Thursday, May 20, 2010

ZOOZOOS Winners OR Losers?

The most talked about ad property in recent times has, surprisingly, attracted drastically mixed reactions in its second edition, which played out with full force in the recently concluded IPL. Who’s winning? 4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri investigates

Recreation of real-life situations with rib-tickling and sassy humour through totally side-splitting comical commercials – and all through creatures that a couple of years back you wouldn’t have cared two hoots about! Whether you love them or hate them, you simply can’t ignore them. Zoozoos have in all their glory conquered their rightful land in the ad-empire! Those adorable, charming, alien creatures unleashed by Vodaphone last year, courtesy Ogilvy, who took the viewing public by storm through their sheer ingenuity, freshness, quirkiness and that rare specialty Ogilvy has mastered – a magical fusion of surprise and delight! Yes, we do adore the Zoozoos, but the point is – did the second Zoozoo ads installment inspire, attract or generate the same degree of joy, enthusiasm, wows and appreciation as the first … or was it a predictable and to an extent repetitive overkill – that was seen for the humour surely, but did not cut any deep creative ice with the consumers? The question – led by 29 TVCs that blitzed the IPL viewer across 45 days – surely doesn’t have a predictable answer, as we realised when we flipped through industry responses...

“Of course, it wasn’t the same and frequently got boring and brain dead as hell!” That is the surprising reply of Delhi-based DD director Ananya Banerjee. She confesses she loved last year’s package but this time “it was getting on my nerves! The frequency was maddening and god, some of them were downright dumb and corny!” But godfather Alyque Padamsee believes that anyone who fails to be charmed by these amazing creatures has no right to be “certified sane!” He confesses to be a total fan of the little fellas and congratulates Vodaphone, the agency and the film production company for pulling off such a fabulous effort. “I freeze the remote the moment the delightful Zoozoo ads hit the screen! For me, they have the same charm and endearing quality as the Fevicol ads. Are they boring because they play out the same theme? Not at all, and that’s because of the brilliant creative execution. I place them alongside the iconic Air India’s Maharaja, the Amul characters and Asian Paints Gattu. Kudos to the team!”

Dentsu’s creative hotshot Gullu Sen is nowhere near as enthusiastic. While he agrees that as a concept, Zoozoos has certainly been an outstanding, clutter-breaking effort, this current edition, rolling out a mind blowing 25 plus ads “demonstrate nothing more than bankruptcy of ideas! It is really milking an idea dry, making it look contrived, fatigued, corny …” Sen believes that it is all execution without any delivery. “Where are the packages that could make the communication result-driven?” he asks, “Vodaphone must be having real deep pockets to attempt to entertain one and all by hitting the recall rather than the ROI button!” Sagar Mahabaleshwar – former Ogilvy honcho who’s crossing over to Bates 21 – begs to differ. He thinks the world of these ads and believes it is yet another classic from Ogilvy’s stable of “breakthrough creatives.” He puts Sen’s thinking as a part of the “industry’s overall cynicism” and reminds people that sequels are very difficult to carry forward because comparisons will always be made relating to freshness, novelty and so, on and off with the original. That the Zoozoos still manage to create a buzz and enjoy startlingly high recall in a crowded space, reflects their innate, core strength. Media star Pritish Nandy agrees with this viewpoint. “Fresh, engaging, funny, charming, they offer a cool spin in its category to redefine solid creativity in advertising. If many of them are corny, it’s because they are catering to the lowest common denominator and need to be simple, basic and comprehensible in their basic execution, consciously avoiding sophistication or clever, visual layering. Full marks to them.”

While the jury is not fully out, the general take-out appears positive. In a cluttered, competitive market space where Value Added Service is the big mantra, to be fresh, unique, different and memorable can be an overwhelming challenge. That Vodaphone & Ogilvy have been able to achieve this in an environment bursting with a galaxy of ludicrous, lazy, brain-dead celebrity-driven advertising, is truly commendable.


Thursday, May 06, 2010


Has today’s advertising kept pace with scores of Indian women emerging from the shadows to seek their rightful place in society? 4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri presents various views

Resurgent India! India shining! Woman power unleashed! Superwomen in the corridors of power! Evolved, educated, accomplished, articulate and confident, this new woman is a blazing reality in today’s India! After decades of prejudice inflicted by tradition and a male-dominated society, women – at least a significant minority – seem to be coming into their own. And magazines, publications, special supplements, debates, discussions and seminars, they all seem to be fixated on energetically championing the female cause now!

But has Indian advertising – which has made huge waves globally in all major platforms, forums and meets – for its turn been able to sensitively, fairly and realistically track, reflect, mirror or portray this seismic change? Has Indian advertising been able to capture the nuances of this fascinating creature successfully straddling several universes with all the complexity, confidence and contradictions at her disposal? Or is the re-enforcing of stereotypes with corny and predictable makeovers simply cosmetic tokenism?

It is interesting to note what Michele Kristula-Green (the revered Asia-Pacific President of Leo Burnett) articulated at a recent presentation that she made on this subject, where she accused advertisers of constantly portraying women “in the man’s version of what they should be.” The ad biz guys, a recent study says, seem to be way-off on at least five crucial parameters – money, sexuality, humour, emotion and authenticity. The study also revealed that unlike the West, women in the Asian society are not comfortable with blatant portrayals of sex, because for them it is a part of their intrinsic femininity – and not something to be exhibited in a titillating, man-baiting way. Finally – and this is critical – the study says that in Asian societies, girls are taught to view emotions as a strength not a weakness; and hence their responses to messages and communication are far different from what is shown in today’s well-packaged yet logically worthless advertisements!

We asked a few evolved, intelligent women and their reactions were both interesting. And startling!

Journalist Mahua Chatterjee fires the first salvo. She believes that despite all the blah-blah and ra-ra in the media, women like her were still an aberration, an exception. “However, our tribe is on the ascent and definitely a quantum leap from our mother’s generation. Advertising’s essential agenda is engaging, convincing and catering to its target group, which for most part, is still steeped in tradition. So, you get what you get. Sure, there are exceptions – like the insurance ad where the granny cosies up with her husband and later, gets blackmailed repeatedly by her chaalu grandson – which is wonderful, but alas, nowhere enough. We could do with a lot more courageous, adventurous, risk-free and exciting advertising that reflects today’s woman with both drama and chutzpah. Can the ad guys do it?”

Film-maker Aparna Sen – whose latest movie The Japanese Wife released to rave reviews – while talking to us, conveys her huge disappointment. While she salutes the crafting and slickness (of advertisements), she is convinced that most of these efforts are blatantly one-dimensional. “North Indian, fair, urban, advertising seems to be fixated on this stereotype! How and why is there practically no sign of the southern, eastern or north-eastern woman? Don’t they exist? If at all they feature, it’s either in caricature form or tokenism! Such a pity.” Kolkata-based media personality Rita Bhimani disagrees and reckons that change indeed is in the air. “Sure, there will always be stereotyping, catering and pandering to connect with the masses, but within categories – cosmetics, healthcare, bikes and automobiles – there has been a lot of quirky, funny and interesting ads portraying today’s woman with large quotients of fun, energy and enterprise.”

Masscom expert Tiyasha Ray begs to differ. “Most of the stuff that pans out is totally regressive and out-of-sync with the here and now! I guess it has to do with ‘Adville’ not mustering up the required guts and ability to effect a breakthrough and content to bogey along a familiar comfort zone as also women themselves being quite content to be seen in that light. Generations of conditioning have programmed them to think in a certain way. Today, they believe that perhaps, this is the way we need to be perceived and what’s all this feminist hoo-haa about?”

Ray, however, admits that she personally is prepared to go into this battle, anytime, any day! Theatre luminary Lushin Dubey switches lanes to offer a completely new perspective. “More than advertising projecting the ‘New Woman’, the New Woman seems to be totally seduced by advertising! She appears to totally believe, even celebrate the image that she sees... and this is both distressing and dangerous because it sends out the wrong signals. It implies that TV is this big hospital-cum-beauty parlour-cum-gym, where all shapes and sizes are photo-shopped and air-brushed to perfection! Scary...”

The last words must come from Omkar Sane, author (Welcome To Advertising. Now Get Lost!) and ad-tracker. “Actually, it’s because of the tainted windows, AC cabins and the advertising code for women established during the dark ages!” He points out that in the area of finance or healthcare, it is always the man who understands, applies and takes credit for the action while the woman sits and smiles. “Gul Panag didn’t talk too much in the Tata Sky ads, did she? It was Aamir who apparently knew everything and played a starring role.” Sane laments the fact that advertising “seems to wait for society to change and then show its spurs; while society, for its turn, hopes like hell that advertising will lead the way and effect the much-needed change.” Neither does that; and all one ends up doing is... changing the damn channel!

Well, if you belong to the club that thinks Julius ‘advertising’ Caesar is a brute, then friends, Indians, ladies, unite...