Thursday, August 28, 2008


Is Indian Advertising Finally Breaking New Ground?

"4Ps B&M’s Monojit Lahiri probes this new and amazing initiative that leverages the power of advertising as a dynamic agent of social and political change"

Lets face it. Advertising (to the aam junta) has mostly meant a shrewd, smart, glam and entertaining route to woo the consumer into committing himself/herself into purchase-intent mode. However, the recent landmark ad campaigns of Lead India and (now) Teach India – promoted by the TOI group – could work as a wonderful surprise. Seldom, if ever, have public service campaigns [across Print & TV] being powered by such passion, intensity and focus… and at no time in the annals of Indian advertising history have they received such a massive, spontaneous and collective positive response from the [usually] invisible, apathetic and silent majority. A proud Grand Prix winner at the recently concluded festival of festivals – Cannes – Lead India represented a truly defining moment in our advertising history. Presently Teach India appears all set to repeat history...

Is this amazing public service advertising model (beyond the usual FMCG stuff) likely to impact the adfrat in general to seriously engage with causes and concerns that colour the big picture, as a part of their new agenda … or are these only straws in the wind,one-off hits that are likely to be forgotten in the raucous, cut-throat, crowded and competitive environment of adville?
In short – Is Indian Advertising finally breaking new ground?
Agnello Dias, JWT’s Chief Creative Officer and prime mover [in close collaboration with his agency’s and the client TOI’s team] of this landmark initiative believes its too early, presumptuous and self-congratulatory to assume that its made / going to make a huge impact on the adfrat. However, the Idea Cellular work and some others seem to indicate that it has left its mark … Dias hit the ground, running when he says “Lead India was never meant to be the huge show it finally turned out to be. It was meant to be a single ad commemorating the nations’s 60th birthday. Mr. Bachchan’s enthusiastic response triggered the deluge and very soon it assumed a life of its own!” The basic premise, the Grand Prix winner explains, was to reach out to the aam junta and ask them to stop cribbing, put their money where their mouth was, raise their hand and voice to be counted. In short, be the change they desired.

Presently the Teach India campaign (“a much smaller one”) has taken off with Aamir Khan playing brand ambassador. “Aamir is much more than a mere Bollywood super-star. He presents care, concern and compassion in hands-on fashion. Its not tokenism. Intelligent, curious and extremely demanding, he took a while to be convinced, but once he was, he came to the table with all cylinders firing.” Aggi says that Mr. Perfectionist actually took home class five books to study them and prepare before coming to class to teach! “If a popular star can help further a good cause, why not leverage his star power? Why only look at the negative side?”

Esha Guha, the attractive and dynamic CEO of Newfields appears to be in two minds. For her, the blitzkrieg represented a clever, smart, well-thought out and innovative brand-building exercise for the stakeholders of the TOI group. However, the lady is quick to concede that everything considered, the effort certainly needs to be applauded. “Why? Because unlike most Corporates, who specialise in lip-service and tokenism while creating this genre of communication (with a shrewd eye on awards), Lead & Teach India both invaded the public space, full-on! The amazing response, across the board, meant that they at least had their heart in the right place.”

Feroz Khan the much respected, brilliant theatre (Tumhari Amrita, Ramlal, Gandhi vs Gandhi) director who made a glorious debut with his critically successful Gandhi, My Father last year, however refuses to be blown away either by the big prize at Cannes or the monster numbers that came with the initiative. He remains skeptical & suspicious and puts it down to yet another case of shrewd, sharp manipulation by a media house trivialising (blend social issue with entertainment to provide easy-to-digest infotainment) what could have been something truly meaningful. He points out to the irony underlying the whole effort, whereby a publication that has abdicated leadership (through non-belief in the position of an editor) in its single-minded engagement of primarily ‘monetising’ its space through ad-revenue, champions this very cause! Taking the point further, Khan believes that the real mockery came when they converted it into a feel good Reality Show! “It seemed to have been consciously dumbed-down for popular consumption with the introduction of a motley crowd comprising politicians, film stars & popular figures occupying the public space who did not necessarily define the spirit, substance or soul that powered the endeavour.” Before signing off, he asks a question more akin to a reality-check: “From the time the curtains fell on the Lead India campaign till now, has there been one single reference recall, interview or fact-file published or aired in terms of follow-up? I only hope that Teach India, a fine idea, does not follow a similar route.” Ouch! Different strokes for different folks, I guess!