Is patriotism just another prop for the Ad-biz?by Monojit Lahiri January 26 2022, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 51 secs
Is nothing sacred in today's crazy clutter-breaking-obsessed-times, wonders an amused Monojit Lahiri
Every year, come Independence Day or Republic Day or the birth/death anniversaries of political leaders, a zillion ads, with differing degrees of engagement, conviction or focus, blitz our media channels and publications. Why? What is their basic agenda or objective? Do they achieve it? Aren’t the advertisers wasting the taxpayer’s money? Does anybody care to see, note or remember them? Who is doing what for whom?
The Communication Specialist summarily dismisses most of these ads as “sheer tokenism, sycophancy and outstanding examples of how not to project landmark events of national importance.” However some believe that these affairs, for the evolved and sensitive communication practitioner, present amazing opportunities to showcase the nation’s pride and confidence as being up there with the best. Celebrate their sense of self-reliance, their glowing image in the League of Nations as a vibrant democracy making huge strides, deleting forever their erstwhile complex of the white man or their goods and services.
Veteran ad person Esha Guha elaborates this point “I am not sure however if this has been done with any consistency. Connecting the core values of a product/service with the nation’s vision and values can be a fascinating and exciting challenge, if leveraged intelligently. However, there should be a brand-fit - like the memorable, patriotic ‘I don’t want to go abroad’ Hero Honda TVC, ‘Hamara Bajaj’, ‘Mile Sur…’ TVCs etc., otherwise it will appear corny, clichéd and contrived like most ads of this genre”.
Political commentator and Media personality Paranjoy Guha Thakurta adds his spin to the debate. He agrees that there are definitely mega-posturing and wearing-patriotism-on-my-sleeve factors on an overdrive “as clearly manifest in these rather embarrassingly inane ads. They can only be matched by the hysterical brand of enthusiasm by one lot I guess. However, despite this lapse and the fact that a disturbing divide and disparity continues to define our amazingly complex land, we continue to remain a solid democracy and zap the world. This needs to be recognized, understood and celebrated. Seen in that light, these ads are doing their job for whatever they are worth. They may not be the most creative, imaginative and professional examples of advertising excellence, but the intent is honorable and well-meaning.”
Another Communication Honcho comes in with a light touch. He compares this exercise to “event management and believes that it provides the government agencies and PSUs a great, legitimate outlet to spend big bucks, paying homage to whatever is the flavor of the day. In the normal course, not being an FMCG or ad-driven product/service, the Sarkari guys have no need to advertise. These events provide rare and eagerly awaited opportunities and they freak-out … in the process, a great time is had by all.”
Lloyd Mathias, an independent marketing heavyweight has a professional take: “It’s true, that come these days, lots of brands seem to leap onto the nationalistic bandwagon, flashing empty patriotic slogans and the tri-color to display solidarity with the spirit of the day. Most times (like the hordes of PSU ads), it’s done without imagination, creativity or focus.” However, Mathias believes, should a brand anchor it and establish a relevant and powerful connection with patriotism, “like the fabulous Pepsi Freedom ads in 1997, commemorating India’s 50th year of independence, then it could result in powerful and memorable communication. Otherwise, mostly it’s lazy marketing and a sheer waste of money.”
Veteran Nargis Wadia (founder and chairperson of Interpub, whose gorgeous presence rocked the sixties and seventies) also believes that “context is the key. The Gandhi-fronted Mont Blanc ads, for example, were silly and amateurish attempts at leveraging patriotism in advertising. The challenge is to identify and establish, in a creative and memorable manner, products, causes or concerns with a suitable brand-fit”.
The last words appropriately must come from a bright and attractive Mass Communication student, Anupama Sharma. Bringing all her youthful optimism into play, she opines, “These ads may not be great examples of creative excellence, but who cares? Life is about passion and emotion and these occasions allow us to express them with patriotism full on. Do birthdays, anniversaries and special days happen every day? Don’t we celebrate them with feelings? We are expressive, over-the-top people. Why should our flavor of patriotism differ? We are like that only, yaar.”