Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fizzling Gamechangers in Indian Advertising

The IPL may be over; however, it’s time to examine a TV advert – which did the rounds around the same time – that pitted cricket against football

Few in India would dispute that cricket here arouses as much, if not more, passion than the Kama Sutra.
When viewed such, Indian society has no room for atheism or differences, for it has a common God aka Sachin Tendulkar (name provided for the sake of the uninitiated), who only recently got elected to the Upper House of the Parliament. The Holy Grail of Indian sport, the sponsors’ and media’s darling, cricket’s popularity also means that its hordes of followers are also its experts. So, pitting this game against any other, howsoever popular, could be viewed as an attempt to either be a trendsetter or a sitting duck to widespread ridicule and criticism.

Ergo, intrigue is the watchword when Atlanta’s second cola major, Pepsi, pits Chelsea’s Frank Lampard, Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba against Indian cricketers M S Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli for a bottle of the beverage – in an ad that can be ascribed as a melting pot of sorts. (click on link below to watch the ad)


The ad, which follows the basic principle of showing the product at its beginning and end dutifully, begins with Kohli, Singh and Raina challenging the footballers to play their game if they need a bottle of Pepsi. Kohli takes strike against Drogba, who’s puzzled when handed a tennis ball in lieu of a football by the umpire (Dhoni, whose face is revealed only towards the end of the TVC). The footballers, show their mettle with the ball, which culminates in a bicycle kick from Drogba, only to clean-bowl Kohli. The cool drink, however, slips out of their hands when the umpire looks up (as if in a guest appearance) and tells them that it’s a no-ball, which means no Pepsi!

An analysis of the advertisement should put things in perspective
  • As any advertising guru would put it, a campaign must be able to generate a buzz (Think Why This Kolaveri Di) if it is to even aspire for success. Pepsi’s ‘Change the Game’ ads could be the right topic for water cooler conversations in offices, with “Did you watch the ad featuring cricketers and footballers?” being apt ice-breakers
  •   Footballers? That too in an ad beamed during IPL? The only time other sports have received respectable amount of attention in India was either during controversies or international events such as the Olympics, Wimbledon or Asian Games. So, Pepsi can easily stake claim to the first player advantage in sparking off of an advertising trend in the nation; that is, if it should become a rage
  • It may be tempting to hark back to the last FIFA World Cup for pointers. The media had gone gaga over Messi, Ronaldo and Kaka. Die-hard cricket fans were suddenly praying for an Argentina victory. Van Nilsterooy, and not Shantakumaran Sreesanth, was the toast of the town. Stories on Maradona’s wager to streak across the football ground naked should Messi’s Argentina win (thank God that Argentina, and by extension, Maradona, did not) gained precedence over the controversies courted by tinsel town’s glam girls in our tabloids. So, one can perhaps assume that the ground was softened for Pepsi’s ‘gamechanger’ TVC
  • That these three footballers were part of the ad also signifies that Indian advertising is looking beyond its bread and butter – film stars and cricketers. Personalities such as Abhinav Bindra, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Mary Kom and Vishwanathan Anand may be more examples, but they are too few and far in between. Further, the last four becoming brand mascots coincided with their sporting achievements; contrast this with a few newbie cricketers bagging plum endorsement contracts
  • Pepsi’s move may be a masterstroke, what with the rising popularity of European football leagues in the nation. The outpouring on social networking sites when Manchester City lifted the English Premier League recently – when this author realised that most of his contacts were either Manchester City or United aficionados – should serve as a pointer. Shah Rukh Khan’s off-field antics and Chris Gayle’s IPL sixers – both effortless achievements – are certainly hot topics for gossip, but then so are the latest player transfers in Chelsea and Pep Guardiola quitting Barcelona
  • The ad, though, isn’t the first TVC under the ‘Change the Game’ campaign by the cola major. Pepsi may have tested the waters with an ad that was released a few months ago featuring actor Ranbir Kapoor in which he berates a kid for following football. The cricket crazy actor suffers a change of mind when the kid, in true soccer style, helps him get a can of Pepsi from a vending machine. And how can one forget the campaign’s run in the 2011 World Cup, which will be remembered for popularising the totemic cricketing shots of some batsmen (Tilakaratne Dilshan’s Dilscoop; Virender Sehwag’s Upar Cut; Shakib al-Hasan’s Super Scoop to name a few)?
  • By letting the cricketers have the last laugh in the advertisement was Pepsi averse to alienating itself from its clientele? Without wanting to sound judgmental, going by India’s craze for star appeal and fan clubs, the answer may be in the affirmative.
Can we now have Bernie Ecclestone peddling us MRF tyres? Or Maria Sharapova being the face for Liberty shoes? Endless indeed are the possibilities, and its fulfillment, of such outlandish suggestions in a nation like ours with an ever-burgeoning consumerist population.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Dummy’s Guide to Becoming a Caricature

Here’s a sneak-peek into what transpired before the raging debate in our Parliament over an insidious/ thought provoking/ hilarious (take your pick) cartoon

Inside the room of the powers-that-be, at 24, Akbar Road, New Delhi, the office of the grand old party of India...
“But still, madamji, I don’t understand why he needs to be depicted as flogging a snail, of all creatures.”
 “And you say this cartoon figures in our school textbooks. Surely, I hope you are not inebriated, as you were when you made that zero-loss statement on the 2G scam?”
“I swear on the Quattrochi’s hefty Bofors commission... (Voice trails as he receives a cold glare that would have frozen a bowl of steaming hot pasta)”
Madamji, I swear by Andimuthu Raja’s 2G loot that... (Speaker waits for approval from listener which he gets after a momentary furrowing of the eyebrows and a brief rumination) that these books are perpetuating the heinous of the ideologies. The minister who had granted the go-ahead for such textbooks is certainly a jackass of the first order. Blame it on our coalition partners; they have the gall to nominate country bumpkins as Union ministers of state. Such persons must have their derrieres impaled in public with the thorniest of the Thar desert cactuses irrigated by the Indira Gandhi Canal.”
“If my memory serves me right, aren’t you the minister in-charge who needs to go through the ordeal that you just described?”
“Forgive me, madamji (looking flustered) it must have been eagerness to present my case.”
“Which was balderdash as usual.”
“Can you believe it, madamji, one such bloody coalition minister from the south was asking me whether a sextant was a porn toy mass manufactured in China? This, when the porngate scandal had erupted in Karnataka, where our opposition MLAs were caught watching porn in the Assembly. A spokesperson of our Poshchim Bonga coalition partner, who overheard our conversation, grinned so much that his spectacles fell down and got damaged. At least, we had the last laugh with that tepid partner of ours on that count (breaks into a guffaw)... you should have seen his face then, madamji.”
“You keep forgetting that this isn’t a media conference. Sigh, when can I ever have a sensible conversation with my own party leaders, leave alone my coalition partners?”
“(Straightening his face) Coming to my point, this issue is of national interest, we should not poison our nation’s tender minds against us. Our great leader (pauses to look up at a portrait of the leader hung on a wall, over which a cockroach scurries over, as his voice rises in pitch and tenor) needs to be smashed with my slipper, bloody hell,” and lunges to exterminate the roach. “To hell with our urban development minister,” he mutters under his breath, with the roach duly smashed to pulp, and the portrait a collection of broken glass, wood and paperboard.
“Look, tomorrow in Parliament you are going to raise a debate or issue a rebuttal on the factors that you just outlined. Stick to the fact that this insults our national leaders, our heritage and that our textbooks need to be cleansed of such bullshit. Do I make myself clear?”
“But the issue of our Army’s arms shortage is slated for discussion tomorrow.”
“You do as I say. The shortages can wait.”
“Yes, madamji.”
(Reflects after the door has been shut) “With an imbecile for a human development minister, it amazes me that we are still in power...”

At a conference room in 11, Ashoka Road, New Delhi, the office of the party with differences, oops a difference...
“Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is referred to the prime minister we never had; will I become another Patel? Or must I go on another Rath Yatra to pitchfork myself as the PM? Hey Ram, after all, I initiated the process to find an abode for you. Can’t you extricate me from my current predicament?”
A party office-bearer struggles to get in the room. “For Christ’s sake, can’t these doorways be widened? I do not have such problems with the party office in Nagpur...”
“Hush, should it not be Ram? Remember that it is he who drives our ideology, not foreign remittances and London NRIs.”
“Ok, ok, here are good tidings. We may have finally a stick to beat the ruling party with. And...”
“(Eyes gleaming) Ensure a chance for me to become the PM?”
“You said it.”
“Alright, out with it.”
“This concerns a cartoon that features two of our national leaders, one of whom you’d better make peace with, in the NCERT textbooks.”
“Hold it, this will not work. Our former coalition partner, now with the ruling dispensation, has made the headlines on that count. And as things stand, RSS saransangchalaks stifle laughter whenever they converse with me, thanks to my Jinnah fiasco, and my latest yatra’s passage to Karnataka when one of our regional leaders was jailed.”
“No, this will get you far more mileage than your stupid tours, I mean yatras. Do you realise what we have in our hands?”
“Did you mention textbooks?”
 “Of course.”
“This is a travesty to the author of our Constitution and our first prime minister, who have undeniably led India on the path of development. The ruling party, as usual, has been grossly negligent. Will we ever learn to respect our founding fathers? Callousness has been the hallmark of this government, if it can be called that. I demand that all such sacrilegious textbooks be singed. Hon Speaker...”
“But this is not the Lok Sabha.”
“Oh dear, I just grew a bit emotional; by the way, how was the impromptu speech? Will media reports mention that I made a stirring speech on the issue?”
(Rolling his eyes) “Speech yes. Stirring hmmm.”
“Grrrr... Whoever nominated you as the head of a national political party? Remember that on this issue, we have to beat certain parties with leaders having fetishes for statues to the post, if we are to register ourselves with the voters. This is just the right issue to wash away the sins of our various acts of commission and emission err omission. Parliament, here I come.”

At the national office of a party that has pockets of presence in Kerala and West Bengal...
“Voting on the Indo-US nuclear deal was perhaps our last significant contribution in Parliament. If this trend continues, we may as well be as extinct as our founding philosophy.”
There is this NCERT textbook that is raising the heckles of many...”
“What, now do we have textbooks on the infamous 1-2-3 nuclear deal? Aren’t we stretching this a bit too far?”
“That’s not what I meant. I am referring to the cartoon in the textbook that features two of our national leaders.”
“Ha, this is nothing but a conspiracy perpetuated on us by forces from the Imperial West inimical to the flourishing concept of Communism. We only seek to fulfill their unfair demands, even if it means harming our interests. Fairness is something this government does not seek to deal with at all, because if it does it knows it is finished.”
“Are you serious or what?”
“This is how my speech on the issue will begin in the Parliament tomorrow. We are going to catch the two major political parties off-guard. Whoever had said that the Third Front needs to be consigned into insignificance will be eating their words. By the way, what did Marx and Stalin have to say about these two leaders?”
“Does it matter?”

Meanwhile, in the office of a political party claiming to be the followers of a bespectacled Indian leader…
 “For the umpteenth time, our bespectacled leader has been insinuated. We are not going to take this lying down.”
“We need to show everyone that we are no pushovers. Could you tell me what happened.”
“Our leader – the architect of our Constitution – has been shown as riding a snail in a cartoon, which features in a school textbook of all places…”
“Don’t worry we will bring Parliament to a standstill. Delhi will not move an inch until this disparaging cartoon gets blanked out entirely. We will teach all how to respect our leaders. But I have a question.”
"Go ahead."
“By bespectacled, aren’t you referring to Mahatma Gandhi?”