The commerce of Independence Day

Between August 12 and 15, every newspaper in the country had an overdose of saffron shade as India was getting ready to celebrate its 69th Independence Day. Brand marketers collectively turned the Independence Day into one large collective shopping festival.

I wonder if anyone of us remembers any of the ads that were splashed across our newspapers, emailers, Facebook ads, Twitter feed and some even on TV.

Sample these:

“Freedom is having your groceries delivered faster”

“Mega Freedom Bargains”

“Get freedom from high prices”

“Freedom to breathe pure air”

“Freedom from skinny looks”

“Oxygen of India’s Financial Freedom”

There are just a few.

There were more Independence sales than I could count, with almost every mall celebrating Independence Day by offering discounts. We did not spare even Mahatma Gandhi, a faucet brand turned him into its brand ambassador.

What took the cake for me was one retail store with its really thoughtless ad, “I love Freedom, I love free”. The brand mocked its own founders, who were active freedom fighters and who massively contributed to India’s freedom struggle.

Mercedes launched three special edition cars in Saffron, White and Green; Gap, Honda, and many more brands joined in, dropping prices. Possibly PayTM was the only brand that tried to do something different, by adding extra Rs 69 to your wallet on August 15.

Collectively the Independence Day was turned into a cacophony of commercial messages that neither reflected popular sentiment nor were insightful to connect and leave a mark.

On August 9, Singapore celebrated its 50th year of independence from the same masters as ours. The Singapore Government turned this into a landmark national event. Singapore authorities have opened up the war chest to drum up nationalistic fervour. SG50 is on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, has its own dedicated site, has offers for locals and for those who are visiting from outside. The red and white logo turned the island state into a sea of red and white. A380 of Singapore Airlines was decked up in special SG50 livery, Rolls Royce launched a special edition SG50 car for those who want to carry their patriotism on their sleeve, Diageo launched a special SG50 blend for its popular whisky that comes in a square bottle with a blue label. Lego created a set specifically for SG50 – almost every brand jumped on the bandwagon of nationalistic fervour.

In the clutter of SG50, the brand that won was Durex, which released an apology for being responsible for falling birthrates in the island nation. Durex’s apology letter took the media by storm; it even muted the collective noise of SG50. By being strategic and clever, Durex won the war. What Singapore though did and we in India did not was that they celebrated the sense of Being Singaporean, we did not, we just turned our 69th day into a mindless “I love free” day.

National Days across the world are now being turned into big shopping festivals. Fourth of July is a day of big sale across the US, many other countries turn their key days into big commercial enterprises.

What is different in India is how we collectively have mocked the emotions of “Independence” and “Freedom”. The short film released by Oyo Rooms, for instance. is just a plain jingoistic take on what freedom for us means, or use of Father of the Nation to sell a brand of faucet is as silly as it can get.

Commerce is key to success of any nation; it powers the economy, keeps the nation going. Commerce can never be over and above the sense of being a nation. Freedom is precious, our forefathers achieved it for the future generations to treasure and build on. It’s time we in advertising treated this freedom with the respect that it deserves and not mindlessly turn it into silly slogans.


Original published here:

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