Anything is possible

Don Draper of Mad Men works on Madison Avenue
Don Draper of Mad Men works on Madison Avenue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Two quotes from Don Draper of Mad Men to start this post and to make a point:


“People want to be told what to do so badly that they will listen to anyone”


“What you call love was invented by guys like me… to sell nylons”


The more I see of the advertising today, am increasingly getting convinced that agencies (and the client) and still living their lives in the Madison Avenue of the 60’s. You can sell anything as long as you play on the fear or insecurity of the people. Or play on their lack of self belief…


When growing up, there are brands that tell you how you can be more intelligent than the rest… taller than the rest… sharper than the rest.. (wonder what happens if theoretically everyone was to consume these brands! how will the comparison happen??)


As you grow older, there are writing instruments that tell you how you can write the perfect paper in double-quick time etc.


And then the fun starts… If you had not consumed the stuff that would make you intelligent and taller and sharper while growing up.. do not lose hope… There is a chewing gum I think which will make the big idea pop up in your head… there is a carbonated drink… gulp it down and you are ready to conquer all your fears… A cola which makes you do crazy stunts… And now the latest Josh Cola – Pepsi Atom! Seriously… if one were to consume all of this… why worry if at birth your IQ was bordering around stupid!


And not to forget.. all the deos (my pet peeve) who can get the girls fawning over you… or if only you can learn the art of picking up a fallen book (remember to wear Raymonds)… attracting the girls is a breeze…


And things don’t end there.. If for some reason you did not take care of your skin while you were young… there are miracles waiting for you beyond the 30… Forever young they will keep you…


Of course I have been part of this profession for more than 20 years but some of the stuff I see now.. makes me question what we do… A decade and half back… Pepsi used to be fun.. as my advertising guru used to say… the communication was a surrogate for actual consumption of the drink… there was a an irreverence about it because after all.. cola or any carbonated drink is completely irreverent.. don’t get philosophical…


Same thing with alcohol advertising – Johnny Walker keep walking or Teacher’s achievement awards or many such initiatives… seriously? And yeah.. that reminds me.. this weekend Bacardi Breezer had a fun-filled evening for the families in our complex… The problem with that… Kids were taking part in all the fun… and 12/13 year olds talking about how they wish they could have a breezer! Way to go Bacardi… catch them young


But enough… advertising will not change because consumers and their insecurities wont and as long as there are enough insecure people on this planet…




Men matter

So there are these two commercial messages that have caught my eyes n ears.

First one is iciciprulife’s new campaign ‘bande achche hain’. Ok so it’s an insurance ad and all about responsibilities that men are supposed to have. But beautifully done. And in current times when men are getting battered for the ills in the society, it focuses on many things men do and they dont look for acknowledgment. Things they do but are never seen or noticed. One situation in thr commercial – wife shaking her head and picking up stuff that husband has dropped.. Expression is like how many times I have told you! She bends and gets up.. Without realising that their was a drawer open n it would have hit her head but the husband had shut it. Or the situation where instinctively the man always walks on the side of traffic while walking on the road.. I guess for our gender these things come instinctively. Also our manufacturing defects like lack of emotions or doing our own things. But somehow.. Because the defects are visible, they tend to get noticed and we as men dont go ahead and try to show things we do.

The next is the radio spot for Sikka realtor in greater noida.. Ok ok so we all take realty ads with a pinch of salt. But the radio spot is about a guy talking about the sacrifices his dad made so that he could grow and prosper. Poignant and full of emotions that we all can connect with about our dads or we as dads. And sorry Archies and hallmark and all the commercial establishments.. We dont need a father’s day to acknowledge the sacrifices our dads made.. As a dad, it comes naturally…

If you live in Delhi and drive, do catch the radio spot and of course the iciciprulife’s commercial.

Full Frontal

The title of the post is courtesy – One of their top trends for 2013.

Read that day before yesterday and interestingly there was discussion on NDTV last night. Point of discussion… the Indian Food Regulatory authority has sent notice to 38 brands for making various claims in their communication. Claims about helping lose weight, making the kid smarter, taller and intelligent. So Horlicks, Complan, Kellog’s are under scanner.

Now there could be truth in the claims made by the brands but again there maybe lot of obscure studies backing the claims. Unfortunately, in our country there is no independent body for authenticating these claims. And truth be told, I have not yet heard anyone saying that these products have worked. Health, losing weight, kids becoming smarter or taller is a function of many things and brands bank on these to deliver result. Typically as a parent, I know that when my kids pays attention their studies, religiously practice and work hard, they will be smarter and intelligent. Similarly, active life (every evening intense physical activity in the park) will make them healthy and taller (by the way, my kids don’t have Horlicks or Complan… they have Bournvita and they are doing just fine). And of course as a parent, if I have subliminally or overtly bought into the claims made by the brands, I am ensuring that they have two glasses of milk a day with the additives so the result is that these brands become part of the process of growing up ( a process that is a natural process. All they do is play on the guilt of the parents to enter the house. Long back when I was at JWT, I had heard often enough that South India was a very large market for Horlicks because culturally there is a lot of pressure on kids over there to be Einsteins and Horlicks on a regular basis tapped into that pressure.

Take a look at all the junk foods that have got into the habit of saying how they are healthy. Chips are now baked so they are healthy. Butter is fat-free etc. Or Kellog’s has a variant which tells women that they can become slimmer (helps them charge a premium for that particular variant). Would love to know if any woman has actually become slimmer by consuming Kellog’s.

Full frontal is about brands coming clean on all their claims. Opening themselves to scrutiny. And they are being driven in the West to do so by the consumers. Consumers, tough regulators and the fear of billion dollar law suits.

Will it ever happen in India? Will Complan share every finding (not studies commissioned by them but independent studies over a long period) that proves their claims? I guess not. Because there is no pressure on them to do so. Even this notice that has been sent by the regulator will amount to a fine of some INR 10L (about US$ 20,000) if the claim is doubtful.

Consumerism in India needs to become extremely powerful and active for these brands to feel the pressure.

And it is not just this category. But many other categories. Skin care, health care.. As Nidhi so rightly mentioned in the program yesterday. Does the fairness cream really work?

Even in automobiles. How long are we going to believe the mileage claims *under standard test conditions. Given the roads we drive on, we will never ever be driving in the standard test condition.   So how about.. an automobile brand tells me that we will put a litre of petrol in the car and go with me on my normal day drive and see how much mileage I get. Any negative deviance from their claimed mileage.. for every one km deviance they will knock of an amount off their price. Don’t think they will do that.

So till we get active about our rights as consumers, lets give our children all the health drinks, pamper our skins and hair and believe that the car does give 21kms/litre…

Automobile advertising – Creative cupboard is empty

Saw the commercial for Nissan Evalia yesterday. And while today I read on that they are all renowned musicians (I didn’t know), I kept wondering why the commercial looked so familiar! Turns out that Maruit Ertiga commercial was quite similar. Links at the bottom for you all to judge.

This pretty much is the story in automobile advertising – we are bereft of ideas on how to connect with the potential buyers. Either the communication is very inward looking – come buy me.. I got so many features or a very clichéd view of why a person buys a car – relationships, success symbol, have arrived etc. And not to miss the fact about mileage.

Somehow I think that automobile communication in India never builds passion. Never makes the buyer feel in love with his wheels. Never leads to situations where the women feel threatened by the existence of ‘her’ in their lives. Ever notice that we never personify the car… always it or car.. never ‘her’.

And it is never ‘he’r because the advertising we do is absolute tripe. The cars sell because people are evolving and looking for better cars (not looking for passion)

And till such time we are not trying to look beyond our nose or stop thinking that we know everything about automobile advertising, we will continue to churn out the stuff as shown in the links.

As an aside, once I was told by a creative guy (he had tons of experience in creating automobile advertising), it is very simple (from a print perspective) – have a great looking shot of the car – smart headline (more often than not, have a bank of headlines and pick one when the need arises), specs at the bottom and voila! the ad is ready!


The real consumer in advertising

Yep the people and the situations shown in our advertising, they are all true. All of that happens and all of it really really connects with the ones watching the ads. Husband and wife arguing in the car and then it turns out that the husband had booked a table for candlelight dinner and the call comes while they are arguing (just a little plug for one of the features in Ford Figoblue tooth phone connectivity – besides the point that the person at the other end can hear himself or herself on the speakers of the car!)

Or take for instance the new Raymond ad – Oh yes… it happens always! guy comes to see a girl for marriage… a reluctant girl and all he has to do is to pick up the book she drops and voila! girl is hooked!

Or Hyundai Eon – we love the Eon so much that we even get a tattoo done or a haircut which shows the brand name – After all we love our car and we are the ones who set the trend…

Not to forget how we love to show off our fancy new refrigerator. All real parties actually end with couple standing next to the refrigerator for the climax of the party.

And don’t you know… people love watching product windows. It is the most important part of the communication. After all, how else will they know about the benefits of the charcoal lighting heater or how the toothpaste fights those nasty germs or how the anti-aging cream goes deep into the skin and works its magic to make you look younger. We are very rational creatures and we must know intricate details of how the product works… else we will not buy.

Or yes we know very well that the hatchback we have bought, it actually is like a bus! so many people can sit inside and more importantly, the moments that we have in the car – they are as real as the ones shown in the ads – reference Sail and Ertiga.

And the countless deo ads for men and skincare and cosmetic ads for women. They are all true. I mean they must be true… deo market for men is like 1000 crores a year so it must be working and all over the country, the girls are just waiting to get intoxicated by the latest deo and are ready to strip or be all over the guys… And yes, woman emancipation is for real because we have real women promoting the virtues of Dove or for that matter a dab of cream here and there and the woman can get ahead in a man’s world by charming his pants off (figuratively coz men are not supposed to be stripping and fawning just because the woman smells good or looks good – that’s only for men deos.

And do you know why all ads depict real people and real aspirations? because we in advertising know what men want and what women want! We know because we have market research agencies who spend endless number of hours understanding consumer behaviour and telling us in fancy quadrantized way about how we can segment the consumer and sharpen our communication.

And in the pre-test research, the consumers tell us too that yes they love this ad or hate that ad so obviously we have it right!

Check out this link if you don’t believe me:



Idea stretched too far

So the new airtel campaign is out. Wonder what people think of the new communication. My two pennies worth… I think it is stretched (as the title of the post says). Har ek friend jaroori hota hai was so fresh… had an insight into the users (the youth)… was stemming from the users.

But the new TVC surely lacks an insight unless the insight is “internet hai toh friendship hai” and if it is so… Bleh! as the young generation says. This TVC is all about what airtel internet offers and not what the users want.. I mean sure they want all of that stuff but they are getting that already right? Else the handsets would not have had Facebook button and preloaded social apps.

I think everybody will probably like the song but will they connect with the communication and with the brand… umm I don’t know…

The age of mediocrity

Mediocrity has become all-pervasive. Is it the signs of time or is it just in my head but I look around and see it everywhere… especially in my profession… not that I have done anything outstanding in the last one and half-year that I have moved back to advertising but hey… I can’t be faulted for that!

Consumer… insights… compelling communication… these don’t matter anymore. It is all about “I have this product… it has just great features and I know that all I need to do is communicate them and people will just line up to buy into what I am selling”. This is not an actual quote but it is the mindset that is driving the communication.

“Designed for Humans” says the tagline of Samsung Galaxy S III… eh what?? Are they trying to say that other phones are for animals? including Galaxy Note and Galaxy S II!

Saw this commercial for Rin the other day… all these women.. with nothing better to do.. gathering up by the hundreds to hear Kaajol talk about yellow fighter (I think it was called that)… So what women is this brand talking to? Seems like this is the only concern women have in their lives… white shirt. It’s a different matter that in today’s office environment, I hardly ever see a white shirt! even my kids don’t have white shirt as part of school uniform!

And of course… the less said about all the deo commercials.. the better…

Vodafone crap during the IPL… Maruti Ertiga commercial full of age old cliches… or the TVS Apache commercial with a tagline – “Scarily fast”.

The consumer, I don’t think is even bothered with the communication anymore… they probably follow the buzz on the web… read reviews… be part of forums and make their choices because those times when the commercial break used to be more entertaining than the program itself are gone…

I could go on and on… but no point to it… self-absorbed is what brands have become and to boost the topline and bottomline, agencies are also churning out stuff that gets the billing…. After all… for the awards, they anyways create scam stuff…