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Friday, March 11, 2011

(Published in on 11 March, 2011, retrieved from

There’s such a thing as getting too much sun. However, with the summer yet to set in, the heat seems to have got to our ad agencies. If someone were to have to select the worst advertisement of the season, he or she would be hard put to make a decision.

In the beginning, there was that unforgettable soft-drink ad.

Suddenly, five cricketers decided to go topless, with body paint; clearly, the ad agency had been going through back issues of Sports Illustrated when inspiration struck.

The major debates in my family were about whether Harbhajan Singh had broken the statutes of his religion in taking a razor to his torso, and whether Virender Sehwag had used a body double to do away with some of his unflattering curves.

However, I believe the larger impact of the ad was that seeing our cricketers half-naked was so hard to stomach that most people purged the drink from their shopping lists, and switched to its rival.

Sadly, the executives of the rival then felt compelled to come out with an even more repulsive ad – which seems to have been nicknamed the ‘Brr’ campaign.

Some of my friends believe it was originally inspired by Javed Jaffrey from the ‘Hamdard ka Cinkara tonic’ ad, which was last televised when all of us were in school. But I believe it has drawn from the dances hijras have been performing in every movie that spoofs them. This time round, the debate in my family centred on whether the pigeon had been shaved for the ad.

The prospects of snacking while watching cricket matches have been severely dampened by a high-definition video of M S Dhoni streaming sweat as he steps in to bat. It does damage the image of ‘Captain Cool’, while simultaneously making me wish my television screen was as blurry as the ancient one my grandfather bought.

The other sector that has decided to appeal to the un-aesthetic sense of its target audience is the motor vehicle industry.

It began with a man staring out of the window and “wowwwww!”-ing as a woman in high heels walks by, while having dinner with his annoyed wife. Clearly, the ad makers were naïve enough to think we were naïve enough to think he was staring at the high-heeled woman, and not the box-like car that was following her. But, when the couple is out petting other people’s babies in prams, the wife “wowwwww!”-s at the car. Inexplicably, the husband looks pleased with himself.

What is even more bewildering is a note from the makers of the car, saying they had slowed down the footage, so we could take a good look at the car – just in case we thought that was the car’s top speed.

But this ad appears positively classy when compared to the campaign for a bike – scratch that, a scooter – that any man would be embarrassed to ride. The latest ad for that one shows two women sexually harassing their boyfriends from the backseat, ostensibly in a bid to outdo each other. An old woman shields her stuffed toy’s eyes from the sight – a disturbing image in itself – while her husband excitedly tells her that the lasses are trying to prove that the scooter has body balance.

Among the other epiphanies I’ve had pre-summer is that the Khan with the least annoying voice is Salman. I don’t even remember which brands Shah Rukh Khan represents – in his determination to outdo Amitabh Bachchan, he seems to have signed more ad contracts than the Big B, in addition to the Don remakes and KBC Version 2.0. The reason Aamir Khan’s brand image is so foggy is that, irrespective of which company he’s advertising for, he has a penchant for disguise. Saif Ali Khan’s pencil moustache doesn’t quite qualify as a disguise, but I do wish the sound engineers would man up his voice next time round – you know, take it a few octaves down.

Another ad whose brand I don’t remember stars John Abraham, Akshay Kumar, Ritiesh Deshmukh, and a portly character whom I’ve never seen before, pledging to forgo various types of food till the Indian team achieves a stipulated goal.

Though the Zoo-Zoos lost their cuteness a while ago, their new Super-Zoo-Zoo is the only ad character who makes me smile when he stops the bullet, however kitschy the Chuck Norris and Rajnikanth jokes have made that particular action.

My conclusion from this analysis is that a series of unfortunate inspirations can make a cliché funny.


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