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Ad Stand: A chaotic week and a few ads

Post Diwali, Indians learnt a new word ‘Demonetization’. Trade dipped. With cash becoming scarce, the brands are not moving off the shelves. So, should the brands reduce the intensity of ads or should they hope that the next morning will be better and continue to engage with the consumers?

Delhi | November 17, 2016

Adstand by Naresh Gupta

Rarely a week will have as much action as this week has had. Post Diwali, the action normally slows down, everybody catches their breath and prepares for the wedding seasons. Brands jump from one offer to another. The week after Diwali this year will be remembered for long. First for the act that made people learn a new word ‘Demonetization’, second for a rather improbable win by Donald Trump in the US Presidential Elections. Two acts that created a tsunami on social media in India.

But Diwali seems to have happened in a distant past, it's a hazy memory. If money is a key symbol of Diwali, then money unfollowed Diwali this year.

This week though, a small throwback at a few Diwali ads -- not from advertising perspective, but from depicting relationship perspective and a look at a category that can become mainstream.

Progressive and regressive on same screen

Ariel’s #ShareTheLoad campaign has been getting tremendous applause. The realisation of the father that he could have imparted correct values makes the ad forward looking. In a context like that to come across the 2016 Diwali ad of LG is like travelling back in time.


LG’s 2016 Diwali ad is a range commercial that showcases refrigerators, washing machine and LCD TV. All of this is showcased within a single home with a large extended family. The entire narrative is centred on the woman of the house. She is a mother; she works hard and chases success. But then the commercial takes many steps back. It links happiness to gadgets at home, which parents have bought for her. The husband then comes and announces in a grand fashion that the woman has been promoted from ‘wife to life’. There cannot be something more contrite than this rather silly portrayal of husband and wife relationship today.

If LG went back to the 70s, Star Plus and Colors TV tried hard to become contemporary. The mother-driven identity in the Star Plus brand campaign was a nice touch in a largely patriarchal country. Colors too did well to celebrate the lady of the house by asking the family to declare Sunday as holiday for her too. I only wish that the new brand communication also had resonance in programming on both channels. The disconnect between the brand and its advertising is stark and creates a contra experience. Yet it needs to be lauded, for both the brands dominate the popular programming and have an impact on popular culture. Maybe the two brands are launching a new set of shows that are true to the progress the advertising depicts.

Cash crunch and rise of wallets and PayTM crisis

The Government seems to have a sense of time. On 8th November at 8pm, the Government opened up a very large window for the mobile wallets to become mainstream. The 8pm opportunity is really large and the wallet brands were alive to it. The next day, all newspapers across the country had almost all the wallet brands releasing full-page ads. PayTM, India’s largest wallet and fintec start-up, even put the PM in its ad congratulating him on ‘the boldest step in the financial history of India’. This did raise eyebrows in social media as people wondered if it is okay to use the PM in a private sector brand ad. Technically, the image of PM can be used if the brand is authorised by the relevant authority, I am sure PayTM has the permission.

All the wallet ads were more informative, asking people to sign up to tide over the immediate cash crisis.

PayTM, early this week, released two ads featuring an electrician and a domestic help asking their employers to ‘stop the drama’ and do PayTM. The ads created the Snapdeal moment for PayTM. Social media went up in arms against the insensitive nature and some even uninstalled the app. The uproar on social media was so strong that PayTM had to withdraw the ads and modify them.

In normal circumstances the ads were fine, they had a hyperbole that delivered the brand’s message. But in times of the charged atmosphere where the whole context has created two camps, the TVCs became a tool in hands of both sides. Two factors went against the commercials. One the TVCs seemingly took the side of Government’s move by hinting that the inconvenience people are facing is drama, and the other was the slightly condescending tone of voice that created a sense of elitism. Sharper crafting of relationship between the employer and domestic help might have avoided the backlash.

What was impressive was the speed at which PayTM reacted and owned up the criticism. It did lose a little faith, but I guess gained back a lot more. The smart thing was that the CEO of PayTM was leading the conversation and apologised to everyone who disliked the ad.

Should brands take a break from advertising?

This is a tricky question. This much is clear that trade has dipped in last week. With cash becoming scarce, the brands are not moving off the shelves. Should the brands reduce the intensity of their ads or should they hope that next morning will be a better morning and they should continue to engage the consumers?

There is no parallel to this move. There are new lessons to be learnt here. While there a new category that seems to have found its tipping point, the relationships that brands depict need to stay relevant.

(Naresh Gupta is Managing Partner and CSO of Bang in the Middle. The views expressed are personal.)

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