India at Davos: Advertising the unavailable

They advertised India’s $35 dollar computer in Davos during the World Economic Forum 2012. The photo on The HIndu op-ed page came as an  ‘eye-opener’ for me, in the sense that I didn’t realise our India-brand building specialists were capable of advertising abroad something that is not available off the shelf in India.  Anyway,  I don’t suppose anyone in Davos took up the computer maker on their  bargain offer (of $35) .

The advertising agency involved in the  ‘India Ingenious’  campaign may well be  justified if they say  they are in the business of marketing,  not a product, but  a perception.  The product in reference – Aakash tablet computer –  going by its  status reports,  is still  very much a work in progress.

The photo credit: Ravinder Kaur,  associate professor,  Modern South Asian Studies,  Copenhagen University,  who took the photo to go with her article : Dazzling images do not a shining nation make.  Notable among the points made  by the author  is that India,  in mounting the  image campaign through billboards,  and promos .  on city  buses,  cafes,  streets and, even half-empty parking lots,  of  Davos,  has  had to compete  with players such as  Mexico,  Thailand and  Azerbaijan,  for attracting foreign investment.  China, they say,  was conspicuous through its visual absence.


Playing the Reliance tune

HinduAd.Oct.31 001In normal course actor Hrithik Roshan wouldn’t have made it to The Hindu Page One, and that too, this big ;  even if he were to pick up an Oscar. Here we have him playing music and dancing to the tune set by Reliance Mobile.

Not every newspaper reader appreciates such loud advert. display.  Nor, on an unrelated note, did everyone in his neighbourhood appreciate Hrithik’s  music. As a web report put it,  the Bollywood actor was recently warned by the police  not to play  music loud at his suburban Juhu residence.  No complaint was registered against the Roshan family, as the police didn’t find any violation of rules.

Case for Doordarshan Farming channel


farmweeklyCanegrowers association in Mysore  and  neighbouring  districts  publish a  farm weekly – Raitha Dwani – to share information on farming,  notably,  cane and paddy.  The one-year-old publication plans to increase its subscriber base,  from 1,000 to 5,000 farmers  in six months. Much too modest a goal; and,  presumably, not cost effective either.


farmweekly 002In  neighbouring Tamilnadu  they have a website – –  that seeks to bridge buyer-seller gap  caused by  lack of information on commodity prices,  poor marketing,  exploitative middle-men  and inadequate infrastructure.  Online market such as connects buyers and sellers for meaningful trade.

The website provides information pertaining to commodity prices,  cropping pattern,  seeds and fertiliser availability,  agro-based business opportunities,  veterinary,  organic farming,  self employment training,  herbal medicines,  value addition in farm produce and  farm credit. But then the digital divide and illiteracy limits the reach of cyberfarming  among  farmers in  our country.  An overwhelming majority stay untouched by cyberfarming.


farmweekly 005A Tamil channel – Makkal TV –  runs a phone-in programme – Uzhavar Sandhai – that covers the same ground,  and,  given widespread TV viewership and extensive use of cell phone even in rural areas,  telefarming of the type adopted by  Makkal TV  has a reach among illiterate farmers.

At a recent Uzhavar Sandhai programme a  farming expert, responding  to viewers’ questions, came up such info.:

1) Fruit-growers in Cumbum (TN),  where they grow grapes on 2,000 plus acres,  should  come together to put up a  juice-making unit.  In the absence of such value-addition the farmers are constrained  to  sell their grapes  for  Rs.15 a kg .

2) A farmer seeking guidance  on  growing   lemon is advised  to visit Gudur (AP)  where they grow lemon of varied grades on a large scale.

3)  A retired army officer in Chennai has set up a unit that markets lemon concentrate in small sachets, with capacity to make  two glasses of juice.  The sachets have potential for retailing  at grocery stores,  pavement paan-bidi shops,  and platform vendors in railway stations.

4)  With ever-increasing vegetable prices,  people in cities take to roof-top kitchen gardening.  A variety of vegetables,  and spinach, can be grown on roof-top,  with no more than  two feet deep soil cover.  The expert on TV spoke of someone who has grown even  plantains on roof-top.

During an hour long programme  they can’t take very many questions  from viewers.  Besides, Makkal TV runs Uzhavar Sandhai only once a week,  Friday.  There may be a case for such interactive  programming on a daily basis;  even for a full-fledged farming channel.  We have channels dedicated to healthcare,  religious discourse and bhajans.  Why not a TV channel to address concerns of farmers –  about marketing their produce,  procurement of seeds, fertiliser, opportunities for agro-business,  horticulture,  livestock and farm equipment maintenence?

Ad. and sponsorship may be  inhibiting factors for  private channels.  Doordarshan, which apparently has no such concerns and is  not dirven only by ratings  coud think in terms of  a full-fledged channel for farmers.  A krishi channel  would get more ad. revenue for DD than the  Lok Sabha channel.

Obama at Jay Leno show

obamadiya-005Chat show host Jay Leno left us in little doubt as to who was in charge. It was meant to be a one-hour show with the President. And Obama wasn’t even asked in for nearly half an hour,  by the show host Jay Leno. What we got, instead, was some rapid-fire wisecracks, presumably,  to ‘warm up’ his studio audience. Must confess,  I had problem understanding him;  Leno talks a bit too fast for me.

However, a Leno one-liner I did catch was –  “you know what, our economy is so bad that Prsident (Obama) flew South West (to LA),  nine  stops”  (applause).  This was some 20 minutes and two commercial breaks into the show. I watched it on Z-Cafe.

Twenty-five minutes into the show  the President strides in,  shakes hands with Kevin (of the studio band),  makes a fitting remark about Kevin’s suit; and,  after a minute or two of inane preliminaries,  Leno and Obama get down to the serious business of discussing the US economy.

AIG…Tell us about those bonuses,  asks Leno. Obama obliges;  and Leno poses a supplementary on the Bill providing for 90 percent tax on those bonuses.  Before the President could say anything the show host announces yet another commercial break,  asking Obama to hold his answer.

obamadiya-0031‘I will’,  says President Barack Obama,  adding, ‘I’ve got a good answer, too’ (studio applause). Millions of TV viewers the world over witness the world’s most powerful man being put on hold for a commercial break.  Such is the marvel of television that it can make the mighty grin and bear it.

During the Emergency (1976)  our all powerful PM Indira Gandhi,  at an interview with a US channel, got cut-off, mid-sentence, by a clock-watching TV anchor who switched her off saying, ‘That’s all we have time for,  madame  Prime Minister’.

As for the Obama show with Jay Leno,  media pundits in the US  would have us believe that President Obama wanted to get beyond the Washington media , and push his economic agenda with folks who don’t read NYT or WSJ;  he wanted to reach out to the grass-roots audience fed on soap and stand-up comedy in TV.  Barack Obama may well be in a spot over the slide-down in the US economy.  But I didn’t realise he was that desperate as to appear on the Jay Leno show.  

Obama has endeared himself to millions as a President with a common touch.  But isn’t he doing it a bit much,  by  signing up for  chat-shows,  that too barely two months into his office ?

Ad.rage: When you want to smash the box

Ad.rage.  It hits TV viewers, usually during comercial break.

Symptom: You feel like lobbing your remote,  Iraqi journalist style,  at the TV set  in front.

A website on road rage has the logo that reads …When you just can’t take it anymore.  I feel ‘ragey’ about TV Commercials. The  ‘breaks’  tend to get on your nerves as they get longer and more frequent.  I kept count as I watched  a movie on a Tamil channel the other day.

The feature film with 150-minute running time was interrupted for commercial break  thrice during the first hour, every 15 minutes during the next hour,  and once in 10 minutes in the final half hour of the movie. I sat through  it,  to keep count of the ads.

Each commercial break stretched seven or more minutes;  during which they showed 15 ads. What’s cruel, the same set of ads gets repeated in each quarter-hourly break; and a few of these ads are shown twice or more during a single commercial break.

A Tata Indicom commercial featuring Soundarya Rajnikant grabbed my atttention when I saw it first.  Here is a girl who, instead of following the footsteps of her actor father, chose a career in animation graphics.  Why? Because, as she says, she had set her mind on it. The ad. was informative, insofar as it told us about the career choice of Rajnikant’s daughter.

Anyway half-way through this movie – Rasigar Mandram – the Soundarya ad.  had been played out so often that it was getting to be a drag.  Soundarya who sounded smart and sprightly to begin with,  became bit of a bore. I started finding fault with the tone of her voice,  gait,  and with her very screen presence.  Before long the sight of Soundarya made me switch the channel.

This can happen to any screen celebrity.  Remember Amitabh?  His exposure in TV commercials didn’t do any good to Bachchan’s screen image.  Image-conscious celebrities,  who choose their films with their screen reputation in mind,  don’t seem conscious of the damage TV commericals can cause to their public appeal.

Film celebrities,  in the interest of their image,  would do well to have it written into the contract that their commercials  shouldn’t be repeated more than twice in any given TV programme.  It would also spare TV viewers the agony of having to watch their commericals repeated ad nauseum.

 We  can’t wish away commercial ‘breaks’ .  What we can  do is become online activists . Wish someone sets up an Ad Rage dot com where we can share our  thoughts ,  frustration on the tyrrany of  TV commercials,  and take a snipe at our pet hate commercials . If nothing else, this could be a way of getting  round the rage, by hitting the keyboard during commercial breaks.

An ad-raged blogger says  the commercial break is getting so long as to be useful;  she gets done during the break chores she would have otherwise left to be done before bed – wash dinner plates, let her dog out,  brush her teeth,check e-mail etc..