In the 80s and 90s, the spotlight was perhaps on 'aspirational advertising,' with larger than life heroes and heroines, huge frames and almost unbelievable grandeur. Advertising in the current day is about real people, real situations and the chocolate hero seems to have made a heady exit from the back door. The 'chai biscuit' range made a story, with a couple vying for beautiful things and objects everyday, but settling for some worthwhile things in life (as in a biscuit pack which is more affordable and some quality laughs).
Or the Pepsodent ad with a very much believable mother from a middle class home who chastises her daughter for 'yellow teeth' in addition to hang out with boys of the neighbourhood for an entire day. Fevicol in recent times has always depicted a stark rural setting and a no frills communication. Yet another pointer towards "real people" is the SBI Life Insurance ad, which depicts a heart warming story of an old couple and a diamond ring.
Testimonials still rock, as far as most brands are concerned whether it is engine oil, soaps, detergents, health drinks or anything else. Is the aspirational factor making way for 'real communication' and 'everyday people'?
Said Arvind Sharma, Managing Director, Leo Burnett, "As an agency, we have brought out a good many testimonial ads and it's worked out well for the agencies that we represent. I see it as a cyclic process. It's like a fascination with a certain variant of cosmetics, and it changes from season to season. Earlier, you had exaggerated settings with chocolate heroes and beautiful damsels but now, the creative guys are hatching out plots, which are different from the aspiration-based game. How do consumers relate to your product? Are they able to relate to the scenario and the marketing solution well enough? Give them too much of grandeur, and you just might have consumers that say that it's just too grand for me."
Sharma said, "The fad for the season is definitely real people, real situations and perhaps a wee bit of story-telling on the rural side. But in due course of time, it just might be possible that all the creative guys tire themselves of real life situations, and start handing out aspirational art work instead. Like I said, it's a cyclic process."
Meanwhile, Balki (National Creative Director, Lowe) is quite enthusiastic about the thrust towards the 'everyday setting.' He said, "Look around you. You have a new wave of cinema arriving, films such as Monsoon Wedding and Mr and Mrs Iyer which depict real people and real life situations and not just some rosy eyed vision of the world. Chocolate heroes and heroines don't find much of a place in these films. Advertising is also exploring everyday situations, other than concocted scenarios, which stick out like a sore thumb. You can see anecdotes depicted in ads, all picked from real life."
Balki added, "Reality is selling in the current day. Because consumers can relate to it, a lot better than exaggerated people and situations."
Prahlad Kakkar from Genesis productions said that advertising has always been about peddling dreams, and thereby peddling products. He said, "You cannot under-estimate the power of aspirational ads. If I am a consumer, and I see Amitabh Bachchan promoting a certain suitings brand, I would buy it just because there is the grandeur of Bachchan associated with it. Advertising is not so much about real situations, as about dreams and aspirations. But having said that, it is the idea that rules supreme."
Reality bytes are being doled out by the dream merchants, but it could just be a flash in the pan. Whether consumers relate to it or not, and if the formula does indeed send cash registers ringing, that bit remains to be seen.