Input: Advertisement, output: propoganda, End result: controversy

I am one among the 10 million people watched the Surfexel ad. I don’t belong the majority or the minority half of the spectators collective but having a considerable foreground and knowledge on the subject of advertising, I have my reasons to differ with the ad which the nation seems to be obsessed with. For the selected few who have not watched the ad by now I am plugging it here, Surfexel ad commercial.

When I watched this ad for the first time, I enjoyed it and that’s it about it. I remember watching the ad as a promo which I did not press “skip ad” for. As much forgettable it was I had a smile watching it. I thought, oh, how sweet is this ad, it talks about the communal harmony of the two communities. As cliche and recycled is this idea in the commercial sphere yet it stuck a chord for how sweet and creative it was. The bitter part in came later, when I read upon the tabloids for the wildfire controversy it was caused.  Now, on one side while it continues to be a “sweet ad” it does not end there.

I admit I had to see the ad again to find what possibly could be the problem people are stressing about, what actually caused the #BoycottSurfexel? To explain the intensity of the affect of the ad, I saw a whole wide exaggerated spactackle on social media and on my other tabloids. People were burning the packets of the detergent packet, they miscontrused it to be promoting ‘love for Jihad’, they took this as a planned outbreak in the ‘left’ and ‘right’ of the political playground. If all of this was not enough #BoycottSurfexel was trending on facebook and twitter for the longest time over the major and much significant events happening in the country. And to top it further, some people tried pulling down the MsExel, hoping it to be affiliated with the SurfExel which is a detergent product from the company, Hindustan Uniliver.

 

I can’t speak for the chunk of people who are on the either side of the matter and how could it possibly create something as basic as a commercial ad intending to sell soap could cause such a ruffle, But I can speak for myself. My biggest reason as to why I differ with the ad is the slugishness in the conceptualization and the lazy writing of the ad.

Taking into the top consideration which I take as the absolute of my stand against this ad, Surfexel is an FMCG product, from the labourer to the industrialist everyone uses it. Likewise they also must have come to know this ad from somewhere or the other and co incidentally they have an opinion on it and while some pat on the back the other felt the tip of the knife. Coming back to the point, with a FMCG product ad how could the company possibly have such a primitive and regressive outlook? Hindustan Uniliver in their last press release confessed how globally they want all their ads to put a non-sexist front, taking a leap in the future. While on the other side they chose to encash on the ill-written communal harmony topic.

Here are a few things which compelled me to use the word, ‘ill written’. Firstly, the little boy who was in his whites and skull cap, why does the representation of the muslims should only be in one form and why does a small boy child has to be an embodiment of it, visually it is bound to hurt and sensitise a few communities( India has been a hot bed of communal fights and the situation is more sensitive today than it was five years ago). Secondly, when the young boy refuses to come out in the fear of getting his clothes dirty speaks for the fact that children would not understand and throw colour on him nevertheless. This cheeky vibe on intolerance which is negligible had the probity to not go well with the masses. Thirdly,  the ad put a a vast visual polarisation of putting one ‘muslim’ boy over everyone else in the frame. The commercial space itself have not given a lot of space to the muslims, it still happens to be a rare sight, its rare for us to see woman with hijab and men with the cap but that’s  another story for another day.

As an ad enthusiast and a rational consumer of information I would like to say they could have made the ad by putting a little more thought in its writing. Advertising is the narrative of its times. To sum up and compliment my stand, one panel which talked of the respective ad controversy had Aditya Saxena, who runs the Pride project in India, He said “Perspective is reality and context is everything in the world of ads”. The point where this ad would have otherwise fared well but felt apart was because of the context and the perception. As the people from ad industry we have the power to tweak these to sell soap but we can’t run from the consequences, can we?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Playboy Story

So recently, I watched this documentary called the ‘American Playboy’ on Amazon Prime. I stumbled upon this documentary totally by chance. But the term and the name attached to it felt somehow relative for two reasons, firstly for the name of the celebrated Hugh Heffner and second, the fashionably infamous magazine,” Playboy”.  I said infamous because I remember this one time that I went to a bookstore, and unlike every other magazine which was on a display this magazine was kept with its back facing the stand. So I turned and looked it up. I saw this incredibly sexy woman I did not know the name of. To a fourteen year old’s amuse, I thought its a flashy mushy magazine which parents don’t want to see their kids to read but they read themselves in private. So ‘Playboy wasn’t just a flashy mush magazine” but also a dirty secret, also as I knew it.

When I pressed play the first episode of the documentary I did not know what I was signing up for. The scene opened with an incredibly hot woman (agian) humping on this man as the manager breaks into the room announcing a meeting he was late for. The first scene of the documentary laid the premises quite strong of what his life was like. The life of Hugh Heffner was filled with woman, both strong and nude, it was filled with ambition with a strong sense of abandon, it had a lot of heart breaks but none of which could not be sedated with enough alcohol and sex. If I had to put the story of Hugh Heffner, the best way in which I could put it was, he lived the American dream which other people just dream about.

Going through the episodes one by one, with hardly taking any time in between as I wanted to live the story of this amusing man in full, the story turned out to be nothing like what I expected it to be.

Hugh started as a humble man who wanted to make it big, he had his head his whack in place to go for what he wants. One of the markers of his ambitious nature was how he used to draw cartoons of this hedonistic person who had abundance of money and people, an individual who was a celebrated public figure living his dream. What seemed like a distant dream to this man, was soon imprinted its baby steps on the kitchen table one day and with a few people to help him bring out the first issue, the journey or rather history of “playboy” begun to form.

One of the most interesting parts of watching the documentary was how the evolution of the magazine carried out in the years that went by. One aspect of ‘Playboy which intrigued me the most was the fact that they kept changing with the times, they were much more than a porn magazine which the fourteen year old self set a reservation against. Like a true masterpiece of art it was a product of its time and with every passage of the changing times the magazine kept on changing, growing, making a statement, taking a stand while straying true to the essence of the Playboy magazine which was woman, cartoons and editorials. The magazine started as being a compilation of everything that a man loved wrapped into one magazine but what it grew out to be was much much more than that.

Since I talked about essence, it would be wrong to not mention the how the ‘Playboy’ magazine started. So Hugh’s father had rather orthodox thoughts about sex and it imprinted on the young mind of Hugh and thus he began his fashionable endeavou r  of bringing sex in mainstream.  Playboy being all the things that it was it was also a product of rebellion in opposition of the thoughts that he was fostered with. He wanted women to take pride in their sexuality and feminism while giving man to talk about something. Playboy was one of the first magazines of his times to do that. it was later taken by many magazines like ‘Penthouse’ and others but none of them created a cult, a community like Playboy did. Playboy expanded his empire living every fantasy that a man or rather an ambitious individual would ever have. There was a playboy magazine, a periodical, a record label, playboy bars, playboy pagents, a TV show of playboy and to top it all they had its merchandise. Looking at this from the lens of a commerce graduate all I can say that he was a man way ahead of his times.

Like all good things the documentary too came to an end and as soon as it did, I opened a new tab and typed in the search” The Playboy Magazine” . Ironically I had the images mode one and I could see all the magazine jackets of  the magazine in thumbnails format, if not a critical statement I could at least stay it was a testament to every beauty standard, feminist norms, political upheavel and changing taste of consumer  and readers at large. If people had to track political history history they would use the wars that happened, similarly, if they had to what the people talked about in four decades starting from the fifties they would pick the “Playboy” magazine.

In the isolation of my empty room while I am punching my words in the dim light of my laptop, I would like to raise a toast to the learning and exploration that the “The Playboy story” has been for me. I urge not just the people in media or show business to watch it but to every individual who has ambition and the chutzpah to go after it.

Cheers!!

 

 

 

#Adwoman_Reading_03

One of my favourite singers of all time, rather a revolutionary persona of the century, Bob Dylan has this song to his credit called,” Times are changing”. That stays true for our societies, our communities, our neighbourhood and thus it stays true for advertising, times really are changing. I have heard this in a lot of interviews that the cinema is the reflection of the world, and  nobody but the contemporary writer can tell the true story of the times but they seem to have missed one creed of storytellers– the people in advertising.

The Ads have been the true witness of the society, at times they showcase the reality and and their acknowledgement or rebel towards it, the other time they pull the audience into the utopian bubble and bring the consumer to to their point. This book did the former for me. The book is called Understanding India: cultural influences on Indian television commercials by Rohitashya Chattopadhyay.

An academician by his profile, he has a very keen eye observing the changing times of the Indian social and political setting on tantamount to how the admen perceive and adjust their lenses. The book is a product of the academic study which he had undertaken in the course of his study and he flew to India to enquire about the same. Now despite of the fact that the person is of the Indian nationality and has lived a considerable time of life In India, you will find yourself and the author on the same page in terms of the explorative study that he undertakes. I believe that is extremely essential for a book like this to reach in the hands of people who are not an ad enthusiast or the people form the industry.

The book  is divided into five parts ranging from the chapters him coming back to the country to conduct the study, his calculative insight into the changing India in times of LPG, the visual aspect of the ad-making process which is not relative to the writing of the ad, the perception of the game cricket,  the changing roles of women in society and its depiction and at last the consumption of the whole of it, in the conclusion segment of the book. This book covers a lot of it while putting all the references for further reading in about two hundred pages.

No single book is read or consumed by two readers alike, and despite this being an academic book it stayed true. What I took from the book as a lesson to take a note of the changing times and how the people of the advertising world make notes of it. I learned that how the ads are written and how they are played and consumed with the visual appeal and its decoding is entirely a different ball game. I learned that irrespective how simple an ad seems to you, the complex information is broken down and simplified in the most lucrative way for us to consume those thirty seconds of wonder and information.

Like all books on advertising this book too leaves me in awe and a growing hunger for people and ideas in advertising industry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#Adwoman_Reading_02

There are books about advertisement and then there is this one, of all the books that I have read and will read in coming future, this book sure has carved a place for itself, its irreplaceable, its a staple for advertising. Hey Whipple, Sqeeeeeeeezee This By Luke Suvillian is a go-to bible that not only shows you the light but has signboards placed at all the crossroads just for your convenience. If I were to stop rambling around and come to a point, let me tell you what this book actually contains, it has the polished heads-up and thumb rules of all things concerning the craft, from making the presentation, to the product, to the client, to the campaigns to the office culture, to copywriting, to the point where Luke drags you to your desk to get to work and go a level beyond just being fascinated by the world of advertisement. And he doesn’t bore you while doing this, he does a bloody good job while at it, he has filled it with so many anecdotes and wise words of great authors and clippings of advertisements that you will find yourself in a time square of a book, where everything amazes you and every moment unfolds into a revelation. Talking about revelations, let’s talk about the feature image or Dr. Whipple squeezing the charmin toilet paper, it’s an age old advertisement where the Doctor keeps the people away from squeezing the toilet paper, but they just can’t help it, it’s soooo soft, even Dr. Whipple can’t help it! If I keep everything aside and point out to one thing that this book gas given me, it’s a pat on the back to get started already, your job does not start when you sit on a desk of a fancy firm, or when you go to that ad school, it starts right now and as you make sense to the world, as you think about a product, as you scribble down copies and ads, it starts right now, so just hold the pencil and BEGIN!

 

 

The Time Paper Boat made an interesting splash in the sea of marketing!

For anyone who does not know Paper boat- drinks and memories, its a wonderful company which sells drinks like aam panna, thandai, chilli guava, jal jeera, rose tamarind and panakam. But there’s more, these drinks are so authentic in memory in taste that they stand out, they aren’t just selling drinks which tastes like nothing you get out in the market  but memories. Memories and nostalgia that will transport you back into childhood, in the lanes that you used to run in, the places you used to go to and the drinks your mom used to make for you as you come back which could make you taste summer, winter and monsoon in just one glass.

What If I told you, there is even more to this beverage company, recently, as I was going through the stacks of books that I am yet to read, I found this copy of “Three men on the boat” by Jerome K Jerome. Now I know, its a classic, but when I opened the book, read its foreword, I found this interesting letter written by the Paper boat, and It was the most heart touching and simple letter that could have dragged into reading the book while remembering Paper boat for it. It was plain. simple. beautiful.

It’s unmatchable what a good letter can do, that subtleness of intimacy which the buyer didn’t see coming. When I read more about this collaboration I found out that Paper boat was testing it’s water in publishing and it has picked two books in particular, ‘Three men on the boat”, and “The Jungle Book”.

When Debuka was asked about the book this is what he said in an Interview by Business Line,”This is Paper Boat’s first new book. Since 2015, it had published reprints of a few books including Three Men in a Boat and Jungle Book which were given away as part of sales offers. Parvesh Debuka, Head (Marketing), says the idea came up during a discussion on what next at Paper Boat. “A lot of us at the office are readers. Reading is the best way to learn and grow and we hit upon the idea of publishing old classics. Then we thought, what about a new book? We could be a quasi-publishing house, and the author gets encouragement as well.”

How interesting does the whole affair of advertising and marketing a product becomes for the buyer and seller when things flow as effortlessly as this venture, Paper Boat just imbibed the value of it’s brand smoothly into a new area.

Heads up for Paper boat!

Like All Those Times Before, Durex Does It Again!

Only If I had brought a condom in recent month, I would have got to know about this campaign earlier , but I got to know from the ad off Youtube. One doesn’t always look forward to a condom ad, unless its of Durex. The witty ways in which they communicate something, well, most of us  shy away from! In a brevity, the catchy video did it’s job. Check the video out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNTQGCluEUc)

 

So #Durex has collaborated with the Red foundation and the Global fund to fight AIDS in South Africa where people suffering with this deathly sexually transmitted disease is significant and part of it belongs to the poor sex education or none that they receive.

So with every purchase of  a red condom a part of it goes to The Keeping Girls in School Programme in South Africa.  I found some more information on the website of Durex which I would rather quote, “Durex, will make a minimum donation of $5m over three years to The Global Fund via the (DUREX)RED partnership. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match Durex’s $5m contribution taking the total to a minimum of $10 million to fight AIDS. 100% of the money raised goes to work on the ground, to help empower the lives of young women and girls.” But that’s not it, Durex has broadened the scope of this campaign by spreading awareness on safe sex and urge youth to have healthy, happy lives.

What  I really admire about this campaign is the ability to communicate about such a pressing issue which has such gravity to it, so effectively and with such brevity. The video entailed how casually we use the word “fuck” in our daily lives,” I fucking live it, I Fucking hate it, I give a Fuck, I don’t give a fuck”, it’s a part of our lives and daily lingo now and so is sex, not daily though( haha). Thus, it makes absolute sense to talk about all its aspects, the safety, especially.

 

They have come with different type of content on different mediums. For instagram it’s an interesting creative which depicts the gravity of the situation by showing the cross and zero game, for their website blog the content is different, it has a plug in which you press and apart from that they have an infographic video which gives you the graphs accompanied with a write-up. And on the contrary the video on youtube is different, its catchy, its done by this pop figure, it has one youtube influencer as well.The hashtags which they have used are also unique, yet in the lingo of youth. First is #GAF ( give a fuck) which won’t be used by the conservative lot of countries, of course. The other is ‘ Have sex, Save lives'(#HaveSexSaveLives).

Be it the “Earth hour” campaign where durex gave us an idea as to how to go about our time during earth hour, the time it had its share of fun by giving us “eggplant flavored condoms” or the “sweet pan condoms” for India, celebrating playfulness and encourage role play with the hashtag #IshqKeLakhonRang”, any such fashionably uncomfortable memes and “population control” print media ads on newspapers.

Durex does it from time to time, again and again, only getting better and experimental over time, just like how a good  sex life must progress.

Dear Durex, we love you!

 

#Adwoman_Reading_01

My feature image looks familiar, right? With all the elements of India that they seem to have cramped together so beautifully inside one graphic, a fair attempt? it’s one of  the posters from the ‘Incredible !ndia’ campaign.

While I was walking through the narrow passages of my college library, I found this bright pink coloured book called the ‘Branding India’ by Amitabh Kant. My hopes weren’t far above from the floor for a book that looked like a textbook from its cover, so, I turned a few pages to read the foreword. To my surprise, that actually pulled me into reading a hundred and twenty pages just in the subsequent hour!

Incredible India is an Incredible story, or rather an account I must say, for all the information  inserted in a fashion that does not bore you, but helps you to dig deeper. It’s the story about how this Individual who was the then, Joint secretary of Ministry of tourism, with many other brave hearts that worked on the branding of this product called the country India. As fascinating it sounds, it took a lot of work and left a legacy, a touchtone for anybody and everybody in the field of media, advertising and tourism.

If I ask you to brand a pen and sell, it will be too little a task. If I ask you to do that for a person it will be slightly difficult. But if I ask you to do it for a ‘country like India’, which holds the thread of ‘plurality’ in language, culture, demographic, religion, beliefs and land forms and every thing you could think of, just think of the height of complexity and fun it would bring to the table!

This book does exactly the same, it helps you walk through the interesting minds of these individuals who studied and created this campaign taking in the collateral effect it required on other industries like the air industry, textile industry, hotel industry, food industry etc. After the mishap of 26/11, India needed to take the veil off itself of being an unsafe country to travel to, and it did so by putting the correct cards in front. This piece of work by Amitabh Kant is a compilation of the strategies and moves to not just equip the country for the image it was depicting through branding, but creating one of the finest International Ad campaigns from India.

I am halfway through the book and enjoying it to the fullest, and you must read it too if ideas intrigue you, ideas as big as branding a country!