It is an ad, ad, ad world

If you wanted to know what was really happening in the 80s, you watched the ads. It was carnival of images, which did not just sell, but also crystallised contemporary aspirations, fantasies, moods and fears.

Other day, I was watching the ads coming on the TV, during the ICC cricket tournament being held in UK. The volume of ads and the nature of ads made we wonder (it is another matter that I switched the channel when the ads were on). I was thinking about the good old days during the 80s in India. The television was just on the rise, and having a black and white TV was a prized possession. The neighbors would flock to your house to see their favorite programs. And the television transmission was monopoly of the government.

Imagine today, you are knowingly and unknowingly bombarded with ads, inside and outside your home… Television, radio, newspapers, magazines, postal flyers, telephone calls, SMS, internet, hoardings, POPs, emails, faxes, road shows, etc… you name it.. it is branded… if the space travel becomes reality and order of the day, then soon you would have the ionosphere and stratosphere filled with huge space-hoardings. I am sure, heaven and hell also has no escape. In an ad world there are no limits.

What is going on in our culture? Order seems to have disintegrated. How, for instance, can people drink Coca Cola and listen to classical music at the same time? How can shaving blade ads have a good-looking girl, vouching a neat and close shave? Doesn't he or she know that corny sentimentality doesn't mingle with intellectual aspirations and neither of them with dirty noisy trash?

The 80s were the years the ads were by far few, simple, and did what it was supposed to do – communicate the message. “Food, friends, and Thums Up”, Washing powder Nirma ad, Lifebuoy, and of course the Social Ads run in the Doordarshan were classics. One of the ever-lasting impacts was created by Mudra for a social campaign – the ad was about an outline depicting the Mahatma, and with a voice over- “The greatness of this man was his simplicity…”

Maybe they were speaking for the whole advertising fraternity - to keep the message simple, the ads simple – because we were talking to simple minds.

Bombay Dyeing ad became the first color ad on television. Remember that color transmission started only during the 1982 Asian Games. The Vicco ads are still remembered – so also the TV serial sponsored by them – yeh jo hai zindagi. Then there was the Maaza ad, which was more on the lifestyle concept… the ONIDA ad, talked about possessive nature of humans, and also about selfishness. They depicted the changing lifestyle of Indian Diasporas.

The 80s were the time of change. And the 80s were the boom time for the advertising fraternity. Mudra was founded in the early eighties, and was a hotbed of creative talent. The television coming of age had made possible for the advertisers to connect with a larger audience with moving images and sound.

The creativity and simplicity of the ads soon vanished… with the coming of the 90s and the competition getting hotter and opening of the Indian economy to the foreign companies. Spurt of new channels meant that the advertising budget was fragmented into many parts. The new metrics, like ad recall, ROA, brand equity,


In the quest of making the perfect ad, that caters to creativity, communication, and cash in terms of sale… they forgot the primary law of advertising- its simple.

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