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AdStand: Persuasion economy and the tool of human stories

Advertising and communication try to make this alteration in behaviour longer lasting. Nike uses a human story to do so – Deepika Padukone’s fight to overcome depression – but has made a mess of it

Delhi | July 18, 2016

Adstand by Naresh Gupta

In persuasion economy every human story becomes a selling tool in the hands of brands.

Humans are a lot into social felicitation and conformism. A story well told can lead to people altering behaviour even if it is transient. Advertising and communication try to make this alteration in behaviour longer lasting.

Pokemon Go becomes a global rage in no time for people want to be a part of what seems like the latest fad; they can’t be left behind.

Nike uses human story to do the same but may be doesn't do it so well.

In today’s new age of persuasion economy, brands are turning everyone into a salesperson. Everyone’s story is also used to sell us something.

Nike and Deepika, could it have been better told?

To her 31 million followers on Facebook, this is what Deepika Padukone posted of her story of depression and how she came out of it:

“When I was growing up my father said to me, "To be the best, always remember the three Ds - Discipline, Dedication and Determination. Follow your heart. Do what you are passionate about.

“Sport has taught me how to handle failure. It has also taught me how to handle success. It has kept me grounded. It has taught me humility.

“Two years ago I struggled with depression. I was sinking. I almost gave up. But it was the athlete in me that gave me the strength to fight and never ever give up!

“And so I want to say to every girl and every boy and every woman and every a sport...because it changed my life...and it will change yours too!

“Sport has taught me how to survive! It has taught me how to fight! It has made me unstoppable!”

Deepika comes out in the open about depression, says she fought it using sports, but this is where it starts to get murky. The video is actually for Nike. Deepika trades her story to convince thousands and thousands of girls out there to take to sports to cure depression. This is what is wrong with the whole video; it's a sob story that has been used commercially to sell a brand. It doesn't matter to the brand if the disease called depression needs medical intervention. They have done what everyone does in case of depression: advise with no scientific basis.

What makes the whole thing even bad is that the video has India’s most accomplished athletes, but they have are playing a supporting role to Deepika who is a badminton player in the ad. Joshna Chinappa, Ishita Malviya, Jyoti Anne Burrette, Rani Rampak, Shweta Hakke, Shweta Subbiah and Tanvi Hans. These women are on top of their game. They should have been the inspiration for Deepika and millions of other women to take up sport and fight life issues.

My making it other way round, Nike just exploited a human story for commercial gain.

Not Just Do It, but #YesICan

Channel 4, the broadcaster for Rio Olympics, has created what Nike couldn't for Paralympic Athletes. The music video has 15 million views on Facebook and almost a million on YouTube celebrate the superhuman feat of the athletes. The music video features 20 athletes who will compete in Rio Olympics.


The Paralympians demonstrate a wide variety of athletic feats – high jump, weight lifting, and archery as well doing everyday tasks. Ultimately, it the focus is more on ability then disability. The video has met with tremendous response on social media. That is a demonstration of the power of how the human stories have been told.

The Channel 4 Rio Olympics music video and the Nike Deepika video are cut from same cloth. They both celebrate achievements of human ability and tenacity. Channel 4 has turned them into an inspiration for humanity. Nike has just made a mess of it. Channel 4 has done what Nike could have done. Be inspirational.

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