Oct 12, 2016

The Power of Advertising

R Jayaraman

I saw the TOI online today and my eyes almost popped out. Netizens, especially those with a funny bone, are seemingly getting naughty and imaginative. How else can you explain this ad in the Mock tail section? A dashing, coldish, cowboy type with a dabba of pan bahar! The moustache is classic Delhiwali, the suit is undoubtedly Raymond’s, the style of holding the dabba is Gabbarish, the face – of Pierce Brosnan. Of the Bond, James Bond infamy. The video, I believe, features Pierce, with a piercing stare at the dabba, followed by a slam dunk of a “Kolkatha Masala“ in his mouth, and spitting out the red stuff through the left end of his mouth, amidst a set of clenched teeth. Lalu could learn something from this stylish, new way to promote not only pan but spitting it out as well.

The way to promote products through advertisements is ages old. The first perhaps was the one featuring Lord Ganesh and Ved Vyasa, with a copy of the Mahabharata displayed in the background, with a blurb, ”Sitting cross legged is cool, you can write one lakh lines and more. Try it out, you will never need yoga”. The main theme of this ad is health (most appropriate for our times, and hence of public interest), the key actors are both giants in their own ways but both needing some help in the health area, and their co-produced product is one of the longest running storylines in any part of the world. And, to cap it all, the focus is on “Health for anyone, anywhere, anytime“. And the reference to yoga is politically correct for the times we live in. So just imagine what impact this ad will have on the Indian public waiting for new ideas. The power of an ad is in its characters, those with whom the public can identify. Ganesha is one such personality who blends himself into any number of scenarios, any landscape. You can see him in the streets of Indonesia, in Singapore, In Malaysia, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in the USA. Anyone can draw him, just like the line sketch of Gandhi. He is unique, the only elephant in the world with a human body.

If the public jells with the character then the ad is a hit. Such favourites are Amitabh Bachhan, Rajnikant, Narendra Modi, Pappu, Kejriwal, Lalu. However the overall character of an ad is not the sum of the charisma of the characters in it, it is the idea that counts. As Boeing says, quantity, we can count, but quality we can count on. So one must energise the pep of an ad through a message, subtle imagery, populated by well-known characters with whom the audience can empathise and thus synergise the whole piece. Into this scene we now have Pierce Brosnan, with a pan to boot.

An ad also needs to be current although the characters may be aged, not in the sense of elderly, but in terms of the time period they graced the public. Let me clarify. Mahatma Gandhi may be old in terms of the period that he trod this earth, but his relevance is still very much felt. One more aspect of an ad – it needs to be classy. Which is to say, colours which bounce off light, characters who are loud and crude (Dada Kondke, did you say), messages bad in language (like the dalaali of blood or mauth ka saudagar) do not a great ad make. In fact they actively interfere and also take away from it. So the next time you want to come up with good advertising, do read the Mock tail reports of the TOI and other papers too. That will enrich our ads and also tickle the funny bone; we need this nowadays especially after the aftermath of the surgical strikes.

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