Trials & Tribulations of a life in advertising

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Diwali is here. So are the Dhamakas

The festive season is here. It's that time of the year, when millions of Indians, rising beyond the differences of caste and creed, language and gender, reach out to each other to find meaning to the most fundamental of all questions: where can I find the best deals in washing machines and vacuum cleaners?

That's right. Diwali, in advertising and marketing circles, connotes just one thing. Shopping. From dishwashers to plasma televisions to water purifiers, this is the season that drives otherwise sane individuals to go on wild shopping sprees. Take a look around and you can see it for yourself. No, that's not true. When you look around, you can count yourself lucky if you can see anything beyond the immediate 50 feet.

That's because, on an average, every 10 feet is covered with 7 banners, 18 hoardings and 75 posters. And each one of them is inviting you to participate in some shopping festival where, for e.g., you buy a high end refrigerator, get a scratch card which is an endurance test for your fingernails and after scratching it - assuming your fingers are not bleeding and are still attached to your palm - you end up being the lucky winner of, guess what, an amazing bowl set, the kind that would be instantly returned by your maid if you were to gift her.

I know what you are thinking. I must have gone for such a shopping expedition. No sir. This column is like your average dentist reassuring you that it will not hurt. You know it will, he knows it will, your maternal aunt in your native village knows it will. But still he reassures you. Similarly, I am an expert in Diwali shopping not because I shop, because - and follow me carefully here - I happen to have branded such a shopping festival for a major brand for this festive season. And I'm not unique here. Every advertising agency worth its brief would be working on a hundred such shopping festivals as we speak.

But I need not be in advertising to tell you what's been happening to your newspapers of late. With the exception of the masthead, every other inch of space in all major dailies is filled with ads proclaiming essentially the same thing; Come, Buy, Scratch. In fact, don't be surprised if your newspaper guy throws the paper and it breaks down an entire wall. On a related subject, I think the Municipal Corporation of Delhi doesn't have to bother itself with this demolition drive of illegal buildings. (Most buildings, legal, illegal or partly legal, will be demolished if you throw both Hindustan Times and Times of India together at them.)

You think I am exaggerating. Just watch out for this Dhanteras and see if you can spot any news in the newspaper. Editorial content is being so tightly squeezed between Diwali ads that some headlines might read, "North Korea says it will explode another Diwali Dhamaka". Every newspaper prints so many additional pages to accommodate these ads that the average number of pages is somewhere around 275. And as you prepare for this coming weekend, in all likelihood, you might get your papers in two or three separate volumes; "Good morning sir, this is your Times of India, Volume I. Volume II will be shortly airlifted to your thirdfloor apartment. And regarding the supplements, the Indian weightlifting team is in charge of that, sir. Please talk to them."

Good luck people.