Thursday, June 07, 2007


4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri casts a ritzy gaze on Advilles new bimari & wonders whether it’s yet another desperate jhatka to attract attention… or a well strategised & researched move to connect with the new age customer base, notorious for it’s distraction & brand promiscuosity

The setting is an air-conditioned compartment of a Mumbai bound Rajdhani. Three young college kids (Varsha, Vimi and Abhi), a newly married young couple (Mala and Arjun), a mid thirties serious-minded professor (Sadanand) and an old lady in her mid seventies (Nanima) fill the space. We open with the college kids – the girls.

Varsha: Yaar, saw the Ajay-Kajol Whirlpool ad? So cute na? They make such a cool, fundoo pair!

Vimi: Absolutely! I like the Saif-Soha one too. The chote nawab is so dhansu stylish. Andaaz hi kuch aur hai… and Soha is cho chweet. The brother-sister thing is really nice.

Prof: [drawn to the conversation because of his serious and academic alignment with Behavioural Science] Excuse me kids, but do you really believe that these glam Bollywood fundoo pairs with deadly chemistry and endearing interactions will be able to do what they are meant to – enhance brand awareness, motivate purchasing intent and finally help hike up sales? Will either of you – for example – actually buy a Whirlpool or the brand of paint these stars are endorsing? Be honest!

Varsha: [Surprised and irritated at this intrusion] Excuse me Sir, but who are you? An anti-ad activist?

Prof: [Embarrassed] I am so sorry… but being a professor of Behavioural Sciences, I couldn’t help but listen and react. Advertising really is nothing more than an aggressive bait, a dangerous phenomenon that in today’s consumerist society creates unnecessary needs and manufactures irrelevant wants. [Pauses] Think about it.

Mala: [Excited] Arre professor sahib, you are talking total bakwas! [Prof looks at the slightly downmarket newly-wed girl, decked in all her bridal finery, shocked] Me, my husband and the entire parivar love these ads! They are so sweet and the couple’s jugalbandi – especially in the Ajay-Kajol ad is too much. Who wants to know about the boring, altu-phaltu product features? Aakhir fridge aur air-conditioner, fridge aur AC hi hai…kyon jee? [Dumb impressed husband nods vigorously]
Nanima: Yeh Kajol, Nutan ki niece hai na? [The kids nod; in vague fashion] Kya actress thi! Sujata, Seema, Bandini, Anari, Tere Ghar Ke Samne, Manzil, Paying Guest…Yeh chokri ads kyoon kar rahi hai…picture milta nahi kya?

Abhi: [Indulgently] Nanima, Kajol is very good and popular heroine. Bahut saare films mein kamaal ki acting kiya hai. Ads karti hain kyonki tagda paisa milta hai…Do crore ke upar!

Nanima: [stunned silence… followed by a hearty chuckle] Pagal ho kya? Do crore… yeh thanda machine ke gun gane ke liye uske patidev ke saath?!

Prof: Exactly! That’s the other point that needs to be looked into. Rs.2 crores for mouthing lines scripted by someone else, going through the paces directed by someone else…

Mala: [Visibly agitated] Oye prof sahib, shut up jee! Bas bole ja rahe ho, bole ja rahe ho…aur woh bhi sab bakwas! [Goes eyeball to eyeball with the prof] Aisa hai Sirjee, zindagi is not a classroom or conference table and human reaction cannot be put under a microscope. Pata hai why family ads are popular and they work…Kyunki we as a country and people are steeped in tradition and values where family is sacred… bahut mayane rakhta hai. Sirjee aap kitab chodhiye…bahar aaiye… zindagi dekhiye!

[The girls are hugely impressed by this speech and clap. The old lady is dozing. The prof. appears a trifle humiliated and shaken]

Abhi: [Politely] Please don’t mind her tone and aggressive stance… What she meant I think, was that people will always be drawn towards celebrities – more so if they are hot, glamorous and Bollywood – because movies to the average Indian is religion. So in that context if glam Bollywood couples [family or popular pairs] endorse products that project bonding family values and utility, the synergy is ideal.

Mala: Boss kya speech mara aapne! Kya angerzi boli! Maza hi aa gaya! Mere liye tu tum hi professor ho, yeh khadoos nahi!

Prof: [Agitated] What did she say? Did she abuse me?

Varsha and Vini: [Giggling] No, no, no prof… She said that she wished you would loosen up a little bit. Not be so academic and rigid. And go with the flow…

Prof: [visibly fatigued by the collective onslaught] I don’t know… I… er… don’t agree. I still believe that stars – couples, families whatever – distract more than help product sales simply because of the star mania in India. Did Amitabh and Abhishekh’s weird Versa ad help promote that dud car? Did the Feroz-Fardeen Khan horror ad for Pan-Bahar remotely impact the cash counter? Did Sharmila-Soha’s cutesy hair oil ad or Hema prancing with her daughters in the Kent RO Mineral Water ad rocket their demand in the market? Where is the idea that star status powers and promotes product values? Shouldn’t the focus be on the powerful and cutting edge differentiating factor rather than the star? Won’t there be a perpetual danger of people remembering the ad for the star value and forgetting the product altogether?

Abhi: Mala and the girls – along with a zillion people – are thrilled when stars feature in ads. The bottom line, as you have rightly pointed out (for the advertiser) is to promote and sell his product through entertainment. If star couples or families do the job, great. If not…

Nanima: [Suddenly awake and into the conversation] Ek baat batao… Kajol chori ko do crore milte to hamare Allahabad ke munna, uski biwi, ladka aur uski nayi bahu ko kitna milega?

[On hearing ‘bees crore” she is about to faint – but affects a startling recovery the moment someone mentions… Jalebi!]


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