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When ads are better than soaps!

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By Ramanujam Sridhar

It’s that time of year when we reflect on the old year, As an avid television viewer (and may my tribe flourish), I continue to find TV commercials often more entertaining than the soaps and serials my wife seems glued to. The advertising industry realizes that the remote control is an even more potent destroyer of poor advertising than clients and is hence pushing the envelope more and more to ensure that we don’t switch channels. Social issues have been sensitively portrayed and subtle brand messages conveyed. What better tribute to creativity than the Tanishq remarriage ad. Beautifully shot, it shows a woman doing the saat phere with her husband even as a child keeps calling her and trying to join the holy walk. We realize that it is the woman’s daughter from her first marriage perhaps, and the husband cheerfully asks the child to join in. Commercials like these need a lot of courage to create and more importantly, run, and I doff my hat to my friends in advertising and marketing who have the guts to push the envelope in more ways than one. The Google ad for Tanjore paintings is another one that created ripples as did some of the commercials for Idea Cellular and the latest Vodafone video streaming ad is as cute as advertising can get.

Advertising which sucks

And yet, I find a lot of advertising quite convoluted, where the idea seems to be stretched needlessly like some of the TV soaps that have long outlived their sell by date. The new campaigns for Fevikwik - a brand that had great advertising for years - seem to be that of an agency and a creative team which is too full of itself. Equally annoying are the new five star commercials. Some of the big budget ones like Pepsi’s much touted ‘Yes Abhi’ too hardly set the Indian pulse racing. While celebrity endorsements keep multiplying, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the amount paid to the celebrity by way of fees and the creativity of the commercials that they are involved in. Why are advertising agencies giving up so easily on celebrity scripts and coming up with such inane stuff?

What’s with the programming?

I am not a great follower of TV programming so I really should be the last person to complain, but our big anchors are becoming quite insufferable as they play God, passing judgments on people and events with impunity. They also seem to flit from topic to topic with the attention span of a few days and issues are just buried as they worry least about sensitivities and only about TRPs. Soaps are extended mindlessly for ages on end, timings are changed, characters dumped, and just about every possible character mayhem is managed with ease. The sports programming that I watch a lot is really cloying as India is shown to be the greatest superpower of all time based on a few home series wins and it seems really weird given the poor performances abroad.

To hell with editorial responsibility

The old issues of ‘paid editorials’ and ‘irresponsible journalism’ continue to haunt poor viewers like me. Unfortunately, the TV channels don’t seem to care as they keep outwitting each other in their quest for TRPs and viewer eyeballs. Self regulation will never work and I guess, the time is right for viewers to be more discerning, more militant even, and when their sensitivities are not respected, we must exercise our rights and instead of switching channels, maybe the channels will learn only if we switch off the TV set entirely!

May that never come to pass however! Here’s wishing you all a wonderful year of TV viewing!

(Ramanujam Sridhar is the founder CEO of brand-comm and director of Custommerce. The views expressed in the above article are the author's personal views)

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