AdStand: A Demonetisation chaotic week and a few ads

Rarely a week will have as much action as this week has had. Post Diwali, the action normally slows down, everybody catches their breath and prepares for the wedding seasons. Brands jump from one offer to another. The week after Diwali this year will be remembered for long. First for the act that made people learn a new word  “Demonetization”.  Second for a rather improbable win by Donald Trump in US Presidential Elections. Two acts that created a tsunami on social media in India.

But Diwali seems to have happened in a distant past, it’s a hazy memory. If Diwali money is a key symbol of Diwali, then money unfollowed Diwali this year.

This week though, a small throwback at a few ads this Diwali, not from advertising perspective, but from depicting relationship perspective and a look at a category that can become mainstream.


Progressive and regressive on same screen

Ariel’s #ShareTheLoad campaign has been getting tremendous applause. The realization of the father that he could have imparted correct values makes the ad forward looking. In a context like that to come across the 2016 Diwali ad of LG is like travelling back in time.

LG’s 2016 Diwali ad is a range commercial that showcases Refrigerators, Washing Machine and LCD TV. All of this is showcased within a single home with a large extended family. The entire narrative is centered on the woman of the house. She is a mother; she works hard and chases success. But then the commercial takes many steps back. It links happiness to gadgets at home, which parents have bought for her. The husband then comes and announces in a grand fashion that the woman has been promoted from ‘wife to life’. There cannot be something more contrite than this rather silly portrayal of husband and wife relationship today.

If LG went back to 70s Star Plus and Colors TV tried hard to become contemporary. The Mother driven identity in Star Plus brand campaign was a nice touch in a largely patriarchal country. Colors too did well to celebrate the lady of the house by asking family to declare Sunday as holiday for her too. I only wish that the new brand communication also had resonance in programming on both channels. The disconnect between the brand and its advertising is stark and creates a contra experience. Yet it needs to be lauded, for the both brands dominate the popular programming and have an impact on popular culture. May be the two brands are launching a new set of shows that are true to the progress the advertising depicts.


Cash crunch and rise of wallets and PayTM crisis

The Government seems to have a sense of time. On 8th November at 8PM the Government opened up a very large window for the mobile wallets to become mainstream. The 8PM opportunity is really large and the wallet brands were alive to it. Next day all newspapers across the country has almost all the wallet brands releasing full-page ads. PayTM, India’s largest wallet and FinTec startup even put the PM in its ad congratulating him on “the boldest step in the financial history of India”.  This did raise eyebrows in social media as people wondered if it is ok to use PM in a private sector brand ad. Technically the image of PM can be used, if the brand is authorized by the relevant authority, I am sure PayTM has the permission.

All the wallet ads were more informative asking people to sign up to tide over the immediate cash crisis.

PayTM, early this week released two ads featuring an electrician and a domestic help asking their employers to ‘stop the drama’ and do PayTM. The ads created the Snapdeal moment for PayTM. Social media went up in arms against the insensitive nature and some even uninstalled the app.  The uproar on social media was so strong that PayTM had to withdraw the ads and modify them.

In normal circumstances the ads were fine, they had a hyperbole that delivered the brand’s message. But in times of charges atmosphere where the whole context has created two camps, the TVCs became a tool in hands of both sides. Two factors went against the commercials. One the TVCs seemingly took the side of Government’s move by hinting that the inconvenience people are facing is Drama, and the other was the slightly condescending tone of voice that created a sense of elitism. Sharper crafting of relationship between the employer and domestic help might have avoided the backlash.

What was impressive was the speed at which PayTM reacted and owned up the criticism. Hey did lose a little faith, but I guess gained back a lot more. The smart thing was that the CEO of PayTM was leading the conversation and apologized to everyone who disliked the ad.


Should brands take a break from advertising?

This is a tricky question. This much is clear that trade has dipped in last week. With cash becoming scarce, the brands are not moving off the shelves. Should the brands reduce the intensity of their ads or should they hope that next morning will be a better morning and they should continue to engage the consumers?


There is no parallel to this move. There are new lessons to be learnt here. While there a new category that seems to have found its tipping point, the relationships that brands depict need to stay relevant

Original published here:

AdStand: The Head of State as Brand Endorsers and why is it bad for India

August – September 2016 will be remembered as landmark year for brands in India. Two brands in space of less then 10 days managed to get the President and the Prime Minister of India as quasi brand endorsers. Something that had never happened in India, something that the brands may have debated but never dared to pull it off.

Bandhan Bank

On August 23, 2016, Bandhan Bank released an ad claiming that “The First Citizen of India will celebrate our first anniversary” along with the picture of President of India. For the newest bank of India, this seemed like terrific way to get into limelight. The President of India did address the first year anniversary celebrations of India’s newest bank in Kolkata.

Was the bank correct in using the Picture of President? For the core audience of Bandhan Bank, it could almost mean that they see the bank as Sarkari bank.

Then on September 1, 2016, Reliance Jio launched its nationwide 4G services with the picture of Prime Minister of India splashed across all the major newspapers of India. In a poorly crafted ad, with copy error, the country welcomed not only a new telecom service, but also possibly a new brand endorser. The PM was cleverly dressed in the same colours as brand logo.

Now that two brands have found a way, are more coming?


The use of President and Prime Minister for commercial purposes is generally not allowed. The Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950 has specific guidelines that makes it almost impossible for private citizens and brands to use the two names for commercial purpose. However if the two brands have found a way of using them for commercial purpose are more brands queuing up to use them? A builder in Mumbai did use PM’s picture to launch housing scheme quoting PM’s Jan Awas Yojna, but had to pull the ad down, as he hadn’t taken permissions from PMO. While it doesn’t look like free for all, but there are chances that we may see more brands using the PM as brand endorser.


Is Government underplaying its own companies?

Both Bandhan and Jio are not owned by the Government of India. GOI owns multiple banks and also owns BSNL, India’s premier telephone company. By endorsing the private sector companies GOI, may be putting its own companies in a hard place. BSNL did respond to the launch of Jio swiftly, and what would have happened if the BSNL ads too had the picture of PM, or the Minister of Telecommunications?

Communication is a lot about symbols and the prime positions of the Government offices are extremely important symbols. By letting the competitors to use the symbols of governance, the Government is weakening its own self.

Despite all the weakness that comes from being Government owned, there are two strengths that come from being Sarkari: Trust and Honesty. These are two very difficult traits to build for a new brand. Has the Government made it easy for the two brands to build the two traits?


Why its bad for us, we the people

We, the citizens of India elect our representatives to be our voice in the parliament and do the right thing for us. By becoming endorsers of brands and business, the elected representatives are breaking the bond between them and their voters. Tomorrow, will the ordinary citizen of India believe that he/she is the king and the brand will listen to them and resolve the issue?

Will the poor performance of the brand not effect the standing of the endorser? Will a PM weakened by the brand he endorsed be a good thing for the nation?


These are new territories

I had never thought that there will be a day when a private sector company will us the PM or President as the endorser. I always believed that the Government run brands are hampered by their desire to use the picture of ruling class.

The tables have turned. The private sector brands are seeking the ruling class; the Sarkari brands are carving their way without the benefit of using PMs pictures.

There is no telling how the new reality will be? One thing though is sure, lot many more brands will line up at PMO seeking permission.

Hope the PMO is working towards launching an App for this. Get automatic approval and launch the campaign.

Original published here: