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`We are better communicators'

Ad guru Srinivasan K. Swamy insists that Indian commercials are far superior to Western ads



Srinivasan K. Swamy: `A commercial that we see from the Western world is socially irrelevant to us.' — Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

A SCENE in the Bollywood flick Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani probably speaks about the world of advertising in its modern day perspective. Although the scene where advertisers queue up to garner advertising space on the person of a man condemned to be hung for a crime that he did not commit may seem to be a filmy exaggeration, it probably speaks about the ubiquitous presence of advertisements in our modern day lives.

Giving a clearer picture about world of advertising sans the `filmy chakkar' was none other the CEO of R.K. Swamy BBDO, Srinivasan K. Swamy. Also the President of Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI), Swamy was in town recently to present the annual Public Relations Society of India `Person of the Year' award organised by the Mangalore — Manipal chapter of the Society.

Surrogate ads

Taking on a wide range of questions on the field, especially surrogate advertisements, Swamy said: "We do not do liquor (surrogate or real), cigarette, pan masala advertisements. Anything that is illegal, we do not do. As far as the industry (AAAI) is concerned, our stand is that as long as something is allowed to be manufactured, it should be advertised for the benefit of consumers."

"If we make a product, it should be marketed. If it is marketed, advertisements then become part and parcel of the marketing process. Why not market it properly? If you want to ban something that is deemed to be bad, than ban the product itself. Advertisements are there to inform the people about a product. Any decision on using the said product is a consumer's choice," he argues.

On advertisements in India, he says: "Advertisements reflect the mood of the times where you have a channel for communication. It will be different from yesterday, different today and different tomorrow. It is always evolving and a step closer to what the people are, if not ahead."

India vs. the West

"India is certainly as good as any other nation in terms of communication. If one compares bulk of advertisement as seen in the West as against bulk of advertisements shown in India, our communication is far superior. If we compare the communication (through advertisements) here and there (the West), we tend to communicate better," he opines.

Swamy meanwhile feels that Indian professionals must judge Indian advertisements, because they are in a position to understand the culture better.

"A commercial that we see from the Western world is socially irrelevant to us. We do not even connect to what is so funny or recognise the humour in it. Similarly our commercials here do not get awards in competitions in the West, because they are not able to connect. Most of the jury is from that part of the world. There is a disconnect," he says.

"If the jury is a mixed group, then you have more chances where each others views are accepted. If the jury is loaded in favour of Western world you have more socially relevant messages coming from there," he adds.

If you think that people are being bombarded with an overdose of advertisements, which seems to coax them into buying what he does not want, think again. Swamy says: "People are very smart. Don't worry about it. If he is keen on buying a washing machine, he will only buy the washing machine that he wants. The human mind itself is the best filter. A customer is smart enough to discern between ads."

Swamy also has an interesting theory on children appearing in advertisements.

"While anti-child labour activists are up in arms against such a practice, where children are shown doing odd jobs, I think they are there more for their charm value. Irrespective of the presence of children (in advertisements such as the Pepsi commercial that came in for criticism), the focus is on the product itself and the stars (cricketers) endorsing it,"

JAIDEEP SHENOY

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