Thursday, August 30, 2007


takes a ‘brief’ look at what’s causing the thunder, down under!

BANNED! Screamed headlines across media a while ago forcefully blanking out two male undergarment ads. The august body of I&B believed that the term thunder down under really took on scary dimensions and instructed them to stop the plunder (of innocent and bewildered minds) and immediately surrender! The two TV ads in question – Lux Cosy & Amul Macho – were seen as playing havoc with the joyous ‘family viewing time’ and pre-empting stunned, embarrassed silence and uncomfortable questions.

Okay, so what did these ads portray, anyway? The Amul Macho ad shows a newly-wed woman, moseying over to the village ghat and washing her husband’s undies. She begins in a coy, sensuous fashion and soon appears quite charged up while turning on the heat! Her energetic body language astounds her staid companions who look at this overt, exhibitionistic performance with shock and horror. ‘Crafted for fantasies’ says the slogan! In the Lux Cosy ad, a washerwoman calls at an apartment to pick up the laundry. A man wearing a towel answers the door. And accidentally his towel drops. Before he can register shock or embarrassment, the washerwoman’s eyes dart towards the undies, registering uncensored delight & approval in a flirtatious manner. The Moral Police, however, didn’t share in any way the washerwoman’s joy, were not remotely amused at this ‘slip-up’ and refused to dismiss the affair as ‘andar ki baat hai’.

They termed these ads “vulgar, indecent & suggestive” and sent out strong messages to the ad fraternity & channels to be careful and exercise restraint in the stuff beamed out, or else…

This isn’t the first time. Over a decade and a half ago, the Marc Robinson-Pooja Bedi Kamasutra ad with the tagline ‘For the Pleasure of Making Love’ had the powers-that-were in a tizzy. Subsequently the Arbaaz-Malaika coffee ads as well as the Milind Soman-Madhu Sapre TUFF ads created a crazy furore – as did the recent XXX flavoured condom ads. Neo Sports ads (tongue-in-cheek turned foot-in-mouth?) covering the recent ODI series in Feb’07 also came under fire and was termed ‘racist’ by the high priests.

Fact is obscenity, vulgarity, suggestiveness, insinuation, et al represent tricky areas for the simple reason that they are all relative, subjective and contextual. Fumes ad practitioner Atul Malhotra, “the problem with these guys is that they consider themselves self-appointed guardians of public morality without even trying to understand the reference to the context angle. Don’t these people see FTV, MTV, Hollywood or Bollywood movies?”

“Which planet do they inhabit, yaar? Is our tradition, culture and sabhyata so fragile that a couple of ads can threaten it? C’mon guys, wake up and taste the… lassi!” He says that you wanna ban stuff – ban gender bias & religious intolerance because they influence and poison the mind of people – not some corny undergarments ads, for chrissake! Preeti Paul, a media executive agrees with the basic premise of Malhotra’s argument but concedes that the Amul Macho ad did exceed the limit. “It’s definitely cheap & titillating and appears to have been created to shock & stimulate viewers.” Housewife Seema Suri agrees. “Which sicko pervert directed the actress and dreamed up the concept? I mean that suggestive look and body language, that glazed expression, it was so embarrassing! My mom-in-law just couldn’t figure out what that lady in the ad was doing and frequently asked me to explain… I am delighted ban ho gaya. Advertising should have some moral limits.”

Not everyone agrees with this take. Mitali Gupta, a journalist, believes too much is being made about “this silly ad! Hey, c’mon guys, its only a dumb TVC, okay? The ad guys took the titillation & naughty route to grab eyeballs and public attention, which I think was cool b’coz what the hell do you say about a jock, anyway? Chill, man!”

Creators of the ad believe that the uproar is happening only because it is truly a clutter-busting ad, standing out and making waves (in a dramatic and meaningful way) in a category that is truly tough to penetrate… Ooops, was it a faux pas? Didn’t mean it. We are outta here, guys. Its getting too hot!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Myth-exploding time, guys!

4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri takes you down an explosive track where revered, sacrosanct and holiest-of-the-holies laws, rules and practices go for a sublime toss!

Rules and laws. Commandments and diktats. Rails and fences… these continue to govern our lives, right? Ditto in Adville. “Problem with rules” rues the local wit “is their seemingly invincible rigidity. What must however always be kept in mind and acted upon is the simple fact that the moment these great laws lose their effectiveness, validity and winning streak and become a deterrent to creative development, they should be relegated to the trash bin! Shocked? Don’t be – because with this single move you liberate yourself from restrictions and boundaries and allow yourself to… fly! This is not to categorically debunk the entire concept of rules; they were created for certain reasons and surely had their uses…Today however, sane communication practitioners must be viewed in perspective and not something that is gospel truth and carved in stone!

Let’s do a quick ‘dekho’ of some popular, time-tested numbers that need to be handed the pink slip!


The great Rosser Reeves founded and authored this much revered UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION in an era when products “genuinely” had definite, tangible differences. Today (apart from the term being systematically raped due to abuse, misuse and over-use) it has lost much of its sting. Why? Because times have dramatically changed. Electronic firms share research. Large FMCG brands often come together to manufacture, in order to cut costs. Levels of excellence are cutting across the entire spectrum of products and services, almost eliminating the “difference” factor. Ad Guru John Hegarty believes that there has been a paradigm shift in that we are living in a whole new age – the age of the ESP, Emotional Selling Proposition!
“Here the perceived difference is all. Why do I wear a purple shirt instead of a white shirt? Sure, it’s only about colour, but hey, it makes me feel different!” Hagarty, extending this line of thinking, invites agencies to re-invent their focus in terms of profile and persona. “I believe they need to see themselves as a manufacturing company because they are really and truly a part of the manufacturing process – manufacturing ideas that make a difference between brands.” The result is empowerment. Customers actually feel more certain, assured, passionate and in love with the product. The “emotional difference” is indeed the real difference!


There was a time – far away and long ago – when rationality was equated with substance and a logical proposition invariably earned respect, credibility and positive customer response. Hate to rain on your parade, guys, but that’s all sepia-tinted history residing in an ocean of mothballs! Look around the ad-space and you’ll see tonnes of stuff that are totally irrational — and rocking! The Cola ads are excellent examples, as are Happy Dent, Alpenliebe, Mentos, Surf, Airtel, Hutch,, Pond’s, Cadbury, Fevicol…. Remember the iconic series on PORCHE? The ads were classic examples of zero-logic communication with send-up lines like ‘Too Fast. Doesn’t Blend.’ ‘People will talk... old cars go to yards, old Porche’s go to museums.’

Who can forget the other classic, VW, with the amazing line ‘It’s ugly but it works’. My personal favourite remains the stunningly evocative series for Norwegian cruise line, which seemed to amplify inaudible whispers of the soul with lines like…. ‘I will be naked more, I will memorise clouds. There is no law that says you cannot study a sunset… or make love at 4 pm on a Tuesday.’ To the purist (and kill joys) it may not be logical and rational but it remains intensely human. If we eavesdrop on peoples imagination and dreams and respond, chances are when they morph into customers they will return the compliment…


A globally respected ad guru dismisses this aspect with “It’s a lie that you must have a strap-line/slogan in your ad. These are mostly pathetic exercises in shallow wordplay or meaningless phrase.”

He goes on to cite popular examples – progress is our most important product. Tomorrow’s technology, today… and the most chilling cliché of them all, committed to the relentless pursuit of excellence!

Fact is these corny, pontifical, posturing, benign gyaan- driven lines necessary? The consumers don’t give a damn and even within the ad-frat few pay attention. Then why on Earth do they still exist? “Because” says Shantiniketan trained, New York based art director Piya Sen, “Some dumb luck boss-man decades ago got hysterically attached to the letter, not the spirit of how ads should be written and insisted that no ad go without it. The die was cast. The seed was sown.”

At the end of the day, with exceptions (Just Do It, Nike) slogan strap-lines are there to please clients or politically correct bosses. Nothing more. If an ad does what its meant to do — entertain, engage, enthral, enlighten, empower — it doesn’t need a strap-line. If it doesn’t, the greatest slogan can’t viagrise it.

Just Do it is breakthrough stuff only because it epitomises the attitude of people reading it, not the company. It’s not about making shoes for people who do it. See the difference? So next time you see an ad, don’t forget to zero-in on the strap-line… it’s likely to keep you in splits all day!