One of the “creativity” gimmicks used by ads is to do with showing how the product is being used worlwide. Transcending all geographical and linguistic barriers, all kind of cultural influence, these ads try to show that their product has universal appeal. Not everyone gets it right though. For example Toyota corolla. In an ad being broadcast here, they show how Corolla is the choice in various cities like Paris, Newyork, Tokyo etc with someone in the respective cities saying something (Welcome) in the local language. They finally show Rahul Khanna emerging out of a Corolla with a backdrop of some palaces. He also concedes to the car being well accepted globally. But don’t the ad makers forget one tiny little detail? Since when did cars in Paris and Newyork come with the drivers seat in the right hand side? Shouldn’t the car also be changed appropriately, if they want to show a still from a particular city, where a substantially native looking person says something in the local language? Or did they think that Toyota = Japan = Right hand drive everywhere!

But some others do get a perfect ten when it comes to the same concept. For example Nivea. The Nivea ad, which shows ppl across the world applying Nivea after shaving, on chapped lips, on skin, on babies – achieves whatever it desires. Somehow that ad fills one, with a warm fuzzy feeling about how the cream is multipurpose and is universally used. A large part of this effect is perhaps from the accompanying song by Asher Lane – New Days, which goes something like “Here comes the sun, it’s for everyone, I feel the sky is all mine’. Wonderful combination.

Another nice ad is the Videocon campaign, which shows the Gaytari Mantra being mouthed by not Indians but all kind of people in other countries. A very smart way of showing that finally everyone is recognising stuff “Indian”. Ultimately no product is complete without an equally smashing ad campaign.

Yeh Dil Maange no more 1

Long long ago, when I was a kid… (now that I have started with that dramatic bestseller line, I can continue). Long long ago, when I was a kid, I saw an ad on TV for a soft drink. That ad was for Pepsi (Yeh dil maange more – AHA days). It starred some new faces and some not so new. The new faces attained great heights. It won’t be an exaggeration to state that the great heights were achieved *because* of the ad. It starred raging heartthrob Aamir Khan, along with upcoming models Aishwarya Rai and Mahima Chaudhry. While Mahima was shown as a common girl next door (she definitely had potential for looking much more than the plain jane that she did), Aishwarya Rai was shown as this sizzling siren who asked “weak in the knees and heart going flip flop” Aamir for a Pepsi, right when he had risked limb and life for a bottle of the soft drink. That ad catapulted Aishwarya Rai into the top of the charts and even before the Miss India title she had a major fan following who believed that she would win the crown that year. This ad also found a lot of mention as a landmark of sorts in the ad world. All that was then.

Lots of years later, when I was not a kid anymore, I saw another ad on TV. Again, it was for a soft drink but a rival one – Coke. And it was being endorsed by this very couple mentioned in the previous ad – Aamir Khan and Aishwarya Rai. When I saw that ad for the first time, I saw it from somewhere in the middle. I saw that both Ash and Aamir were looking for each other with a bottle of coke in their hands and when they did meet, they looked at the soft drink bottles and at each other like longlost friends. It all gave me the impression that it’s a sequel of the landmark pepsi ad and somehow after having bumped into each other so many years later, both realised that their tastes still match and that they both prefer a “better” drink now. I found that idea pretty interesting and thought that it was pretty innovative for the agency to have made use of the fact that they were endorsing a rival product earlier (though I was not very sure if they can legally do that). But to my dismay my bubble soon burst and I realised that the ad was an insult on the name of creativity as it just showed that Ash/Aamir were chatting on some website and choose a bottle of coke as their means of recognising each other. Utterly dumb.

But this isn’t all. For some reason, soft drink ads, instead of outdoing each other in terms of creativity are outdoing each other in the “create the worst ad” department. I simply abhor the ad where Amitabh Bachhan plays a rustic boatman. It just doesn’t appeal to my senses. But then all AB ads are getting quite irritating. Just taken the sheen off him. Then there are these new ads that have recently started being aired. One has Shah Rukh Khan drinking what else but Pepsi. But the sickening part is that the ad has some horrible animation which shows the bellybutton of some females as lips (ugh) with the lips singing some stupid song which goes ‘oye hoye bubbly’. The idea is that all objects around the soft drink somehow become ‘animated’ and start hitting on bubbly – the soft drink! These myriad objects include the burger that SRK is about to gobble, SRK’s shirt pocket etc. and the idea is that ‘bubbly’ is depicted like a female with all ‘objects’ in the universe trying to flirt with it! For heaven’s sake, I wouldn’t want to drink a soft drink like that – pesticides or no pesticides! Then Aamir Khan has gone one step ahead and become Manno Bhabhi! This ad of his has a double role with him playing a dumb NRI and also Manno Bhabhi at the same time. Manno Bhabhi sets the NRI’s nakhras right with some silly desi cookery dialogues like ‘tadka lagana’ and ‘chhaunkh lagana’ etc. Though Manno Bhabhi doesn’t look very bad to look at (much better than the concept of ‘bubbly’), it fails to promote a soft drink and promotes Manno Bhabhi instead. Sadly endorsing a product is no longer equivalent to vouching for it. It’s just become equivalent to making a fool of oneself on national TV.

Reality bytes 2

What’s with all TV channels joining the rat race for making the most “realistic” TV show which would fetch them high TRP ratings? They can’t even be original to say the least. I have seen just one episode of ‘Indian Idol’, where the 3 notorious judges – Anu Malik, Farah Khan and Sonu Nigam (not looking like the apso that he looks now), dissect the personality of the so called participants. In case someone doesnt know, they are notorious for being rude. Anu Malik is the rudest. He doesnt need to make an effort. Venom spills from that forked tongue of his and he kind of takes pride in being sarcastic. Farah Khan looks as if she’s got it on her mind to be rude. She thinks, pauses, and then lets out something that would make a participant wince. Sonu Nigam is quite spontaneous &jhatpat to give an opinion and mebbe because of that he’s the least vile of the three.

When I watched it, the city where they had conducted this farce was by chance Delhi. I call it a farce because it appeared quite stage managed and certainly not reality the way they claimed. There was an assortment of participants. Some sang well, but were ridiculed by the judges. Some sang so-so but were accepted by judges on basis of their looks or because the participants were sucking upto the judges. Some were really good and were taken (but of course, it was supposed to be a talent hunt all along). Of course, some were *really* really bad and they did need to be questioned whether they were even aware of it. There was some guy who came and did some weird exercise of touching his own feet and various parts of his body in a yoga manner. The judges got really flustered (mebbe because they were jealous of this yoga flexibility) and snapped at the guy to hurry up. The guy tried a little emotional dialogue by saying that he had some problem in his body because of which he needed to do all this before singing and that they should not make fun of his problem. Beats me, how all this had any connection with his throat. Anyway, the judges didnt buy it either and snapped at him to start. The guy sang a new classical rendition of the “Nirma” ad and sang it well (mebbe his exercise worked), but he was told by all three judges in a very rude manner that he was a misfit & his choice of song was outrageous. The guy got pretty angry and started fighting with them on camera. He told the judges that he thought it was pretty rude of them to have behaved the way they did and they could have been more polite certainly. Kewl reality this.

Then, there was a woman who was blind and had especially come to audition. On seeing her, the judges kind of got overwhelmed and suddenly turned respectful (sympathy with the handicapped). The lady sang a nice number with a lot of emotion and expression and needless to say she got through, though there were several like her or better than her who got kicked out. Her “Sonu Bhaiyya” specifically remembered her from Sa-Re-Ga-Ma. Then, came a painter (prolly from Ludhiana). And no, this was not the MF Hussain variety. This was the hanging-in-some-makeshift-jhoola-painting-house variety. Again the judges warmed up (sympathy with poverty). This guy sang an amazing Mohd. Rafi number and for once the judges were all praises. Then, there was some guy, who was just ok, not really great with a Shaan song (and Shaan songs are what he sang later too), but he kept flashing a sweet (according to Farah) smile all the time. He got through (I feel) because of that.

There were a couple of others who sang ok or well, but got kicked out for no apparent reason. Newspapers mentioned some lady, who took the whole venue by storm because her daughter was ungracefully thrown out of the elimination rounds. I didnt witness this “reality”. One interesting statistic from the Delhi episode – the song which was sung by most participants was “Bheege Honth tere, pyasa dil mera“. Gotta get real, these singers.

Suddenly ppl’s idea of reality is to shock the viewer. “Instant recall” perhaps is the theory behind it. There are lots of reports in the papers too about how these so called reality shows are stage managed, Indian Idol and India’s best being among them. I dont even know the names of the various such clones on every other alpha, beta, theta channel.

US has already started showing reality shows where wives exchange their ‘oh-so-boring’ husbands for a week. In other words, swinging is just a game now. Temptation island was another. Soon this stuff would be all over the country, in desi flavour. “Slurp” would say the couch potato generation. Is it a surprise that they cant distinguish between the real and the idiot box variety of life?

Given a chance, I would like to start a reality show of mine. “The Great Indian Cookery Show”, I would christen it as. Compared to these oxymoronic unreal-reality shows, at least *there*, I would know that if the nymphet-like-cook-with-the-pearl-drop-like-tears is crying, it’s for “real”, because she’s peeling an onion.