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India through the prism of advertisements

The author combines the evolution of ad campaigns with that of economy and society

Published: 20th August 2016 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 20th August 2016 12:19 PM   |  A+A-

Ambi Parameswaran has had a rich marketing, sales and advertising career, and is a brand strategist, author and columnist. Before commenting on the book, a sentence in the introduction caught my attention. “There were 55 (sic) licensed television sets when Nehru died in 1964, about a hundred thousand when Indira Gandhi declared emergency in 1975, a little over two million when the Asian Games came to Delhi in 1982, 34 million families owned a TV set when Manmohan Singh opened up the economy in 1991 and when Narendra Modi was sworn in as PM in 2014, over 60 per cent of the 250 million houses in India had a television set.” The point being made is about the explosion in media and television, which impacts advertising. I wondered about those 55 TV sets in 1964. Where does one get that figure? Who owned these TV sets and for what purpose? I tracked down the answer, not from this book, but from Boria Majumdar and Nalin Mehta’s Olympics—the India Story (2013). Prior to this, I hadn’t known that AIR started television broadcasts in 1959 and that these were watched by “tele-clubs”, with TV sets gifted by UNESCO. Incidentally, the correct figure is 58.

A book on advertising is bound to have a catchy title. Nawabs because they have modelled for premium suiting brands, nudes because of Milind Soman/Madhu Sapre, and noodles is obvious enough. There are 23 themes clustered under four heads—people, products, services and ad narratives. A theme means that a specific ad campaign is used as a trigger to tease out an issue. If you are an advertising professional, you will probably find all campaigns interesting. If you are not an advertising professional, you will find the ones you identify with interesting, especially when you are reminded of the older ones. (The book also displays a bias towards recent ads.) The book is interspersed with boxes. “How come women in ads have such beautiful long hair? Well, that is the magic of expensive computer graphics.” Alas, there could have been more boxes. And alas, some boxes are rather pedestrian. “For a fee, the actor can be made to drive your car or drink your soft drink.” Does that really warrant a box?

India Throu.jpgThe book is a good read and the evolution of ad campaigns is combined with the evolution of economy and society. But it’s a good read if you read the pieces separately. By integrating them, as an underlying theme, is there a strand of analysis and conceptualisation that transcends mere descriptions? No, so don’t expect that, but fun otherwise.

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