Political voices in ads

BY SHALINI JOSHI| IN Media Practice | 06/05/2014
Advertisers today are riding on a topical issue which has a mass appeal but what is striking is the way the ads are embedded with political promotion of a certain image.
SHALINI JOSHI takes note. PIX: A still from Linc Pens~ TVC

In the new Hero ad, two friends are riding the bike and one of them points at the poster of a girl and says, “She is going to win the talent show this time.”

"Why?" the other asks.

"Because she is from our side."

"From our side, what do you mean. Talent is more important."

"Talent? And what about elections, which is the biggest talent show of our country? This time let us vote for the talent." 

The message is - an individual's talent is vital to get elected. The hidden message is to vote for a candidate who has political talent as if the election is a hunt for 'Super Prime Minister' like 'Super Mom' and 'Super Chef'. The ad also conveys, in a subtle manner, that this is for the first time that we Indians have such a choice available to us. Also remember the phrase used in the ad 'Is baar talent ko vote' which sounds similar to 'Is baar Modi sarkar'.

'Aapka sahi chunav ek bada parivartan la sakta hai' (Your right choice can bring in a big change) - is the punchline for the Linc pens’ ad. The model endorsing this view is none other than Amitabh Bachchan. No need to remind ourselves that Amitabh is also the brand ambassador of Gujarat Tourism. The message here is 'a change in government is the need of the hour to bring a so called revolution in the country.'

In the advertisement for Fevicol, a tea seller walks into a carpenter’s shop and sees him working on different types of chairs. “Ye kursiya kiske liye? (Who are these chairs for?)” he asks. Then the carpenter shows him the different types of chairs he is working on. First a lotus shaped one saying "ye apne bhai ki hai (This one is for our brother)", second a palm shaped saying "ye sure nahi ke kaun baithega ispe, to ise maine adjustable bana diya hai’(Not sure who will sit on this one, so I have made it adjustable)" and then a cluster of six to seven chairs pointing to it – "ye third party ki hai, darjan logon ka jhund hai isme (This is for the Thrid party, there are too many people in this one)". The tea seller replies, “Kursi me Fevicol jaroor lagayi, taaki kursi jiski bhi bane, der tak chale (Do put Fevicol on chairs, so that whoever comes to power, stays for long)".

There is a flood of election themed brand commercials on television. The advertisers and marketers have found a new peg in the biggest election show of India. They are riding on the topical issue of an election which has mass appeal but what is striking is the way the ads are embedded with political promotion of a certain image. The 'personality' is placed in the commodities whereas earlier commodities were placed in campaigns and programmes. Should we call it 'commodification' of the personality culture or 'modi-fication' of the ad world? One can raise questions about this type of partisan creativity. There is a perceived bias in these ads. Many of them appear judgmental, motivating and persuading to vote in favour of a party or a personality.

The firstpost.com has declared the Fevicol ad the cleverest one. According to the website, the creative team of this ad includes Piyush Pandey and Prasoon Joshi. Incidentally, both of them are instrumental in the creation of BJP's campaign. However, Anil Jayaraj, chief marketing officer of Pidilite industries says that, "We did not think of the campaign from an election point of view, it was just to make people smile. If ad plots involve topics like elections, parties and politics a fair amount of common sense is advisable." (Abki baar ads baar baar, Economic Times, April 30, 2014)

The function of an advertisement is to sell a product, but also teach values, attitudes and behaviours, but are these ads funded by one political party and publicising the values and attitudes projected by it? Is there any behind the scene manipulations like the paid news or paid programming?

In an article 'Brands vote for elections', Saurabh Parmar, CEO & Founder, Brandlogist says, "The challenge of associating with elections is that for all the brands the 'product' and 'call to action' is the same. It is about encouraging people to vote. Thus, the connect heavily relies on the creative execution or the angle."

Some may find it innovative, refreshing and an opportunity to make people smile but what appears is that there is a conscious effort to use advertising and marketing practices for political gains or may be it is a sign of polarisation of the admen and marketers as well. The ads here are not passive reminders but they seem to be creating an image and trying to 'manufacture consent for people about the person they should vote for as their duty to help bring in change in the country.

Shalini Joshi has been in the electronic media for the last 18 years. Currently she is the Asst. Professor, Media Studies at the Haridev Joshi University of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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