Back in the eighties, everybody was pretty much like Om Prakash’s character in Chupke Chupke – English was English and Hindi was Hindi and everything was fully separate separate and alag alag. The boom of television in India in the early 90s brought some really interesting trends in the way Indian brands projected their communication strategies.
Thumbs Up was singing in a propah Brit Gary Lawyer-ish accent ‘Happy days are here again!’, Gold Spot was doing a Riverdale high-inspired ‘As crazy as crazy as we’re about Gold Spot, the zing thing’, and Enfield was saying in chaste hinterland Hindi ‘Yeh Bullet meri jaan, manzillon ka nishaan’. Even as purists said, ‘Ouch!’, the National Eggs Coordination Committee (NECC) drove home ‘egg-citing’ messages and ‘Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khao andey’ became a colloquial phrase.
This was an era of high creativity. A new home grown language was flourishing. It was called Hinglish in advertising. The language clicked because it reflected reality. That was the way we all spoke anyway. But we spoke that way when we were ‘off stage’, not when doing serious stuff such as addressing potential consumers in ads.
In those initial days, using Hindi mixed with English during formal communication processes had a bit of a cheap thrill to it. Advertising embraced Hinglish with great gusto, because advertising always embraces all the latest trends with great gusto.
Hinglish makes English-speaking brands a little more inclusive and it makes Hindi-speaking brands a little more aspirational. Also, because it’s a shortcut language, it lets you say a lot of stuff in just about thirty seconds, which is vital in advertising. At a very basic level, it also helps large national brands knit their slogans across the country together, more cohesively. So ‘Yeh hai Youngistaan meri jaan’ becomes ‘Idhu Youngistaan chellam’ in Tamil, ‘Idhu Youngistaan priyare’ in Malayalam, ‘Idhi Youngistaan my nestham’ in Telugu.
Original ads, as catchy and with the same underlying message, were developed in Indian languages. For instance puns were used to call attention to ‘eggciting’ messages from NECC. ‘Try an eggsperiment’ was the English tagline which drew attention of readers about the nutritive benefits of eggs. The Hindi version equally effective, asked the question uppermost in the minds of would-be parents ‘Kahiye, Kya hoga? Ladka, Ladki? Ya tandarust, swasth bachcha?’ (‘What will it be? Boy? Girl? Or a strong, healthy baby?’)
Hinglish expressions continue to be popular in mainstream advertising even today. ‘Thanda matlab Coca Cola’, Kurkure’s ‘Tedha hai par mera hai’, Dominos’ ‘Hungry Kya?’ are all brand recognitions that has developed over the years. The emergence of Hinglish might sound colloquial to many but it has truly changed the definition of creativity in Indian advertising over the years.
The above insight is from the book Adkatha, The Story of Indian Advertising. Late Bal Mundkur, Founder of Ulka Advertising and Gerson da Cunha, Ex-Chief of Lintas and Communications Advisor to various Central Ministries, got together in late 2010 to put together the best of the best work from Indian advertising which was never seen or heard before. While Mundkur rose the necessary funding, Da Cunha took charge of the content. They roped in Anand Halve and Anita Sarkar to write the book. The result is a beautiful coffee table creation, lavishly illustrated – a mirror of the profession and business through the decades.