Stupid Ads and the Game of Insecurities

I Like Ads. They convey a very precise message to a large audience in a very limited amount of time, about 60 to 120 seconds, hour after hour without loosing its appeal. But the reason I love them–And I am not an ad maker–is because making an impressive ad, given the limited airtime it has, is a big challenge. It really puts a lot of things to test: Understanding of the Product, of the Audience, of the Current Trends, of the Popular Culture, of the Competition, and how the thing needs to be put together with in a budget while creating a decent recall time, etc., etc.

There are some really great ads out there. I liked the old Nike ad. It is short, simple, intelligent, and commands the most recall – Just Do It. I like the new Range Rover ad too.

However, I have come across some ads that are so stupid that they make Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar movies look like the epic of Mahabharata.

Example1: the new Coca-Cola ad that says: “Spread Happiness, Let the World Call you Crazy while doing so, and Spread Coke.” Brands trying to associate themselves with abstracts concepts like happiness, or with local customs like having a sweet before the start of something new is nothing new. The “Shuba Aarabh” Cadbury ad is very well made. It’s classy and doesn’t rub the thing in your face. Whereas the Dominos’ “Ye hai Rishto ka time” is not. It’s explicit, overbearing, and tries too hard – and hence fails to connect with the audience, just like the Coke ad: for if one needed to be crazy to spread happiness, then Mother Teresa would the craziest person known to humanity.

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But when it comes to making stupid ad, it’s the two most cash-rich,world-renowned companies, sorry, conglomerates, take the award: namely, P & G and HUL.

Example 2: One of P & G’s ad claims that it’s the proud sponsor of Moms. Notwithstanding that this is just an ad campaign, this one statement is wrong at so many levels that one could write a 100 page thesis on the concept of Stupidity using this one statement alone. Moms are divine, self-less to the point of being self-destructive, and their love for their children is unbound by conditions. Moms is why we are, Moms is why we have been, Moms is why we will continue to exist. Moms hold the power to create the miracle of life. Earth inherited Mothers long before P & G existed and will continue to long after P & G will be gone. So where is the question of sponsoring Moms. Also, on a simpler note, Moms are not events that requires sponsoring; however, people who think Moms require sponsoring definitely need to be sponsored into a mental institution.

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But in recent times the most idiotic ad is that of Unilever’s “Dove – You are more beautiful than you think” ad (Example 3).

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Ad campaign of most beauty products tend to mildly exploit our insecurities of the way we look. But this ad exploits this insecurity mercilessly, puts it out in the open, leaving nothing to imagination and leaving nothing good to take back. This ad also claims that this phenomenon of insecurity affects one and all, like there is no escaping it, like there is no way to say no to it. No option but to accept it. I guess the makers of the ad didn’t realize that Lack of options is poverty; the inability to choose from is claustrophobia.

Yes, we are insecure. And yes, it is not a particularly a confidence-boosting trait. But these insecurities, these fears, and these imperfections of ours is what makes us human. Do you know who are the perfect creatures in the world? Insects. They are physically more evolved than us. Insects are perfect. So much so that even the Sentinels, which are built by intelligent machines in the movie Matrix, are based on the anatomy of insects. But unlike insects, we humans are less than perfect; we are flawed. Cracked. And to paraphrase Cohen, it is through these cracks that the light gets in. Light that make our eyes twinkle when we laugh or cry, and give us warmth when someone touches. The Cracks. The Smile. The Curve. The imperfections. And the good thing about imperfections is (with due respect to Tolstoy): imperfections make you unique in your own way for all perfect super-models look-alike.

Also, creativity in an ad is it’s defining quality. And coming back to “Dove –You are more beautiful than you think”, I failed to see any creativity. It just states the obvious and puts the Dove logo at the end. It’s like a Bajaj Bulb ad that says: “Sun gives us light” and places the logo of Bajaj Bulbs at the end of the ad. Only difference is, there is no such ad made our Indian-brand Bajaj. And I hope it never gets made.

My family is into business for generations. And if there one thing businessmen know is how and when to capitalize on things and on situations, for profits. And unlike these compassionate, ad-making creative-genius, and desperate product-pushing conglomerates, the shrewdest of businessmen I know never to use someone’s insecurity, or the concept of motherhood to make money.

PS: If it wasn’t for our insecurities and our will to work towards them, we’d still be in caves, believing in dragons. So thank the Gods, the Old and the New.

About the Author: Dhaval Kolhapure is an alumni of the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, Manipal. He Blogs at Nomadic Peeps.

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