Friday, July 15, 2005

An 'original' problem

This week's Brand Equity carried an article that debated whether one's origin effected output in creating good advertising. Many of the recently successful creative whizkids like Prasoon Joshi 'boast' of small town backgrounds. The small-town feel was also one of the prime drivers behind successful campaigns like Coke's Paanch. I believe that one's origin or the environment in one grows up in esp. the teen plus youth shapes one's minds and can lead to business insights which are not easily understood.
At one extreme in the corporate world is the condescending South Mumbai stereotype. In all likelihood such a person would have never smelt armpits standing in a local train and would ask questions like " do people buy cars in Mulund" and so on. He would swear that Dharma and Greg is the only show worth watching on TV and would be scandalized if somebody talked about the entertainment value of Bollywood failing to realize that "Independence day" is as good or bad as Mithun's "Cobra". As he imagines Indians drinking more Tropicanas instead of Masala Chaas and eating Kelloggs rather than kanda pohe for breakfast, he is best suited for the small MNC firms where style and pedigree are given more weightage than substance. As the losses mount in such firms trying to force Indians to change their habits, such guys learn the hard way through the ubiquitous consumer research. Its good to know which is the pickle fork, but achaar is best licked from hands.
I think if one looks at ad campaigns in general and their vapid ideas, one can strongly sense the overbearing presence of such stereotypes in that industry. There are very few original " we are like this only " Indian ads like the Fevicol, Uniply or Alpenliebe Lagey Raho campaigns. And I am sure the recent DNA campaign is created by South Mumbai types. Maybe the target market is only South Mumbai because most of the people shown as booked subscribers seem that way.
Alex Kuruvilla former head of MTV admitted that "You do not get consumer insights by asking a bunch of kids from Malabar Hill in South Mumbai to decide what the rest of the country wants to watch." Cheers to that quote. I will write about other corporate stereotypes in my next post.


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