Ads are ruling our world today, and they are doing it insidiously, through children. But this is not a new thing. I think the adman caught on to the goldmine waiting at the end of a child’s tantrum, much like the proverbial pot of gold and began mining it. Today we even have children selling insurance plans, for heaven’s sake!
How it affected me when children were mere targets and not yet the salespersons they are today, is what this post is all about.
In those long ago we used to drink water straight from the taps in parks and railway stations and didn’t install expensive purifiers in our homes to get ‘clean’ water. Either the water was clean or we had not become such delicate darlings with even more delicate systems that pack up at the slightest provocation.
So here I was trying to come to terms with a new product in the market – water. The younger one was all of three years when this happened. Had someone told me some years previously, that water would be available in several brands with their own USPs, I would have laughed at them. Because back then, Bisleri was a generic name, synonymous with mineral water and therefore didn’t need any advertisement to sell it.
Soon the market was flooded (pun intended) with every kind of ‘water’. Many liquor companies joined the band wagon to peddle their hard drinks by giving their ‘water’ their brand names while taking care to add the words ‘aqua pura’ or simply ‘aqua’ to it. It never failed to amuse me when I saw these ads which proclaimed that their brand of water was the purest. And that was the only USP they could use for good old water! Of course, I had spoken too soon as usual. Soon I saw ads that sold ‘pure Ganga jal, rain water, mountain spring water, water treated with ‘extra oxygen’, (whatever that meant) and what have you.
Soon the brats refused even soft drinks and demanded to have a taste of a particular brand of water! The reason(s)? They wanted to see how ‘pure’ water, or spring water or whatever water that was advertised, tasted like. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. Shouldn’t I have been happy that they were asking for nothing more than branded water? Imagine my plight if they had demanded to drink only soft drinks or only fruit juices! May be you are right. I should have been thankful for small mercies. I don’t know what I was cribbing about!
Actually, I despaired because the adman (I am convinced that no ad woman in her right mind would ever create such ads that may backfire on her species), had scored one more point over me, the poor housewife. The hold he has over young minds is truly phenomenal. And I hate the way he picks up on simple things and turns them into brands. Let me narrate this particular incident.
The younger one was watching his favourite ‘programme’ on the tube. You guessed right. He was watching the ads. There was this lady, immaculately dressed, with a table laden with dishes that would have put a Punjabi wedding feast to shame. Mind you, she was only serving the family its evening meal! Now, this dear lady was extolling the virtues of a brand of — no, not a brand of masala or cooking oil, but, hold your breath — salt!
My little one, who found me wanting in culinary skills in comparison to all his friends’ mothers and sundry ‘aunties’, turned and demanded to know which brand of salt I used. When I told him, he uttered a single word. ‘Oh!’ Just that. And in that single syllable, he had comprehensively condemned, convicted and hanged my cooking. His mother’s cooking was bad because she did not use the particular brand that the lady was talking about. She would be able to turn out all those delicious dishes the lady was serving her family if she only used that brand of salt.
It was then that I gave up. I had got used to branded cooking oil, juices and jellies and a host of other items including water, but salt? I mean, how can plain salt add flavour if it is sold under a particular brand name? Had I been foolish enough to think that it just added taste to food? And as far as taste went, how salty can salt get? It was confusing to say the least. The ad could have at least stressed on some other aspect of its product, like purity or its free-flowing quality. But who can tell the advertisers their folly? Even worse, how does one explain that to a four-year-old?
I remember the time when the older one demanded to be served Maggi noodles in ‘two minutes.’ He argued that if the aunty in the ad could serve the screaming hordes of her son’s friends the dish in two minutes, look fresh and smile ‘sweetly’, why his mother couldn’t serve ‘just me’ in a similar fashion. I tried in vain to tell him that the noodles in the ad had been prepared by someone else and not the ‘aunty’ in the ad and who therefore looked fresh and ‘sweet’. And that whoever had cooked the noodles perhaps looked sweatier and more hassled than I did. He gave me a pitying look as if to forgive my excuse and tut-tutted at my inefficiency and lack of poise.
To tell you the truth, I don’t half blame the kids. I must confess that the adman is so persuasive that I find myself taken in by the idiot box images. Imagine someone smiling after travelling by the crowded public transport of our cities, whether they are the ubiquitous blue-line buses of Delhi or the jam-packed local trains of Mumbai! They give me a massive inferiority complex by their fresh-as-daisy looks and charm.
She was the ultimate superwoman, the likes of which I would never have become in my wildest dream. For I usually came home as if the cat had reluctantly dragged me in, before flopping like an imperfect jelly on the bed. If the family was lucky, they would get the previous week’s left-overs, else they would eat bread and butter. By bedtime I would be sufficiently rejuvenated to scream and yell at the children to change into their bedclothes and brush their teeth, or else…
Psst… let me confess the shameful truth here that I had tried on several occasions to live up to the ad image of a superwoman, but needless to say, had failed miserably. So why did an intelligent woman like me stoop to this? The adman of course, whose devious methods of planting these images in the minds of not only the kids but also in the minds of grownups, including me and the L&M.
I remember this series of ads by Ariel which showed a woman washing clothes in the said detergent so that he would call her ‘Mrs.Tip-Top,’ whatever that meant! I am sure that it was only after seeing this ad series that the L&M expected yours truly to stand at the door with a cup of hot tea and pallu ready to wipe his brow solicitously. Naturally I didn’t comply with his fantasy and we didn’t speak to each other for several weeks. That we ultimately had to make peace because speaking via the children was a pain, but that is another story.
So guys, blaming the in-laws and the society for the state women are in, is passé. You know who the real culprit is, don’t you now thanks to this enlightening post? Let us collar these ‘creative minds’ that are working so deviously to plant images in the minds of impressionable viewers — and shake them till all their teeth come loose.
Have you guys experienced this kind of ‘victimisation’ due to unreal ad images? If you have, I would love to hear them.