The Root Of Every Route

Do we have the courage to say stereotyping is not my type?

Ever wondered why a bubble gum commercial never featured stunning models and luxurious settings Picture this – a svelte woman slowly unwraps a bubble gum and puts it in her mouth. She blows a big bubble and the brand name flashes on the screen. Red pout, classy font, stylish logo. What did you say, it will look better as an ad for non-transferrable lipsticks? That’s exactly how stereotyping works.

As you may have already observed, most of the insurance ads tug at your heart with their emotional approach. Men deodorant and shaving product brands focus more on users’ need for desirability. Sanitary napkins talk about fighting what holds you back. Whereas cosmetic brands have heavily filtered ads that make their models look flawless. Yet another controversial and cringe-worthy stereotype exists in the form of fairness creams that teach us that you have to looking fairer in order to gain confidence in life. All these stereotypes are borrowed from our societal beliefs and deep rooted desires.Advertising is all about creating needs and sometimes it’s done quite cunningly.

Just to add, have you noticed the recent phenomenon of using differently abled characters in TV commercials. Some brand started, and others followed blindly. One that comes to mind is the Samsung film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=779KwjAYTeQ

There are a few exceptions that manage to break these patterns and dare to stand out. They are the ones that are strongly remembered for their distinct brand identity and communication. These brands are widely liked for understanding people. Dove is one soap brand that has always used real women instead of made-up models. Watch this Dove activity video where the brand challenges the perceptions of beauty. A sanitary napkin brand – ‘Always’ tells us why you should behave #likeagirl. Also, this Joy body lotion ad was noticeable for using a popular comedy queen – Bharti Singh. Here, however, they have made these commercials on the foundation of the same instincts and fears. Instead of hiding them, these brands embrace those feelings and show us the beauty in normality. So as a brand, what would you want to be – a ‘Me too’ or a ‘Yes, that’s me’?

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Have Space? Will Advertise.

Is advertising becoming too omnipresent for comfort?

Imagine you are watching a Hindi daily soap on TV. Then unfolds a scene where a character looks visibly lost and disturbed. Her sister-in-law enters the room and concerned about her she asks, ‘Bhabhi sab kuch theek hai na?’ The disturbed lady explains ‘Unka birthday nazdeek aa raha hai aur samajh nahi aa raha kya doon.’ Our solution-oriented and smart sister-in-law suggests her to gift the latest laptop model by a famous brand to her husband; and she goes on to explain its features. The disturbed lady now looks delighted as her problem is solved while the producers of the show have earned a handsome amount by adding that subplot to the episode. On the other hand, the brand has managed to convince its audience about their amazing features in a way that every woman watching that episode has already thanked their favorite bahu for sharing her pearls of wisdom.

This, of course, is not new to us. Although, we never realized exactly how and when advertising crossed the boundary between a dedicated commercial break slot and a prime slot. Over the last few years, it has slowly woven its web across important spaces in our lives. We are driving leisurely and an RJ casually mentions a brand. An influential celebrity randomly tweets how much he likes a certain drink. A blogger enlightens us that she uses only a specific phone camera for her posts. Even Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram have opened their doors to paid ads. If you think you will skip ads during a movie interval by stepping out to get popcorn, then these brands have ensured that you notice them while watching the movie. And who can forget the ‘Fevicol Se’ song?

This kind of presence surely helps a brand in carefully filtering and targeting its prospective users. The communication is more direct and intimate without sounding artificial. Which is why brands are now trying to explore more channels and ways to reaching out. If planned properly, these in-your-face approaches work effectively and improve the brand recall .

On the contrary, there is also a risk of getting ignored as people get immune to something that exists so freely. These promotions might lose their charm unless new media and innovations are introduced to the mix. With brands getting closer and closer to its audience, it won’t be surprising if soon personal spaces will be up for paid advertising. It seems advertisers are no more hidden persuaders. Rather they are turning into unapologetic intruders. What do you think – where is it going?

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Gabbar Singh v/s Gabbar Gaitonde

Do product placements in movies tend to overpower the narration?
Product placement in movies is a trend that seems to be on the rise. A heady combination of big studios, big productions, big bucks and big marketers. With production budgets going through the roof for many big budget movies, producers are not averse to tying up with brands and fitting (often force-fitting) them in the visual story. Sometimes multiple brands are seen featured in a movie. While film producers manage to add a substantial amount to their kitty through product placements, marketers get to increase brand awareness and recall through a captive audience. It’s a win-win situation for both.

While product placement as an advertising tool has become more organised over the last decade or so, it’s not an entirely new concept. As early as 1967, Sharmila Tagore was shown sipping Coke in the movie ‘An Evening in Paris’ struggling to give the logo some screen space. In 1973, Enfield Motors launched Rajdoot motorcycle in Raj Kapoor’s ‘Bobby’ with Rishi Kapoor romancing his way to glory on it.

There’re numerous examples of movie product placements in recent times. Some blend in subtly and naturally into the story while many stick out like clotted paint on a canvas.

Here are a few instances atrocious product placements that come to mind. In the Subhash Ghai movie ‘Taal’, there was an entire 10-second song sequence around a Coke bottle with Akshaye Khanna looking at the bottle lovingly before offering it to Ash. Hrithik Roshan guzzling down nothing but Bournvita in ‘Koi Mil Gaya’. ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ seemed like a 3-hour ad showreel for Mountain Dew and Land Rover Discovery 4. More recently, the movie ‘Shamitabh’ was a veritable babel of many brands. If we dig deeper there won’t be dearth of more such examples.

The question is, do rampant product placements in a movie become intrusive and distracting? Do they disturb and dilute the characters and narration? For die-hard movie lovers, most probably they do. Imagine, just for a moment, if iconic ‘Sholay’ was filled with product placements. Hard to imagine? Let’s do it anyway. An imaginary product placement exercise that will make Salim-Javed and Ramesh Sippy cringe.

  • Take the famous intro scene of Gabbar Singh. Close-up of his boots pacing around on the rocky floor. Let’s zoom in a little. A little more. Did you notice Gabbar is wearing ‘Gaitonde’ boots? Now, who would you come out of the theatre in your mind? Gabbar Singh? Gabbar Gaitonde? Or Gabbar Gaitonde Singh?
  • Let Veeru’s denim jacket be ‘Killer’
  • The motorcycle with sidecar that immortalised Jai-Veeru’s dosti. Zoom in and dwell on the ‘Enfield’ logo. Zoom in further on the freewheeling logo on the tyre. Oh, it’s ‘MRF Nylogrip’.
  • A drunk Veeru threatening to commit sooocide on top of the water tank. Is that an ‘Old Monk’ bottle in his hand? Great. Think some more. Voila, the water tank can have big a ‘Kent’ water purifier logo painted on it. We bet you missed the subtle message – Always mix your ‘Old Monk’ with nothing but ‘Kent’ purified water. Hic! Hic!
  • Remember the popular dialogue from the movie that a shit scared Kalia sputters out? Is it “Sardar, main aapka namak khaya hoon!” Wrong. It is “Sardar, main aapka ‘TATA’ namak khaya hoon!”
  • Or for that matter, to the teasing question of Gabbar “Yeh Ramgarh wale aapne betiyon ko kaunsi chakki ki atta khilate hai?”, a confident Basanti could answer, “Sirf Aashirvaad!” See, a little tweaking in the script can work great for brands sometimes.
  • Coming back to Gabbar. Why can’t he chew branded khaini? ‘Raja’ khaini, for instance.
  • A widowed forlorn Radha (Jaya Bacchan) lighting up the lamps as dusk sets in. A mesmerised Jai watching her. This quaintly romantic moment is just right to zoom in on the big ‘Homelite’ matchbox in Radha’s hand.

Truly cringe-worthy.

Good or bad, product placement as an advertising tool is here to stay. But as long as it’s done subtly, doesn’t become an irritant and overpower the narration – it should be fine. But the way things stand today, going forward what the extent of product placement invasion would be, only the future can tell. Until then, why don’t you think of some more path-breaking product placement ideas in ‘Sholay’? Just for fun.

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Real entrepreneurship in India: Truly Inspirational

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Some 4 months back a graphic designer from my team resigned to become an Uber driver (and owner). News was that he was getting into ‘travel’ business, but soon it was known that he had quit to become an Uber cab driver. It surely left me intrigued.

Earlier this week, he came to office to take his team members and friends out for a dinner treat! And that’s when he popped into my cabin for a brief chat with me. What he shared with me, filled me with marvel and sheer delight. And I felt, this is one of the most admirable case of real entrepreneurship.

Let me first share his background: He is 44 years old, married and has a 14 year old child. (I don’t wish to reveal his name since i am not sure if he’d like me to do that!) His work while he was at Eggfirst was that of a graphic designer. And he was extremely meticulous and sincere at his work.

Now, here’s what he did: He planned to become an Uber driver. He spent almost 6 months of his time studying the project and also working part time on weekends to get a real feel. Then he took the plunge: He bought a new car using his savings of Rs. 1.5 Lakh and a bank loan. Now about four months into his new business, he is already making more than 2 times the monies that he was making earlier! Yes, he is working two times harder too but he’s now achieving his dreams. And things are only looking better going forward. He is planning to buy one more vehicle after a few months but expressed the concern of the shortfall of drivers. Note that he wasn’t concerned about getting access to funds or other elements but shortage of appropriate talent! His family has been extremely supportive and has been extremely pleased with what he was able to achieve.

Now, here’s why I admire him:

  1. Not only did he invest a significant part of his savings to start this business but also took a serious loan. Appropriate financial risk taking, I would say.
  2. He decided to become a driver despite what people would ’think’ of him. (In India, being a driver for some inexplicable reasons is considered ‘below’ being a white-collared employee). He took that leap of what people would think of him and did what was best for him and his family.
  3. He doesn’t mind working for long hours, putting in what it takes. He starts early, works late nights, works over some weekends too but makes time available for his family.
  4. He shared passionately about putting his child in Vedic mathematics tuition and another one for his class X.
  5. He’s also working on reducing his weight because in his own words ‘his tummy needs to be away from the steering wheel for convenient driving’. Isn’t he driving quite an all-encompassing change in his life. All of this is directed towards a singular objective: to make this initiative a success.
  6. Last but not the least, he gave me his card and asked me to book his cab whenever I may have a requirement for a cab. Now, that’s reaching out as and when I need may it. I am ready to wager a bet that in years to come he will reach places (!) that many just keep dreaming about.

True entrepreneurship, isn’t it?

Not only this person, but there have been others I have come across who have achieved levels of success that many others with resources don’t.

About 10 years ago, a young boy working as office boy (junior office staff) in Eggfirst had expressed his desire to learn website designing and HTML coding. In his spare time and extra hours, he learnt that with a small help from others in our team. Today he is a fine coder with a great career and travels international.

And many more such heartwarming life stories. Of successful entrepreneurs.

With this spirit that some people embody, success and joy is just a small step away. That step is the starting point that it takes.

My very best wishes to all such entrepreneurs and driven individuals.

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6 tips on how to crack a telephonic job interview

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Today’s age is defined by fast paced lifestyles and hiring too is no exception. “Time is at a premium, with harried corporate executives constantly looking to squeeze in more productivity into fewer hours. Hiring has also caught up with the whirlwind culture of the modern corporate set-up. Potential candidates are screened via telephonic interviews and only the ones making the cut are invited over for a face-to-face dialogue, thus saving companies a lot of valuable time and effort,” says RaviKant Banka, founder & CMD of Eggfirst Advertising.

The first step towards getting a job depends upon your skill in taking the perfect telephonic interview. Banka shares some practical tips to crack the telephonic interview:

1. Fixing a convenient time: Fix up an appropriate time and day for the interview, one that is convenient for both parties. Find a quiet room to answer your interview. Get kids, pets, family or workmates, whatever is the case, out of the way. Shut the door and firmly convey to everybody that the room is out of bounds for them while you’re giving your interview.

2. Check the technicalities: Make sure that your cell phone is fully charged before you start the interview. In a telephonic interview, nothing conveys sloppiness as a cell phone that goes dead in the interviewer’s face. Also, ensure that cellular connectivity is good and there is no chance of call drops or your voice breaking while you’re talking to the interviewer. If connectivity is an issue, it is better to give the interview over a landline.

3. Creating the atmosphere: Dress up for the interview even if it is telephonic. If you’re lounging around in your pyjamas while answering crucial questions over the telephone, the casualness of the whole set-up is bound to creep into your approach and interview etiquette, making you sound indifferent, unprofessional or disinterested. Your voice is the sole judging tool your interviewer has and sounding disinterested is a sure shot way of losing the opportunity. This does not mean that you need to dress in your best business suit either. Smart work clothes will do just as well. They’ll remind you that you need to sound alert, attentive and ultra-professional over the telephone. Remember, in a telephonic interview, it is only your voice, timbre and tone of speaking that will convey what kind of a person you really are.

4. Keep the CV handy: Keep your CV ready before you begin with the interview. An interviewer may ask you a specific question related to your resume. Having the CV handy will make it easy to refer when required. However, ensure that you do not make rustling noises while you refer to the CV. Also, keep a pen and note-pad handy, in case you need to jot down a few points. You don’t want to be rushing around, searching for writing material while giving your interview! Additionally, keep water handy by your side. A long interview, coupled with slight nervousness, will have you reaching out for a few sips of water now and then.

5. Right pitch and tone: Speak slowly and crisply, enunciating each word clearly. Your main focus should be in getting across your points lucidly and intelligently. This is even more imperative if you’re giving the interview to a person from foreign shores, since pronunciations differ vastly in different countries. Also, remember to smile while answering questions. This injects a note of warmth in your tone, making your interviewer respond in a like manner.

6. Ending it: Lastly, end the interview with a warm thank you and enquire about the way forward or the next move in the interview procedure. This conveys your interest in the job. However, take care not to sound desperate, even if you are!

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