Thursday, March 24, 2011

Strip and sell

Does a slice of sex make for bet­ter advertising?
That is what 'copy wizards in most of our ad agencies think today. Gone are the days of the 'healthy' old Lifebuoy jingles and the familiar Lalithaji roaming around with her carry bag and the Surf pack. Now even for common salt you need to go in for seductive postures of women to get minimum attention-this has become the thumb rule in present-day advertising
It has become a matter of con­cern whether it is lack of creativity or a change in public (consumer) perception that has led to this new­found pleasure in nudity. Both are negative trends, either originating from the agency for an easy walkover for its product or due to the 'new' psyche of the consumer to grab everything which comes in an attractive package.
Just look at the new strip ad of Jockey innerwear, which has noth­ing on the copy but a colourful pho­tograph of an undressing girl. The trend was started by the sellers of VIP innerwear, and is now being carried on by all other lingerie brands but with a female body to boot. It does not mean that male nude show is not provocative. It has been 'beautifully' exploited by some newly launched brands for ads on briefs as well as perfumes. The ad for Bilt fine quality paper for printers, shows a finely printed photograph of barely dressed mod­els both male and female. Can't a good quality paper, print a beautiful picture of a flower or a serene shot from nature?
Equally to be denounced are the sexual suggestions, which some­times appear vulgar and way beyond limits. The launch commer­cial of Bisleri's small bottle uses ‘Play safe’ as the catch word, and has an erotic message. After all, health is not just about safe water, but also safe sex, and it is exactly what the ad conveys. The manufac­turer Parle Bisleri Ltd. claims that the ad was created for the young audience of MTV and Channel [V]. But why do they have to give the young audience an additional mes­sage on sex? Is our new gener­ation bothered only about sexuality? A recent commercial for a talcum powder aired in these channels showed girls coming out of a room cherishing the scintillating aroma emanating from their body, and the next shot reveals a macho model sitting inside the room with a cryptic smile.
What is the purpose of such ads - is it to promote an alien cul­ture among its audience? It seems that advertising will not work with­out these gimmicks, but this is turn­ing out to be a serious cultural prob­lem. The world has become so media-centric that all societal etiquettes and mores are determined by it. Advertising over the years has created most of the mannerisms that we see today among the youth. The so-called taste differ­ence and the new need cre­ated by Rasna and Maggi among children is the greatest testimony to this. It should be noted here that all the great ad cam­paigns that we have had in our country did not speak of sex or make an implicit reference to it. The adver­tising of Amul, Bajaj, Colgate, Dabur, Dalda, Godrej, Hero, Surf, Rin, Wipro or Lifebuoy speaks of a clear and value-based strategy which has worked over the years. Then why go for sex-is it to grab the fast-moving consumer? When the average con­sumer's attention span is ever shift­ing, perhaps nudes are the only way to grab him by the collar.
Another reason may be the recession in the economy, with most companies not having much of an ad budget. Hence no more big campaigns. To suit the purse, most of them opt for minimum frequency with maximum reach and insist on sexually persuasive ads. This is also what the latest Ad Forecast, released recently by the Zenith Optimedia Group, says. The report says that "hope of a 2002 recovery seems to be fading, as advertisers are still reluctant to make long-term spending plans". The third is the market that is now determined by the multi-national players who try to beat each other with their sizzling ads. To beat the competition you also need to add strong flavours to your ad. The final reason has to do with ownership control. Most of the ad agencies in India are either part­ly or fully owned by multinational advertising companies, where the 'creative' people nave plenty of for­eign clients and cases for reference, which are indeed reflections of the western way of life.
We cannot discard advertising, for it has become part of our life, and is a means of information, but what we now have to do is to think of value-based advertising.

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