Friday, May 08, 2009

Revealed! The secret target demographic of Indian commercials - Part 1

Recently I found myself with a lot of free time during a visit to the desh. I decided to use it wisely - I watched hour upon hour of IPL , gleefully settling down to watch eight hour blocks of TV cricket.

Soon however, I found that in between all that cool cricket action I would be forced to watch the most inane and annoying commercials. After multiple viewings, I felt I might go insane. I became irritable and irrational. I started heckling the batsmen, the bowlers and the commentators for all the agony they were peripherally inflicting on me.

Once when Rahul Dravid was batting, I nodded off. I heard a clap and saw a billowing cloud of smoke. Before me stood Bunker Swahadevan.

"Bunker!" I said "Is that you?"

"Yes" sang Bunker and then launched into a superb alaap - his hand flicking imaginary locks of hair off his forehead.

After he was finished, he admonished me.

"Aspi!" he scolded, "you know I and my band Bunker Fashion Coy work on most of these commercials. I'm disappointed you don't like our work. Why don't you try and give these ads a second chance?"

"Go wuuaaachhhh theeemmmm" Bunker's voice faded into the distance.

My eyes flew open with a start! Had it all been a dream? Well, I was lying down on the couch and dribbling. But then I noticed the word "Maa" scrawled on the layer of dust on my window pane. I knew this had been no ordinary day dream.

I took Bunker's advice to heart. I paid renewed attention to the commercials. Soon I started to enjoy them. In a few days, I was so enraptured that I even started taking notes.

Inexoribly it dawned on me that these ads communicated more than met the eye (or ears). There seemed to be a secret code to them, a specific audience they were talking to - a hidden target demographic. I decided to decipher their coding.

In continuing posts, I'll talk about my research on specific ads - annoying beyond belief, but expertly communicating to an audience with disposable income and luring them with coded talk. This exercise had a rather pleasant side effect - I became smarter and more entertained.

Thanks, Bunker!

Coming up:
Complan vs Horlicks
Crabtree Switches: A switch is a switch
Fanta: Bunking is allowed
BSNL 2Mbps Broadband


Anonymous said...

Did you see the Zoozoo Vodafone ads? Everybody's talking about them.

Anonymous said...

Yes Aspi more pleaseee. The one thing I have realized with ads is that, they should not be on with kids around. Else, even when the TV is off the ad(now the kid!!) keeps repeating itself and this one does not have a off switch!!!

meena said...

Hey Aspi, you are back!
Great topic. award the Nirma Crown to the most nail-gnawingly annoying, repetitive, unimaginatively shot, jingle gets stuck-in-your-head-like-gum-in-your-hair BUT highly effective ads you find:0

Anonymous said...

ara nahi Meena don't you remember tobu cycle-la...or Reena ice-cream. but yes it is annoying when you are singing these jingles unknowingly

Unknown said...

I have seen the Zoozoo ads and they annoyed the heck out of me.

meena, Nirma was terrific. But the ad that used to really entertain me was Suresh Oberoi scrubbing himself with Lifebouy. Career-making ad for the man. And look what it all spawned. A high stakes affair. A fall out with a bad tempered muscle bound actor. And the most ridiculous katti situation in all of Bollywood.

meena said...

you mean Vivek Oberoi..

Unknown said...

I meant Suresh Oberoi got into films because of Lifebouy. Then he spawned Vivek who went the star son route and delivered his best entertainment off the screen.

Lin said...

There are some pretty good Indian ads I like as well.

I once spent a week going through youtube and watching all different Indian ads.

Good times. Good times.

I'll give links soon.

Teddy said...

Anyone here old enough to remember those old TV ads?...back from when there were only two channels available on TV and streets were deserted at Buniyaad and Mahabharat time.

TATA ka OK ...nahaane ka bada sabun ad.

Vicco Vajradanti ads..with happy old men crunching walnuts with their teeth, robust young men chomping into sugarcane stalks, cheerful women biting into apples ah..they don't make dant-manjan ads like that anymore.

Let's not forget that annoying Lijjat Papad Bunny...Kharram Khurram.

musical said...


Happens to me every time i go home- love some of the ads back home. Looking forward to this whole series. Oh, and there was one ad which gave me a bad ear-worm (the Ajanta toothpaste ad, that jingle kept playing in my head for, like, forever)!!

Some ads ahve a lot of effect. Mom once told me how she saw a kid at the grocery store, begging his Mom to buy him "Nirma Bath" soap :-D.

And yes,folks, count me in, i remember Tobu Cycle, OK and Vicoo Vajradanti ads :).Oh! and i also remember the Lifebuoy ads with Mr. Oberoi :).

Check this one out, btw, it's an old one:

Talking about Bunker bhaiyya, this episode of VOI: Mummy Ke Superstars was Mothers day special-and guess what song the program began with: "Yeh tujhko pata hai na Maa" :).

bhatnaturally said...

Haha, nice post. BTW, have you figured out what 'Aap muskurayenge, bulbule gungunaayenge' means? I think it means, 'mutual funds are subject to market risks, read the prospectus before investing'. Looking forward to Part 2 of the post.

Unknown said...

You know I've wondered that myself: what the heck DOES that mean? That entire ad is funny - trying to incorporate the Coke "good times" association in an Indian context.

Meiyang Chang said...

Gooooooo waaaaaatttttccchhh thhhhemmmm ..... lol ;) Hilarious Aspi. The fact of the matter is that probably no country squeezes commercials in like India does. Here I watch the matches on Super Sports and realise that in the entire duration of a 20-20 game, there is a sum total of 3 adverts!!! Unthinkable. no? :)

Unknown said...

Great write up as usual Aspi .. :D

Like many others here, I am hooked to the telly when I go back home but the quality of our commercials has been very disappointing of late..

And how annoying are the ads that star our filmi sitare and the cricketers.. As if we don't see enough of them elsewhere.. Don't get me wrong... I love my movies and love my cricket.. But I don't fancy seeing Kareena Kapoor, Saifu or Juhi Chawla beaming down at me through the tube every 30 seconds.. Why can't they have the good old common man in adverts these days..

Meiyang, I cannot believe there's a grand total of 3 adverts in a 20-20 game.. :-O In Australia, the adverts start before the end of every over.. :-(( So I think we will give India some serious competition when it comes to squeezing commercials in.. And the adverts are the worst ever.. worse the worst ones from India.. But I should be grateful I get to see the IPL so will continue to tolerate the nonsensical stuff thrust upon me..

And Teddy.. me too am from the generation of Vicco Vajradanti, Tata ka OK dhulai ka sabun, roshan tha bajaj ads .. Jai Ho!!!! :D:D

Anonymous said...

Deepa, I actually like seeing how ridiculous the superstars look in ads. Like Juhi in some life insurance ad, or remember the hadli aur chandan ka face wash, I loved seeing the old grandma and the new bride!! But, the best part is when they offer soemthing ridiculously free, hahaha, buy life insurance and get a bottle of ketchup free!!
I do have to say the worse the ad the harder it is to forget, so I guess it does do the job?

Unknown said...

My favorite celeb ad during my last trip was the one starring Hrithik's washboard abdomen and a soap that supposedly cures dehydration. Brilliantly ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

did he still have the abs or do they lose them due to dehydration!!! that is hilarious.

Unknown said...

Well let me put it this way - it is less humiliating than having to do a chaddi banyan ad like poor Sunny Deol has to do to pay the bills.

ppl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leera said...

Hey aspi, I am sitting here in a muggy cybercafe in Kolkata as the Kalbaisakhi rages outside. And while I am gonna wait to get to Surat and fully read your writeups I do have a few faltoo opinions to jhado.

I hate the zoozoos, I have not been this physically annoyed by a commercial since Toby Keith's 'bigger in TX better in a dodge'.

Genelia D'souza officially features on my list of celebrities that need to keep a 'maun vrath'. If 'fresh face' and 'youth' as buzzwords translate into super giggly and ditzy then I need to take a leap into middle age like those saas bahu serials.

This morning I read in Cal times that jhakaaas kapoor threw the first pitch for the dodgers and then proceeded to wear an Arizona cap right afterward. I love that man! He thinks 24 is a show watched closely by the 'youth'. Delusional much???

Man I missed India.

Unknown said...

leera, hope you enjoy India. I'm so glad you're down there.

I sense great pressure on young actresses to portray sweet young large-hearted freshness in a certain way. Actually Asin's performance in Ghajini was a torch bearing stereotype of it all.

I read somewhere that Jhakaas Kapoor was on Martha Stewart and showed everyone how to make dal. Need to find that on YouTube!

Anonymous said...

here it is Aspi,
it is on Martha's website..enjoy, I think you can do a write-up on this!!

Unknown said...

Holy s***! That is an amazing video. How cool was it when Anil said Martha was a better dancer than all the Bollywood actresses and what does Martha say? "My belly dancing skills are not up to par"

Smarmy and Hilarious!

Anonymous said...

how about putting the salt, and Martha telling all Indian ladies have beautiful hands, yes washing all those utensils and clothes does make our hands beautiful. absolutely and fantastic!!!!Anilji

Anonymous said...

Aspi did you watch both video right, there is black dal 1 and black dal 2. Did you see him making a fool of martha in black dal2 ? Hey, the back of MArtha is Anil, howz that!!! absolutely