Monthly Archives: July 2013

Hey Megha, Lose Your Boss, na…! – Silly Tanishq Ad

I don’t remember the Tata group coming up with great ads. And this one isn’t either. Analyse the confused messages here:

Let’s go over the sequence. The boss’ appreciation and compassion for a junior who had ‘been working late last night’… to the last minute advice – “Hey, Megha, lose those na…! Let’s have the client concentrate only on the presentation.” Which means, in the boss’ estimation, the earrings would distract the client from the presentation.

Megha begins taking them off, moping over a piece of jewellery rather than concentrating on a presentation she was to give; she finally decides to put them back on. I don’t understand what’s the deal here. Danglers can’t be any more distracting than a well-dressed guy in a suit. But for the boss lady (LADY, please note) the danglers seem to be as distracting as BO. I stand vindicated here as later when Megha enters the conference room, the guys don’t even look at her danglers.

When she enters the room, she gets into presentation mode but her boss seems much more interested in her junior’s defiance to removing the offending (distracting?) piece of jewellery.  In fact, so much so that instead of letting Megha concentrate on the presentation, she asks her why those earrings were still there… through gestures, of course. Talk about priorities! All this while, the client is busy staring at the screen in front of him.  

That’s when Megha assures her, “Don’t worry, the presentation looks even better than me”. That wins her boss over and it’s back to the presentation that everyone seems to admire. And all is well. Thank God Almighty the bosswoman can go back to work for a change!

Mia’s line is “As beautiful as your work”. Going by the ad, it seems to be aimed at working women who may want to wear jewelleryat work. [D-uh, which woman doesn’t want to wear jewellery! Let me rephrase that: what kind of an Indian woman wouldn’t want to wear jewellery! ] Of course, there is no guarantee that your woman boss, if you are unlucky indeed to have one, may find it too jangly-dangly-disturbing and may go so far as to not let you make presentations in it. God forbid! – next time she may find your clothes, your face, even YOU, all of YOU, too distracting.

Most ad campaigns hinge their success on how much more distracting they can portray their product as being: Man DEOs that make women drop everything they are doing (or wearing), Cars that distract men away from even the pretty looks of a platinum blond model (human female in skimpy clothes), Anushka Sharma’s Nivea enriched white underarms that distract her beau from keeping tabs on time, there are so many of these…

But, well, Mia, just blends in. Probably it’s in the design philosophy: it draws inspiration from cross-sections of fruits such as kiwis, lemons, oranges, etc (from its official website). Which is perhaps why the ad looks straight out of a fruit basket. Somewhere down the line the Marketing at Tanishq decided that they wanted to aim their product at the working woman who wants to wear jewellery that is not so loud as seen on Ekta Kapoor’s serials. Well, then, there’s some telling when a fellow woman and boss gets so bloody distracted by it. The client doesn’t. What happened to ‘The boss is always right’?

And of course, Megha is just a woman who wants to look as good as her presentation. After all, that’s what matters. So she mopes and drags till she finds the courage to go against her boss’ missive. And she wins the day for all of us who want to sport danglers at work. Yay!

Technically analysing the ad, you see that no product promotes itself by negating its own USP. Example: Samsung Galaxy ad where the old boss is shown as “outdated” when his phone doesn’t do the things his young junior’s phone does. The boss is out of step with times, and loses out on a key function while the trendy youngster with the smartphone trumps him. If Mia were this phone, the boss would have asked his junior to keep it aside since the phone is to “technologically advanced”.

With Mia, the boss lady is shown as having a very logical, professionally driven concern that many corporate houses do (which is why we have formal dressing), which she furthers to make her case against the jewellery. In her opinion, it’s too loud, too distracting. The Mia ad tries to prove that it’s not. That instead, it’s as beautiful as Megha’s work.

I just don’t buy it.

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Worry that kids are always watching you!

It is said, ‘Don’t worry that children never listen to you. Worry that they are always watching you’. This video by Child Friendly Australia just elaborates that point in a much deeper way.

I think advertising is depicted as the coolest profession around the world – Mad Men’s popularity notwithstanding. Across films, across genres, whenever one wants to show a hero as witty, smart, stylish, rich, of course with a lot of women hovering around, he is shown as an advertising executive. Of course, some Bollywood movies take the cliché further by usually making him work on an ad campaign for condoms: ref – Jhankaar Beats. I think I came across this cliché in some chic-lit humour as well with a woman protagonist. But then, we have also had What Women Want, haven’t we? There are too many to actually count. Makes sense by the way, how appealing is a hero working in his cubicle day in and day out, sweating out his engineering degree? Or that of a tax collector? Or an accounts officer?

Although, what I understand of it is that it is the most value-destroying endeavour there is on this planet. Success in advertising depends on the extent to which you can lie and to which you can dress it up so that it manipulates people into buying your product. When I say value, I don’t mean value as money. I mean value as values we try to inculcate to nurture a better society. You think I am stretching it too far? Am I really? Do you really think hot women will buzz around you like bees if you buy a particular bike (Pick any. They all use the same peg)? or wear a particular deo (Axe, the worst offender)? Do you think you can get ‘intimate’ with someone by sharing a bar of chocolate – (the Kiss Me campaign by Dairy Milk)? Do you think telling convenient white lies makes you smart and desirable (Virgin Mobile)? Do you think insulting someone by calling them ‘uncle’ makes you the happening youngster (Samsung)?

And, I must dedicate a special para to the fairness cream ads. I think these to be the lowest form of advertising. In fact, let’s call a spade a spade: advertising is a euphemism for creative lies. If any of these companies came out with the absolute truth about their products, they will start a much healthier trend. Advertising should be about communication and information and a proliferation of responsible and healthy ideas. Everyone rues materialism, capitalist consumerism, superficiality in our public lives at some point of time in their lives. We must keep in mind that advertising is a vehicle for all of these.

The media initiative cited above is a healthy trend in the direction of creating a more authentic world.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery

What’s with the French and philosophy? The Frenchman’s self-indulgent bent of mind that gave the world a fascination for truffles, chocolates, country cheeses, the café, wine and gourmet cooking, presents with yet another one: philosophy watered down to a fictional story involving two main characters – a concierge, Renee Michel, and a 12-year-old girl, Paloma Josse from a family that can be loosely described as the French political bourgeoisie.

The book’s author Muriel Barbery is a professor of philosophy, who claims to have learned more about life from literature than the subject she teaches. Personally, I find that impressive. I have great faith in literature.

The two protagonists are set in the same apartment building on the Parisian street named Rue de Grenelle, as was Barbery’s first novel, Gourmet Rhapsody. The class distinctions that the French society is witness to even today dictate that as a concierge, Renee Michel’s existence remains insignificant and unaccounted for.

She is surrounded by the rich, powerful and arrogant members of the French bourgeoisie, whom it is her job to look after. One of those members happens to be Paloma Josse, belonging to the privileged class, her father being a parliamentarian. The teenager is revealed to be intellectually precocious, angry about the ‘meaninglessness of life’, and armed with a mission to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. Before doing so, she embarks on compiling a diary of her ‘profound thoughts’, her own intellectual mission and contribution to the world.

Barbery uses these two characters to communicate her love for a lot many things oriental. Paloma nurses a fascination for Japanese food, Japanese way of life, movies, comics, language and of course, haikus. On the other hand, Madame Michel loves reading Kant, Marx, Leo Tolstoy, loves watching art-house movies by Yasujiro Ozu, and 17th century Dutch paintings.

The interesting bit that binds both the characters is that they are both closet intellectuals. The concierge is an autodidact and the teenager tries hard to look stupid at school and conform to mediocrity, although, it must be said that this prose tries to look unpretentious and condescending rather unsuccessfully. Besides, what’s with intellectuals and communist-socialist material? Well, that’s just the way it is, the book seems to be saying. Barbery’s purpose in trying to question stereotypes based on class distinctions ends up being self-defeating, since her answers themselves rest in stereotypes, of the exact opposite kind.

Apart from the essays on various topics such as art, movies, literature, philosophy, even food and flavours, which are all presented as musings of Madame Michel and Paloma, who later develop a strong affinity for each other, the introduction of Monsieur Kakuro Ozu, a Japanese businessman shunts the story forward.

The writing is interspersed with many a gem encompassing various subjects, so if you expect to dine out with so-called intellectuals one evening, this could be your go-to book to get noticed and drop names. The most fetching aspect though is Paloma’s search for meaning in this thing called life, which promises to strike a note in almost every reader, no matter where he/she comes from. So it is also when it all gives way to a love story in the making. The climax is especially abrupt, but hangs in suspension for a while, very Bollywood style. Yet, the characters are so well-formed by then, it is difficult to resist, in particular, a strong empathy with Monsieur Ozu.

No wonder then that the book was made into a movie called ‘The hedgehog’ after it notched up record sales in France, ruling the bestselling lists for at least 30 weeks straight. It is this that surprised market pundits: the French, who expect nothing less than gourmet quality in everything ranging from bagels to baguettes, wholly welcomed this watered-down approach to philosophy and shall we say, literature too. In the end, it left the rest of the world wondering: what’s with the French and philosophy… well, perhaps they just enjoy it.

My take: love it.