07 May 2011
All about Ads
I remember my first brush with the world of advertising. I must have been in primary school then. There used to be these ads of Usha fans that were aired on DD 1 (where else!!). It showed all these happy people, in colorful bright clothes, running across a beach. And then the caption would be displayed saying “ghar lao Usha fan” (or something on those lines).
I kept wondering: how can one fan cool the entire beach?!!? Fan in the beach? How does it work? Where do we fix it? Where is the wire? What about current? These ‘major’ doubts kept playing in my head. I know … I know…this isn’t giving a very good picture of my brain. I was stupid, all right. I was so naïve. But, to my credit, I was also, like all children my age & time, incredibly curious about … well, just about everything. Faced with so many mind boggling questions, one day, I finally asked my elder sister, unable to unravel the mystery on my own. She explained that the ad “symbolizes” the effects of the fan, that you’d feel as cool under an Usha fan as you would if you were on a breezy beach.
Aah so that was it – symbolism! What a powerful word! And what a clever way of asking people to buy the fan! My brain was stupid but quick to grasp what was taught. To this day, I remember the explanation she gave & how it cleared my clutter in my mind. It was around this time that my interest in ads grew. Today, I am a sucker for any show on TV that talks of ads (particularly, ‘All About Ads’ and ‘Storyboard’ on CNBC TV 18). I also devour, literally, any article in any magazine that even remotely talks about any ad from any part of the world.
There was a phase in my life, when I idolized Alyque Padamse, the legendary ad man of India & followed his every major achievement. As a teenager, I remember being amused by all the media sound bites he gave (which, by the way, made me once wonder: “Is he really an Indian?”) Even now, whenever he comes on TV, I blush, thinking “oh my god…this man held me under his sway for so long”.
I believe an ad is an audio-visual biography of a brand/product. It traces its colorful journey quite vividly through the years. Look at the Surf ad: from the yesteryear’s Dhoondthe Rah Jaoge to today’s Daag Achche Hai.
Music too has, deservingly, come to define ads today & thereby, the brand recall of very many products. After all, what is Airtel without the jingle composed by Rahman? Or for that matter, what is Bajaj scooter without the “Hamara Bajaj” tune? It was a mini national anthem, especially for the Indian middle class family. And who can ever forget the evergreen jingle of Nirma detergent: “Nirma Nirma, Washing powder nirma , dhoodh ki safai, nirma se aayi”. Those were iconic tunes.
But like in all good love stories, there’s a villain in this one too. The part that depresses me about the ad world is when they use women to sell products that have nothing to do with the female gender in the first place. Like, for example, male vests or banians. Also, why on earth do they have to show women, in barely- there clothes, promoting such totally non-sexy, downright boring products like tea powder, detergents, or even toothpaste? Please give us a break from these gross ads & the crass mindsets behind them.