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Is mass mentality inducing crass ads?

08-June-2004
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Is mass mentality inducing crass ads?

Long ago, when Anish Trivedi (erstwhile RJ of the show, Good Morning Mumbai) had put in his papers at Radio Mid Day, he expressed his discontent with the mass-oriented image in the following words: “The increasing focus on a mass audience is only diluting the integrity of radio. A show like Good Morning Mumbai was never meant to appeal to the taxi driver or the paan walla. I have great faith in the intelligence of the Indian audience and I don't think that the only way to entertain them either on radio or on television is to pander to the lowest common denominator.”

With ads like ‘Tak Taka Tak Taazgi’ or ‘Taste Mein Aatka’ or the recently launched ‘Wakao’, are we going a little overboard in our efforts to address the masses? Are we perhaps (in Trivedi’s words) meandering to the lowest common denominator?

Says R Balakrishnan, National Creative Director, Lowe, “I fully agree. If you have a campaign like ‘Thanda Matlab Coca Cola’, which coined up an entire 360-degree angle around a rural phrase, you have 10 others that try and copycat their way to success. Hence, you have a multitude of me-too campaigns like ‘Taste Mein Atka’ or ‘Tak Taka Tak Taazgi.’ You can’t possibly disguise a mediocre idea with a mass-oriented phrase and expect it to work. I guess everybody’s playing around with a ‘Chal Biddu’ or ‘Maska Maarke’, because they feel that it will help in striking a chord with the masses. In the process, creativity gets killed. And the phenomenon isn’t just related to ads alone… radio stations, channels and Bollywood films – all are a part of the current trend.”

Bakakrishnan adds, “The lack of a concrete idea, that’s how you would explain the spate of ads that are (as claimed by the creative honchos) targeting the masses. You can’t get away with a really bad idea, by adding some ‘Tak Taka Tak’ line to it. That’s just an excuse, for bad creative work.”

How would Balki describe the ‘Wakao’ campaign, which was recently taken on by McCann Erickson? He grins, “Honestly, I don’t know who or what the campaign is targeted at. Don’t think that it appeals to either the masses or the classes. The idea in isolation has some merits, but it’s a badly executed campaign.”

Meanwhile, Ravi Deshpande, Head, Lemon Communications, puts his two penny on the entire affair. He states, “You can’t attribute much logic to most ads that make it to the screen. Why does everything have to start and end with a nasal tone, and an idiotic accent? The number of ads that depict villagers, or small town guys as people who can only be associated with crazy antics, is astonishing. Creative guys seem to feel, that in order to reach out to the taxi walla or the paan walla, they need to depict idiotic things in the name of advertising. Unfortunately, creativity doesn’t work that way.”

Anup Chitnis, Creative Director, Mudra, asserts, “Around four years back, we had created a character for channel V called ‘Navalkar’, who talked in a nasal tone and used phrases like ‘Gheoon Tak.’ The character managed to occupy such popularity amongst audiences that the channel uses him till this very day. Which itself speaks volumes about the merits of the idea. If there is a definite thought behind it, then mass-based ideas (accents, rural jargon etc) can work. If not, it’s just regarded as another me-too ad which is posing as a mass-based creative.”

As advertising legend David Ogilvy says, “If you are trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language in which they think.” Even with the above statement in mind, crass advertising can’t be paraded in the guise of the real thing. As Deshpande believes, it doesn’t always have to be about exaggerated accents, loud voices and idiotic antics.

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