the fact that Indians are making solid waves across so many diverse disciplines, spheres and fields. Advertising is only one tiny speck... Agree? 


No comments:

Post a Comment