Stories From A Yellow Room

Friday, November 18, 2011

Advertising with purpose?

A kiss is a kiss is a kiss, but not when you see some of the most powerful politicos sticking their necks out for “endorsing” a clothing brand. Earlier in the day when criticism for the campaign gained scale I was attending a seminar organized by Advertising Standard’s Council of India (ASCI-which is basically a watch-dog for “unethical and immoral” advertisement in the country). Veterans like Piyush Pandey and members of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting debated on what stands as “unobjectionable and moral” advertisement as opposed to creative ideas smothering the sentiments of the society at large and the role of self-regulation in such a case.

“Create self-regulation but don’t push society into a back-lash where the government set-ups have to step in”, remarked Rajiv Takru, a speaker at the seminar. Mr Takru has a tough job up his sleeves, as the Additional Secretary for the MIB , he sits through scores of regional movies, screens advertisements and any form of mass-communication that could potentially create a riff in the society.
To reinstate his point, why create a situation where public anger can potentially harm your brand. Is your creative idea bigger than the hundreds of years of effort and people who toil to make your brand a success?

The concern lies not with the “idea” which stands relevant in today’s time and date, but of its execution in this bizarre form. That it seeks to promote a social message (which is a sort of an idealistic situation) is no doubt the larger purpose of the Un-hate Foundation. The foundation, “seeks to contribute to the creation of a new culture of tolerance, to combat hatred, building on Benetton’s underpinning values”. Which it has constantly done, Benetton’s more provocative ad-campaigns in the 80’s and 90’s which showed a clutch of models from different ethnicities has always evoked a strong sentiment of unison, in an un-offensive fashion.

The advertisement with all its purpose to “un-hate” is evidently creating spurts of anger from the elitist class of people, which sets to dilute the very purpose of the campaign.

The idea of the advertisement is bold no doubt; it has generated a tumultuous amount of publicity, criticism, anger and even humor. For the common man, it becomes a mockery of political establishments, a reversal of power-play between individuals and nations and raises questions we all seek to ask - why can’t there be solvency of political issues? Of hierarchy’s between the developed and developing nations? But then it could have been through other physical gestures, a peck on the cheek, a kiss on the forehead, a kiss on the hand (lest it raised questions of power-positions). The physical gesture has probably been too far-fetched.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Power Dressing!! 1st attempt at fashion writing :D

PS: I convinced my Editor to let me write a quick feature on Power-Dressing!!..had fun writing it...hope to hear your feed-back :)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What’s kept Anna "Hazare-ism" going:

  1. This is everyone’s “revolution” moment. The crowd that is currently protesting is a motley mix of those who have seen a partial glimpse of the moment of independence (1947) + India-Pak war(1971) and are thus fuelled by a patriotic high. To the younger generation that has lived with second hand versions of revolutionary ideas, this is their “moment”, their first hand account (though a much peaceful one) of standing tall with a flag in their hand and protesting for a "cause".
  2. Let’s not forget Bollywood - the Rang De Basanti attitude coupled with the “Munna-bhai-ism” like calm and composition, definitely finds a reflection in the on-going protests. It is worth a mention that not even a single incident of unrest or violent upheavals has been seen across the country. What has been popular on the contrary is music and lots of it…walks, candles and victorious shouts.
  3. The leader himself, who has has every instinct the "aam-admi" (common-man) can relate to. His demeanor, his anguish over the state of things and a no-frills attached approach.
  4. Attribute the revolution mode to the ripples seen across Middle-East (Egypt, Libya) which went west-ward to London up till last week and then found way to India.
  5. Even if majority lot does not know how the Lok-pal bill will impact their lives, they are more than willing to be part of the “glory”. The so-called “struggle” against corruption against bureaucracy, against monopolistic alliances that need to be more transparent.
  6. The branding is just what a successful acts are made of…and “mein anna hun” t-shirts did exactly that. I still need to buy me one!!
  7. Youth mobilization, just the kind of crowd that will bunk college and go to Ram-Lila ground come hail or high-water. There must be 100 small groups of volunteers who are constantly finding ways and means to get people together; get venues organized; arrange food for the hungry and ensure shelter for the rainy days. It’s a domino effect and nothing seems to stop it.
  8. And let’s not forget the faithful social media propaganda that’s been instrumental in all the recent protests across the globe. Writers, non-writers, civilians, artists et all are pouring their thoughts out there strengthening the movement’s tempo.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mayawati's Maya:

A morning meeting took me to Noida after a gap of six months. What could have been an hour's ride was obviously converted to two. As we strove hard to get to the meeting on time, after spending 8 minutes on each of the 7 red-lights, the consistency of Mayawatis's posters was alarming. In between all the chaos, the madness, the traffic and the labyrinth of roads crossed the pompous display of “Man-n-niya Surbhi Mayawati Ji” posters did everything to infuriate me.

Evidently her media team is doing an excellent job. The posters supported by an campaign on national TV every evening at 8:55 pm on how progressive the state has become in the glorious presence of the “biggest property-broker of the state” ( ref to “The Stinking Land Deals” as published in Tehelka July2011) brings in a sense of angst shared by a commoner like me to see public money and space go to sheer waste.

So I thought why doesn't Mayawati travel to noida not in one of the dozen Pajero's or Land Rovers but in a normal non-laal-bati car (red-light vehicle)..I mean only once she gets time off her ad campaigns and the poster-posing. I am sure even the very ugly plain outfit she poses in must be costing a hefty amount to the state, as her bills for the "official" attire must be at least 10 times their original cost. Even her cheap leather bag must be costing a poor man his year's meal.

Or even better, why doesn’t some really brave soul cover her posters with images of bad roads, hungry eyes scouting for food and plain chaotic images from every-day life?

On my way back the sight of the BR Ambedkar memorial being built on tax-payers money was an added treat to the eyes. The never–ending stretch of land worth Rs 650 crore for which nearly 6000 tress were buried dead, is nothing but a symbol of authority,power, monopoly and supreme hierarchy.

After such prodigal waste of resources while many of the country's “relevant” problems find no solution, it will only be a matter of time till Indian cities see a London situation.

But till then, how can Mayawati's Maya ever be justified??

Monday, August 8, 2011

Slut Walk anyone?

The idea of the "slut walk" organized in Delhi didn't appeal to my feminist instincts at all. I don't think that protesting against eve-teasing will help curb the Delhi male’s inappropriate gaze. By going on a rampage men in Delhi will never feel threatened or ashamed, if anything they will only feel stronger at having been successful at intimidating half of the city's population. Their powers both muscular and genital give them too much confidence to think of women as nothing but a perverted visual treat.

What will indeed work is harsh punishment implemented rigorously. A couple of hours rotting behind bars…long term sentences, or in severe cases even life-sentence (I know we don't give death-sentence anymore, therefore the exception). But the slut walk seemed too embedded in an idealistic vision - one that will never come true.

I stay in proximity to what has over the years translated into a very active pick up joint (basically the road that leads to Defence colony Nirula’s). Rows of cars with tinted windows pause every evening in search of a quick take aways, causing traffic congestion, inconvenience and above all aggravating an illegal activity in the middle of a busy junction.

Till a few years back, there weren’t too many signs of such greed and lust. The number of prostitutes has multiplied over the years bringing with it disgusting men from all over the city, stopping their cars, rolling windows at the sight of any girl walking down the road. The trade has led to a scary and ugly conversion of normal girls being mistaken as sex workers. The area obviously has become inaccessible to people like me, who cannot even think of walking down what used to be relatively safe lanes post 8 pm, lest I be considered a potential pick-up.

And who is to blame to creating such a lethal barrier? A police post centres the area, which is in the heart of South Delhi. As pimps and prostitutes all make a bee line for potential customers, normal people walk ignoring the presence of such an activity. The police thrives on collecting its weekly commission from the pimps for letting them flourish their trade. And no one, ever seems to have a complain against it. And then our commissioner tells women in Delhi not to venture out in the streets alone, confirming his knowledge of many such pick up joints thriving all across the city.

As I wonder if this will ever come to an end, a car has possibly picked another one of them up, the pimp has probably been paid a handsome amount for it, and before the week ends the 4 police men will have their pockets full!!

And slut or not all women crossing that area will be treated at par!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Whiskey Tasting-- Anyone??

A day before my 23rd B’day my super boss offered me an interesting proposition. He forwarded me an invite to a whiskey-tasting session from a famous whisky baron, from Scotland. At first I though he had sent the mail as an error, but on having cross-checked some 4 times, he really did want me to experience the fine joy of whiskey tasting. All excited and perked up to know what whiskey is all about, I exited office, only to have my boss call me back and say “I don’t want you back…drunk in my office”…Meekly I replied with a affirmative no…..not knowing how he’d expect me to be sober after the intoxicating ordeal…

I reached the venue and was seated in a bar, 3 people representing the PR firm (that handles the whiskey brand ) sat me down and told me about the company and man behind the same. Soon after a man in Scottish kilt appeared with little knobs of wood and barrels in his hand…and then we started…

So in the next 1 hour I was to be subjected to 4 kinds of whiskies starting from 7 year, 11, 15 and 17 years old….I couldn’t have been more ready!!...and what the heck I was turning 23 the very next day…I informed the little party of 4 about the same and we all drank to it…

Ok so how does a whiskey tasting session work?? There is a lot that goes into producing high quality whiskey, from barrels, to distilling machines, to the right amount of ageing. The oak barrel is the main agent in the fermentation of the whiskey the kind of wood used in the barrel actually modifies the taste of the liquid to up to 70%.

So he gently poured out each of the 4 whiskies into a glass, made me twirl it around, smell the aroma, sip it and keep it in my mouth for a few minutes and then swallow….
Each whisky tasting was followed by a bite of crackers and cheese to ensure the taste dilutes as I tasted the next one…

So there I was, smelling, sipping… trying to distinguish the oak from the cherry from the musk in the whiskey, all when my senses had somewhere momentarily been diluted due to the strong dosage of the alcohol…

But i was fit enough to distinguish the difference in taste, the pungence, the smell and the warmth of the liquid from the difference in it's age.

After a gracious number of sips and bites of crackers, my head felt just exactly it should have after the amount of alcohol consumed. Although I hadn’t had much, (only a few sips I repeat) but the sheer impact of the strong alcohol consumed without any dilution did the trick…and did I feel good!!...

I walked out and avoided heading back to work, lest my boss found out about me being a wee bit drunk, but I showed up…and his first question ? how was it and I hope you’re not drunk… "No Sir, hardly, I only sipped onto 4 different kinds of whiskies and that’s it”… “sure” he said, “after even 4 sips of neat whiskey, I expect you’d be drunk”…I just shrugged and continued to pretend I was sober…
I still look back at that day, where I sat with a bunch of strangers....who drank to my b'day and gave me an experince worth blogging about!!:)

Friday, February 12, 2010

I mean Business!!

After days and ages I finally have my long weekend, a 2 day break means much respite to my other wise cho-o-block life, which I have learnt doesn’t treat me well if I over stack it up.

So I am taking it easy…taking it slow…eating well…sleeping well and shoppin tooJ

As my career now becomes 6 month old I’d like to share a brief on my life as a business journalist. Having finished my post-grad in a land of dead poets and alive authors (I say cause no-one seems to write meaningful poetry anymore) my literature left me devoid of any business skills till I was forced to grapple the reality of being employed, luckily my promise to get through Business Journalism rescued my day, being persistent helped and I landed a job at India’ most widely read Business magazine : Business World.

Though 6 months that have gone by have I have had numerous editorial meetings where words such as fiscal and deficit flew right through to me and management jargon became a lingo placed far away from my literary rhetoric, but old habits die hard as I tried to sit through the art of business writing I was often faced by my love for my long drawn “critical” approach very often found in students of literature.

But I am well equipped now I must say, past few months have given me enough meetings with the who’s-who of corporate India from meeting hard-core business men\women to analysts and strategists, its been exciting to venture into new stories. From covering advertising\marketing and branding to researching on more complex and alien topics such as retail, hospitality ,aviation etc it’s been a great learning curve.

My meetings have many memorable stories to talk off, the latest being Mr Patu Keswani. I have been following Patu’s business since a while ( thru news papers ) and was quite excited to meet him , Mr Keswani owns and runs a chain of hotels called Lemon Tree and has launched another brand by the name of Red Fox, a IIT\IIM grad the man knows is humour as much as he knows his equities. Fabulous office, quirky art-work, one that stood out was a portrait of a dog with a crown, staring at a man tied to a chair titled : “hospitality industry”.

We stepped into his office only to find him enjoying a palak paneer with naan which he claimed was the best he’d eaten from a dhaba outside his office and he continued at it till the end of his meeting, he was kind enough to offerJ.

The interview was fab, and I realized that some men are borne to do business, as his financials plans flew right form his mind to paper it struck me how flawlessly he compartmentalized and structured his company to make it most profitable, how he raised capital from partners, kept his stakes and grew his business. Being a pioneer in creating India’s own domestic chain of branded hotels Patu is by all means a successful business man : in 8 years he has made 20 hotels , in an industry where the average gestation period is 2 years per property, the man is indeed doing well…

Many more such fascinating people to talk about, on the other end HHF : an NGO run by a dear friend and me keeps me equally busy, as we launch another brand to expand our organization and look at liberal flow of funding….some where I try and find the business-woman in me J