Friday, October 25, 2013

Do Whacky Named Ad-Shops Score Over Others?

4Ps B&M investigates the growing list of OMG, new-age agency names that could prompt the conservative, old school types, to reach for their smelling salts or fast-track towards the nearest ICU!

A few months ago a close friend of mine called up, slightly hysterical and insisted he needed to see me, pronto! Alarmed, I invited him instantly. He arrived, looking like death warmed-up. I immediately enquired about his health, whether his Biwi No.1 had left him for SRK, his daughter with the tattooed dude down the road, his son with a druggie buddy ...? He appeared irritated (a good sign suggesting human feelings!) and impatient. “Don’t talk nonsense yaar, it’s nothing like that. You remember my elder daughter and that big session you had about career-avenues? She followed your advice and joined an ad agency, but ...” here he visibly ashened “but God, how can one ever utter that name in public? Will my daughter ever get a decent suitor in the matrimonial market once they hear where she is employed?” He paused, looked up towards me and croaked “Six Inches! That’s the name of the ad agency! Can you believe it?”

On the way to the bar to quickly provide my friend with the ol’ friendly life support juice, I couldn’t suppress a small smile. He was not from Adbiz and hence was clueless about the fact that there was life beyond the old, traditional names like JWT, Ogilvy, McCann, Lowe, Lintas, Grey, even Mudra, Ulka, etc. In recent times such whacked-out names like Nuts N Bolts, Scarecrow, Eggfirst Advertising, Saints & Warriors, WhatTheHell?, Cut The Crap, Fresh Lime Soda Creatives, Flaky Mellow & Grounded, From Here On, Bang In The Middle, Virus, Brand Curry, Curry-Nation, Grasshopper, Goosebumps, Taproot ... are pushing for centre-stage, with more set to, undoubtedly, follow. Wassup? Has Adville finally become – officially – a Pagalkhana?

Moon Moon Dhar, the feisty CD of the Delhi-based adshop Perfect10 – she gave the name – believes that these new-age names should provide zero reason for any progressive, sane, intelligent person to take that tip to the shrink! “Boss, isn’t effective advertising about the AIDA factor: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action? That’s what these freaky names hit. Same with Perfect10. To the true-blue movie buff of yesteryears, it could well evoke images of the sizzling Bo Derek starring in the film of the same name. To ad professionals, however, the message is simple: a benchmark, a yardstick for true, effective professionalism that delivers the goods,” she tells 4Ps B&M.

Goosebumps head honcho Ratan Kumar agrees and lets out where his unusual agency name came from. “In today’s Adville, where competition is fierce and gaining an edge anyhow and anywhere is hugely advantageous, standing out is the key. This name came from a stunning line delivered as a part of a pitch by my ex-boss in Leo Burnett. He said: We are really farmers. We raise goosebumps. I was blown! I couldn‘t dream of choosing any other name when I struck out on my own,” says Kumar.

Grasshopper Communications big boy Arjun Banerjee – whose allied services come under the name of Green Thumbs & Grownups – confesses that he never ever wanted to go the straight, boring route. “Idly, sitting over a drink one night and wondering what kind of name would best define our agency’s soul, I saw this grasshopper in my room cheerfully hopping from one spot to another. Bingo! Movement, energy, hitting new spots – isn’t that a cool way to get started? That has remained our prime focus,” Banerjee tells 4Ps B&M.

The Virus guys – Rupam & wifey Oli Bora – believe that it’s a great idea to let your ideas be contagious and infect clients with them! “That what brand Virus is all about. Also it seamlessly lends itself to brand extensions – Virus Digital, Virus Films etc. – without disturbing the soul of the desired (provocative) mandate, direction or focus.”

Head honcho of Brand Curry, Subrata Chakraborty is up next with his very own take on his shop’s spicy name! “When we opened shop in 2004, we were very sure that we didn’t want to be another Anglo-Saxon zerox! We wanted a signature that epitomized local roots with global vision. A celebration of desi designed to resonate with global clients. See Manhattan through a Meerut prism! Curry was a word that connected seemlessly with global players irrespective of whether they had been to India or not. I also – at a seminal level – suggested spice, colour, excitement. What better branding for a brand new shop determined to be different in letter, spirit ... and name?!” says Chakraborty.

Social commentator & head honcho of Future Brands, Santosh Desai believes this phenomenon is a sign of the times. “Early on Suits ran the agency business and being politically correct & dignified was part of their persona. The aberrations and freako stuff was strictly for the creative types who anyway were not meant for public consumption! This went well with the JWT, McCann, Clarion, Ogilvy, Interpub – names & shops that were firang and came with a sense of awe. Today, creative people call the shots and clients are cool interacting with them. Somewhere this loosening up and shift of focus has made a difference because what they bring to the table is something way beyond what the stodgy suit does,” he tells 4Ps B&M. The more important challenge, believes Desai, is for the start-ups. “It is a David versus Goliath scene from the word go! Irreverence and a sense of adolescence marks their persona and what better place to begin attention-grabbing than the very name. Strawberry Frog (for example) can come as cardiac-arrest material to an ad guy of the seventies whose idea of the off beat were (such tame?) second agency names like Interface (Ulka), Contract (JWT), Edge (Everest), ACIL (Clarion). These new, whacky names bring a sense of fun, energy and edginess to the business which is not always insanely focused on being only politically correct.” However, Desai warns in many cases, these agencies fizzle out because after that first big bang, the follow up can’t keep pace either with the expectations or requirements.

Gorgeous veteran Nargis Wadia – traffic stopping CEO of Interpub of the sixties and seventies – is up next. “I think it’s really an evolutionary thing. When we started out, advertising was in a nascent stage and we were self-conscious about the way we conduct business. Respectability and dignity leading to credibility were given high premium and were pursued rigorously. That manifested itself in the names of that era. Today it’s a more casual time. Creative expressions come in different garbs and clients are perfectly comfortable with it. Hence these unusual names! Also, they are clutter-busting moves ensuring noticeability & memorability in a space crammed with tons of Adshops,” says Wadia.

Hot-shot marketing honcho Lloyd Mathias believes that ad agencies are really late-bloomers compared to rock bands and design/film production outfits in the name game. “I remember in St. Xaviers College, way back, we formed a band that was instantly banned called ... OUR SOULS! The establishment didn’t see anything really spiritual and labeled it blasphemous!” Mathias is totally ra-ra about this trend because he believes it captures the flavour of both, the cool times we live in as also perfectly epitomizes – in letter and spirit – the new-age spin on this business of creativity. “Remember bizarre is the new normal in a space where imagination rules and is being reinvented everyday,” adds Mathias.

The last words must come from Delhi-based Avijit Dutt. A renowned screen, theatre & ad personality, Dutt believes that the newbies needed “to think outside the carpentry shed, forget the box! In this scenario, the first seduction is in the curiosity of the name, something that expresses uniqueness and memorability, raises a chuckle and hopefully hopes to bogey into the sunset, with their clients.” Well, why go far? Check out superstar SRK’s funky & disruptive name for his film production company: Red Chillies!


Friday, July 12, 2013


4Ps B&M examines an issue that continues to plague the industry … but remains its worst kept secret! Is it normal industry practice or over-reactions from the creative dilettantes?

As a curtain-raiser, a brief flashback to what one of my earliest gurus – the late, iconic Subhash Ghoshal – told us when we were about to get started as trainees in the JWT Kolkata of the early 70s, would be in order. “We are in the service industry and exist only because of our clients. Never forget that.” He also made it clear that the jobs of the two were clearly demarcated. “Our job is to understand everything about his product and communication requirement and offer him cutting-edge need-based solutions. The client is to clearly define his needs and pose challenges that charge us to offer communication that catches lightning in a bottle!” Since creativity was the driving force, opinions – informed, focused, sharp, insightful as well as frivolous, stupid, dismissive, even downright rude – he warned us, would fly, but it was critical that we retain our cool and dignity befitting our role as good ambassadors of both JWT, and the profession. However, it was equally critical that we don’t “cave-in, sell-out or play yes-men to any/everything the client says because we are not suppliers but consultants – collaborators and equal-partners on the same side, united in the common agenda of informing, educating, persuading and selling the product/service to the target group.”

That was titan-speak, but today, in year 2013, does client-interference happen as frequently and does it still embrace the charming definition of “the insanity of barking when you have a dog!” Let’s face it, advertising – like Bollywood – is a nervous space, forever driven by frenzied guesswork, hunches, buzz, hearsay, whatever. Pecking to death a perfectly well-formulated and approved idea, is not unknown, nor the client “perching on our damn shoulders like some goddamned nagging conscience” as one fatigued creative put it. “They should stop being C-grade writers & art directors and concentrate on playing the role of an inspirational impresario instead,” adds another. Tongue-firmly in cheek, ex-JWT Creative Director Dulu Sen lets fly a zinger: “As the great H. G. Wells once wrote, no passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone’s draft!”

Power Grid’s Naresh Kumar fires the first salvo offering an interesting client-perspective. “The answer has to be a yes and no! Yes, because there are definite instances – both in the PSUs and private sector – where clients are more opinionated than professionally evolved and bring this to bear on the job. Due to this inadequacy, they prefer to play safe, toe traditional lines and go for consensus instead of taking the lead and responsibility to break new ground in terms of joint-collaboration towards creating meaningful, interesting yet relevant communications.” However, as an ex mass-com student with advertising agency experience, Kumar prides himself in being a thorough professional with a solid, two-decade experience of successfully handling the entire gamut of PSU communication portfolio. “This has resulted in awards and being recognised as a communication practitioner of real worth, enjoying high comfort levels with every Ad agency I have ever interacted with, leading to excellent work. We both know where we are coming from so there’s mutual respect, total transparency and zero bullshitting – something bound to happen when clients are clueless and opinionated allowing agencies to play shrewd supplier and move on,” he tells 4Ps B&M.

Next-up is Delhi-based agency Perfect 10’s Creative Director Moon Moon Dhar with her own take. “Client interference – especially in the PSU orbit – frequently happens when the wires are crossed!” She explains that many times the key honchos representing clients at a presentation are not from the communication discipline and therefore lack the required understanding, perspective, direction or appreciation of this special calling. They bring technical or financial aspects which – usually – are irrelevant to the presentation focus and confuse the issue. Sometimes, they insist that these elements be incorporated … and agencies give in because they feel its not worth fighting for. “Look, we are not here to change the world. It’s often no more than just a dumb job for a dumb client! However, there have been instances when clients have been brilliantly pro-active and their inspirational direction, guidance and mentoring have resulted in magic! Alas, these are few and far between…” she tells 4Ps B&M.


Thursday, May 16, 2013



Consulting Editor 4Ps B&M Monojit Lahiri questions the relevance of slogans in today’s era, and, umm, tastes the thunder

Once upon a time, slogans & advertising were truly the made-for-each-other blend, indeed as perfectly matched as the iconic Wills Filter template created for the ITC brand of the sixties! In 2013, do slogans have the same, compelling draw, enticement-value or fun-factor that they once enjoyed? A significant bunch of ad-watchers and trackers believes that many of the big brands don’t consider it necessary or cool to fall back on slogans anymore, considering it both hackneyed and horribly predictable. They believe that readers, viewers and listeners have moved on to a more communication-savvy and literate space where visual/aural devices and linkages are more impactive than the [y-a-w-n] catch-lines. Others disagree and believe that if slogans are intelligently and creatively fused into the brand promise, they will continue to both rock n’ roll! So what gives?

Lloyd Mathias – a brilliant, marketing practitioner who has done valuable time in Pepsi, Motorola and Tata and presently director of the Gurgaon-based Green Bean Ventures – believes that there’s been a sea-change in the very nature of the beast. “Across the 60s, 70s, even 80s, print and radio were pretty much the prime media drivers, where slogans naturally lent themselves as seductive and entertaining persuaders. However, with the advent of the TVC and now Digital, the entire scenario changed as did the perceptions of media consumption. While it didn’t totally dump the slogan to the trash can, it called for a review. Pepsi is a classic case in point where, from Yehi hai right choice baby to Dil maange more to Yeh pyaas hai badi to the latest Oh, Yes, Abhi, the transition has been organic and effective.”

Ogilvy’s cool dude creative maverick Sumanto Chattopadhyaya agrees. “Mathias is spot-on. Audio-visual & Digital have truly changed the rules of the game and ushered in a paradigm shift where visual/aural devices and linkages come through with greater enthusiasm and acceptance. However, intelligently and insightfully leveraged, slogans can still be both effective and memorable, aiding the end game in the business of influencing purchase intent.” The Bandera look-alike cites the example of Ogilvy’s Asian Paints Sunil Babu and loves Hoodi Baba as interesting examples of taking the concept of slogans and onomatopoeia to another level as also the outstanding example of Airtel’s Har ek friend zaroori hota hai (now, adapted in a movie title as Har ek friend kameena hota hai!) in celebrating the role and relevance of a great slogan. Ad and theatre hot-shot Bharat Dabolkar laughs and insists on using strong words. “Any dumbo who believes that the slogan is dead is talking nonsense and is obviously communication-illiterate! Never has it been more important than today when product parity and me-too-ism is rampant, since the USP is dead and buried. Slogans are [and have always been] the great differentiators, be it the timeless Utterly butterly delicious of Amul, the Har ek friend of Airtel or I love you, Rasna. Didn’t the late Mrs.Gandhi and more recently Barack Obama sweep popular imagination with their mesmeric slogans, Garibi Hatao and Yes, I Can respectively? Not slogans, but creativity is dead, my friend!” Shruti Gupta finds Dabolkar’s argument “both quaint and typically old-fashioned in keeping with his generation’s mindset. It’s not value judgement but facts that prove that new-age manufacturers and consumers of communication – across all avenues – don’t exactly get all dreamy eyed by slogans like their dads did in a more simplistic, non-cluttered and competitive time. Sure, slogans are used, but it’s not a sacrosanct rule and not at all compulsory.” The 27 year old Mumbai-based graphic designer believes that advertising has truly moved on and visual/aural devices offer equally potent, exciting and effective options. The Titan and DoComo signature tunes are brilliant examples of aural linkages that are creative and offer endless audience delight. “Oh really?” counters Shubhra Tandon of FCB, Ulka. The 27 year old copywriter reels off endless examples of stunning slogans that remain etched in memory. Starting with Taste the thunder and Dar ke aage jeet hai, Daag achhe hain, Har ghar kuch kehta hain, Definitely male, Swad zindagi ka, Thanda matlab Coca Cola, and more.

Halt! So who’s winning? If a slogan is about a brand pithily summed up and encapsulated with words which slam home the proposition in an engagingly entertaining manner that evokes a clear thought about the brand, isn’t that purrfect and cool? If, on the other hand, it appears too restrictive and suffocating, has done time, outlived its utility and needs to be put to rest while being replaced by a solid visual/aural device, should it incur the wrath of the purists, all set to leap out of mothballs or graves – whichever came first – and howl invectives about corrupting a sacrosanct template? For a safe answer, I will go to two classic slogans and invite the adwallahs to not “think small” and to “just do it”! Amen.


Friday, April 19, 2013

csr as agent of change


4Ps B&M examines the real potency that powers these three noble alphabets and arrives at some rather interesting conclusions

In the beginning come the definitions. First off the block is a true-blue pundit, C. B. Bhattacharya (E.ON Chair Professor in Corporate Responsibility at European School of Management Technology in Berlin) who believes CSR is “an exploration of marketing strategies and consumer behaviour that demonstrates how under-leveraged intangible assets like corporate identity and reputation, membership and brand communities can strengthen shareholder relationships”. He believes it is a dynamic fusion of doing good with doing well and business value can be reaped if organisations are prepared to move from a shareholder-centric space to a stakeholder-centric one. Another suggests that CSR is really about “strategically positioning a company in society so that it can actually take advantage of public concerns like poverty or global warming, rather than be damaged by them”.

Economist Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar pooh-poohs this, begs to differ and quotes (in his website columnist Chrystia Freeland’s take on CSR as “a fetish encouraged by the philanthropies that feed off it and funded by the corporate executives who have found that it serves their bottom line”. Social Commentator Santosh Desai joins the party with an interesting anecdote about a company’s head honcho sending a truck load of relief material to the Bhuj earthquake victims worth Rs.10 lakhs and wanting to create a campaign to announce this, worth Rs.3 crore! “He saw no contradiction and instead believed it was a legitimate platform for his brand, powering a pro-active marketing initiative that could enjoy great emotional rub-off and position his company as a warm, human and empathic corporate entity. It seemed to be a part of the corporate video game where rules of the real world don’t apply. It’s all about a great opportunity to communicate brand value,” Desai tells 4Ps B&M.

Veteran Ad Guru Alyque Padamsee moves away to openly confess that he is a tad bored by the killjoys and cynics that dot the Adfrat and prefers to see the brighter side of issues. “Agreed CSR initiatives may not always accomplish all that they wish to, but it’s not the intent that is at fault, but monitoring system. Be it government or private sector biggies, if these are carefully attended to and addressed, all would be fine,” says Padamsee. He also believes that if done well, it definitely helps image-building and giving corporates and government/PSUs a warm, human face.

Theatre Director, Actor and Communications Expert Avijit Dutt brings his take to the table. He wonders whether in today’s space “CSR is a mission or corporate ego at work”! He believes that these three alphabets are seductive buzzwords gathering momentum in a consumerist environment. True charity is (according to the Upanishads) where the giver neither remembers nor reminds us of the amount given “but here trumpets blow, even if in mute tone, to announce this fact. The government’s mandate for all companies to spend 2% of their PAT makes it even more directionless. Earlier CSR was the nature of voluntary action that business could take, clearly defining the intent of companies desiring to cut loose and go the extra mile. But now…”

Chairman & NCD of BBDO wraps up this debate, in style. Josy Paul is of the opinion that “true integration is when the idea integrates with society”. He believes creating acts not ads is the need of the hour and CSR is not something that you do as an add-on, but integral to the brand. He cites the example of their Aviva Life Insurance effort with their humongous act called Great Wall of Education. “This catapulted into a movement mobilizing people across the country to donate books and ended up collecting over 2.5 million books! Call it CSR, brand communication, whatever, it’s about communication being rooted in the social and cultural moment,” Paul tells 4Ps B&M. Gillette’s “Soldiers Wanted” and Tata Tea’s “Jago Re” campaigns, Paul believes, are two more commendable strikes in this direction and adds that it also includes ground action and online engagement.

So, finally does CSR rock in today’s times? It’s like this. No company exists in a vacuum. It operates in a society and its impact/behaviours – ethical, social, economical, environmental – will be open to criticism and scrutiny. Today’s societies demand more film co-operation than simply offering products and making profits. They expect that they trade fairly, uphold human rights, and protect the environment. CSR pundits believe that there are three points to it – charitable giving, community investments, and commercial initiatives. ITC Chairman, Y. C. Deveshwar (in a 2007 AGM) had pronounced the final words with passion and purpose: “Corporates in India have capability, vision and entrepreneurial skill to forge a more prosperous future for the nation, even as they sharpen there competitiveness and grow there business globally.”

However, in a world increasingly obsessed in knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing, this calling, function, corporate philanthropy, mandate or strategic commodity that adds to the credentials of a company, remains an area that, beyond rhetoric, will ultimately be saluted or scorned totally by its intent and impact. Nothing more. Nothing less.


Saturday, March 16, 2013



The Indian Chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA) has recently launched a gender sensitisation initiative to fundamentally change the societal attitude towards women. But, the big question remains:

It was the horrific Nirbhaya case of mid-Dec last year that truly unleashed an unprecedented, collective outpouring of shock, rage, fear and grief that had to be seen to be believed! The trauma and tragedy that defined the mind-chilling incident elicited widespread reactions across every strata of society, at home and abroad. Some of the most explosive pieces squarely put the blame of this heinous act on media – cinema, TV, advertising – for consistently (and shamelessly) portraying women as delectable objects of consumption and desire. Be it Fevicol (mein to tandoori murgi hoon yaar, gatkale saiyan alcohol se) or the amazing glam, sexy, designer other woman in TV serials, or again the impossibly hot babe who axes you and compels you to use Man-force to go the distance – the portrayal of women across popular media streams remains flamboyantly irresponsible and dangerously titillating.

While the big daddys of media will (as always) continue to offer their age-old, mothballed and musty line of “Don’t shoot us, we’re only the piano players” (to read: we only reflect what is happening in society, not creating or pre-empting it), the critics insist it’s just their way of shirking responsibility to cleverly tap into the baser instincts of a humongous target group, diverse and broad-based as hell, and rake in the loot.

The Indian Chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA) seems to have taken this red-hot issue by the horns and launched an aggressive initiative to stop violence on women (VOW). A powerful and persuasive communication tool that is mandated to inform, educate, persuade and sell, Advertising as a CSR (corporate social responsibility) activity can and does act as a mover n’ shaker of popular beliefs and mindsets, showing the light if not parting the waters. Under the initiative, IAA hopes to kick-start a series of one-day gender sensitisation seminars for people from film, advertising, TV, print and script-writing areas. The second phase of this initiative will comprise a contest to create a multi-media campaign addressed to the mother of all – eve teasing. The jury will consist of eminent personalities from and outside the adfrat.

Kaushik Roy (Chairman, IAA Public Service Committee and President, Brand Strategy & Marketing Communications, Reliance Industries) believes this is an important thrust because “TV has tremendous impact and reinforces stereotypes while portraying women. IAA plays an effective role in advocating self-governance” and backs it up by indicating the complete blackout of cigarette advertising as an example. So will this gender sensitisation, IAA-driven seminars work … or are they yet another example of Adville posturing through hi-fallutin’ platitudes, to show people how much they care?

Theatre & Film Director Feroz Abbas Khan (of Tumhari Amrita, Saalgiraah, Gandhi My Father fame) can’t resist a snigger before he takes off. “Boss, it’s advertising’s spin on ... advertising!” He elaborates: “Specialists in hypocrisy and double talk, this lot are champions of manipulating emotions and tapping into that vulnerable space between the heart. The brand-building gurus are most anxious to build their own brands, be perceived as the caring, responsible, good guys on the right side of the political divide! If they were really so concerned about right and wrong, wouldn’t at least one person raise his/her hand to veto campaigns against the insulting and regressive Fair & Lovely range of lotions, creams and cosmetics? They dare not because conscience doesn’t stand a chance against market forces!” Khan believes that schizophrenia is the new normal in today’s consumerist society and these seminars are nothing but PR exercises for the group that has initiated them.

BBDO Chairman & Chief Creative Honcho Josy Paul, up next, offers his informed take. He believes that any talk, discussion – water-cooler, bus-stop, cocktail party, student canteen – is better than no-talk. “Instead of looking at the ball, why not go out there and kick it, pass it to another and watch the amazing action that follows,” Paul tells 4Ps B&M. He talks passionately about a recent campaign (Gillette Soldier for Women) that his agency unleashed through TVCs. “We used the signature slogan, The Best a Man Can Get, as a metaphor, an agent of change to drive men to re-think their role in the world of women. If you stand up for them, they will stand up for you. This ad is just a curtain-raiser. There is huge follow-up action on the anvil in terms of partnering/collaborating with a wide range of like-minded groups like NGOs etc. It’s not a campaign, but a movement,” adds Paul.

However, Roy winds up the debate in a positive way. “I believe there is a change that is happening and advertising agencies and their clients are aware about the opportunities that lie in doing gender sensitive advertising. The recent ad for a fan brand where the husband chooses to adopt the wife’s surname rather than changing hers is a great example. It’s a stand-out ad and manages to connect with the brand benefit with the line – hawa badlegi. I therefore have full faith in the advertising community to do something constructive because the winds of change are visible,” says Roy.

At the end of the day, it’s a tough call. Communication of the CSR, public service & societal upliftment variety have happened before but seldom had any impact worth noting or remembering. Why? Critics believe these exercises invariably get into creative, ego-tripping, self-indulgent mode offering ads admired by their zonked-out peers, but largely ignored by most due to confusion and bewilderment. While it’s too early to be judgmental about the IAA’s well-meaning VOW seminars and unfairly dismiss them as dramabaazi, the true followers of this programme – always giving the IAA benefit of doubt – will hope that this well-intended and much-publicised initiative involving important groups does not end up lip-synching the letter instead of embracing, powering and living the spirit.


Friday, February 15, 2013



As pride, identity and profiling increasingly come into play at the global level, questions will follow: Have we been able to define where Indian advertising is coming from and what really reflects our work, mindset & vision, effectively?

When you talk of Indian cinema to purists, the names and work of Ray, Sen, Ghatak, Benegal, Nihalani, Adoor and a host of class acts from regional cinema zoom into focus. Similar models are identified when talking of books, music, dance, etc. However, Indian advertising presents confusion! Is it stuff where the look and feel of the communication is desi? Is it about Hinglish that seems to be the new lingo of tons of our ads across the last three decades? Are food, clothes, body language and ambience defining points of advertising that portray Bharat – not India – as the essence of Indian advertising or is it the churn, the ephemeral quality of life in this new India that best symbolizes this point?

Senior Writer of Kolkata-based Magnum Intergraphics, Mitali Lahiri, is first off the block. “There is no one definition of Indian advertising simply because Indian advertising is as Indian – or non-Indian – as the Indian consumer,” Mitali tells 4Ps B&M. She goes on to explain that the Indian consumer of today is a highly hybrid creature, embracing both, East & West. Globalisation and rampant, infectious consumerism has effected a paradigm shift in overall mindset and consumption patterns. Further, the phenomenon of the ‘working woman’ and technology has put into motion a whole new lifestyle where speed with quality is the new mantra. In the FMCG universe, as also a host of other categories, this rules. Sure, these are not totally Indian (clothes, fashion, accessories, food, communication gadgets) influences – but who cares? “However, values are a more tricky issue, with morality and levels of acceptable permissiveness in this changing space, constantly under threat. Advertising reflects all of this, sometimes taking sides to push its agenda of influencing a sale.” At the end of the day, Mitali believes, “we ourselves have become products of the times we live in, navigated or manipulated by the persuasion industry.”

Social Commentator Santosh Desai is brief and incisive as ever. “It has to do with understanding the sub-text, nuances and layers that powers a deep and serious connect with your consumer in a language and imagery that is spontaneous, not contrived,” he tells 4Ps B&M. Desai believes that there’s a lot of stuff masquerading as Indian advertising is really nothing but “global hand-me-downs in their format with Hinglish inserted for desired effect. This is lazy, short-cut advertising, even politically correct but way off-line regarding target-connect.” However, he freely admits that there is a fair body of work that represents fine examples of this genre.

Spewing venom & fire and totally slinging every single favourable comment is hi-profile, internationally reputed, Delhi-based Painter Jatin Das. “We live in a world where mimics & fakes, shamelessly imitating everything the West does, dominate the public space! Every single (cherished, rich) art form has been hi-jacked by western values which are perceived to be modern and superior. Few kids care to know their mother tongue, long hair is considered Behenji and Fair & Lovely syndrome (they should be put behind bars for their insulting & regressive mindset!) booms across metros, big and small. The new toys of engagement are iPads and iPhones. In such a pathetic environment, why should ads ever reflect anything else? Indian advertising is a phirang, sexy model dressed up in rich, traditional, Indian bridal, finery – the most alarming form of tokenism,” Das tells 4Ps B&M.

Respected and revered photographer Raghu Rai begs to differ. “Piyush Pandey’s Fevicol Bus ad is a masterpiece and is only one of the many wonderful samples of true Indian advertising. Indian roots embracing a charming, universal vision. I also love the bindaas, on-the-ground humour that many ads toss out. As for Hinglish, isn’t that the lingua franca of today’s youth? Good communication is about understanding and re-defining the buzz on-the-street in an interesting, customer-friendly way,” says Rai. His only grouse is about using phirang models as he questions “Chal yaar, our women are so gorgeous. Why those white-skinned females?”

Marketing whiz Lloyd Mathias (Former President & CMO, Tata Teleservices) brings his own spin to the table. He believes it’s a brilliant and appropriate case of: The Empire Strikes Back! “A new breed of client and agencies today live the defining slogan of Dil Maange More! Totally slinging out the Anglocentric model of yesteryears, Piyush, Prasoon and gang read the writing on the wall and scripted their own idiom in perfect sync with the new-age consumer. Language, images, look, feel, setting, situations – everything powerfully illustrates the Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani model, full-on. Airtel, Cadbury, Britannia, Dominos, Maruti, Havells, Sprite, Idea … demonstrate this with style and confidence. No wonder global clients have dropped their accents and moved to a desi makeover,” Mathias tells 4Ps B&M.

At the end of the day, I will go along with Kanchan Dutta’s (CEO, Kolkata based Inner Circle) POV. Life in general and certainly in today’s times is indeed ephemeral in the space we reside … so why should advertising be any different? Whether it preempts, reflects or follows the times is another debate but good, effective and honest advertising will always seek to capture the soul before it conquers the body … and this it can only do when recognizing, understanding and connecting with the critical area of human insights. India is changing. The consumer is changing. The environment and marketspace – complex and riddled with contradictions – are changing. Why should Indian advertising be any different…? More power to its blazing journey, future wards …


Friday, January 18, 2013



4Ps B&M examines the challenges & opportunities that these little dynamites offer to the communication pundits and checks out whether they are on the same, page, chapter, book!

“A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” is how the great iconic British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was once reported to have described Russia. In year 2013, bewildered marketers and communication professionals could well be tempted to borrow that description wholesale, to describe their most challenging target-base … kids! A maddeningly fickle and unpredictable demographic segment whose minds are extremely difficult to enter, marketers continue to grapple with a constituency whose influence on the purchasing intent / decision is increasingly getting bigger by the second!

In short, Pester Power (and other forms of insidious badgering, nagging, coaxing and blackmailing etc) as a means to persuade and convince parents to buy is an area, which to enter, is no child’s play. New parameters need to be drawn if this tsunami is to be understood, tamed and steered in the right direction. Point is: Have the blinkered, tunnel-viewed, rigid marketing and communication people even begun to understand the sub-text, nuances and subtleties that layer this endeavour? Do they have the appropriate skill-set to decode and swing it, their way?

However, before hitting the market, why not peep into the lives of one community, that is totally involved, connected and aware of this phenomenon, first-hand, every day … the Moms! Admits 26-year-old, Delhi-based working mother Seema Sen (who has an angelic 5-year-old daughter, Mishti) that life is far from heavenly! “She is just 5 but madam has a mind of her own! Clothes, food, snacks, cold drinks, TV programmes, outing spots, even friends, cousins, relatives – she has definite preferences and it’s a job to get her to change her mind! At 5, I was a Puppet!” says Seema.

Mumbai-based, 30-year-old Belinda Fernandes understands Seema’s predicament totally. The homemaker has two live-wire boys aged 9 and 7 and freely states that “going bonkers or grey is no longer an option!” She says, that “thanks to TV and the digital wave, my brats have more knowledge and opinions about … everything … about which I (comp-illiterate) am clueless! Only when I yell who’s the Boss comes into play. Parenting today is no child’s play!”

Social Commentator Santosh Desai urges us not to dismiss this as frivolous and take a big reality-byte. “We live in a completely different, technologically and digitally-driven time and are – willy-nilly – creatures of the age of consumption. Kids are hotter and hippier with the new lingo and jargons of this phenomenon and therefore cooler with it,” Desai tells 4Ps B&M. Hence they are forever tuned-in or logging-out of the latest trends in this space. In this KGOY (Kids Getting Older Younger!) environment soft toys and old-fashioned board games (Ludo, Snakes & Ladders, Carrom) are dumped for iPad, iPod etc. They are much more clued-in too, about products that go well beyond the usual (clothes, sweets, toys and movies) range. Today cars, mobile phones, DVD players – among other adult purchases – zoom into the radar too with alarming speed! No wonder a recent Disney’s KidSense survey indicated over 60% kids discussing products mentioned above with their parents / elders. Also, smart parents turn to their techno-savvy kids for insights and info before the decision-making process.