Advertising Ka Jalwa
‘Please don’t go away. We will be right back after a ‘short’ break.’
Advertisements. Hate them or love them, you just cannot escape them. Every ten minutes, in the middle of a highly engrossing match or a TV show, you are subjected to random models or celebrities strutting their stuff across your screen, and urging you to buy products that you will never need to use. So whenever Priyanka Chopra poutily proclaims, ‘It’s not just a phone, it’s who you are,’ or Sachin declares that Boost is the secret of his energy, we have young boys and girls who will insist on buying the very brand that his or her favourite celebrity endorses, regardless of whether they really need it, or whether it is the best product available in the market, or whether they can afford the really expensive ones.
Advertising, on the whole, disgusts me. Because the basic message you’re sending out to people is that – ‘You’re not good enough’. Look at Fair and Lovely. Arre wah, you’re telling people that you cannot achieve success unless you are fair, especially in the ad in which a dark-skinned girl with the voice of an angel is shunned simply because she’s dark. Once she uses their magical product, people start appreciating her (Really?!). Or Axe. You cannot attract chicks unless you wear our deodorant. Complan – You cannot grow taller unless you drink our growth-enhancing potion. I could go on, but I think you get what I’m saying.
After some thought, and endless discussions with vella friends, I came to the conclusion that the advertising industry thrives on two things – insecurities, and envy. So my friend has so-and-so TV? Wow, I am so jealous. There is even a tagline – ‘Neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride.’ So you’re supposed to buy these products simply to show off, regardless of whether you need them or not? That is simply plain foolishness. What these advertisements do, is play on the insecurities of the public. You’re not thin enough. You’re not tall enough. You’re not fair enough. You’re not good enough. So you want to be an actress but you’re not fair enough? Cool, use Fair and Lovely. You don’t have long hair? Use Garnier Fructis. Is your kid short? Stop being an irresponsible mom and give him Complan. You’re fat? Ditch the sugar and get Sugar Free, pronto. Broke up with your partner? Put on your Fastrack watch and move on, man. For every problem, there is the solution, right on your TV screen.
Apart from these physical insecurities, these ads also tap into emotional conflicts. For example, you have a shampoo ad wherein a little girl asks her working mother why her hair isn’t long like other girls. The mother then dissolves into a pool of guilt, while the daughter ruefully stares at another girl’s lustrous locks. The solution? Use Clinic Plus, and you will have a long lustrous mane in no time! Another one is the one in which a working mom comes back home after a long, tired day and her bouncy little kid wants to play with her, but she isn’t able to, because of back pain. The ever-devoted, pati parmeshwar husband massages her back with some cream, and she is back on her feet, playing with her kid. Maybe the intent wasn’t to make working mothers feel that they aren’t devoting enough time to their kids, but this is the message the advertisers are sending out. Their argument – Ganda hai, par dhandha hai, what to do!
But cola ads take the cake. Fizzy soft drinks – pumped with endless carbon dioxide, with a pH of 1.2, highly acidic and excessively sweet (seven spoons of sugar in a litre, duh!). And yet the advertisers, through beautiful faces, somehow manage to convince us that by drinking them, we can overcome our fears and go out and win, or taste the thunder (someone please tell me it is they are trying to say!) or can bring about peace in this world, simply by sharing a bottle of cola. Fact is – if a celebrity does not endorse any cola brand, they cannot sell a single bottle.
Which is not to say that all the commercials we see on our television are bad. There are products which we genuinely need, and are basic necessities – fair enough. There are creative advertisements which never fail to fascinate me – Airtel ads, for instance. What needs to stop is the shallow, glitzy, unrealistic portrayals, endorsing almost harmful products – and luring the unsuspecting public to buy products that isn’t going to do them any good.