What’s in a name?

छोटे-छोटे काम वाले लोग ऐसा कर सकते हैं। कोई बड़ी कंपनी ऐसा रिस्क नहीं ले सकती है। जिसका करोड़ो का बिजनेस है वह ऐसा काम नहीं करेगा। कोई बड़ी कंपनी कहे कि हम सबसे खराब नमक दे रहे हैं, खाकर तो देखें तो कोई खरीदेगा ? यह छोटे शहरों और छोटी जगहों पर चल सकता है। चला तो ठीक, नहीं चला तो दूसरा नाम रख लेंगे।

Jameel Gulrays
My thoughts on the negative product naming culture prevalent these days was published in Navbharat Times’ edition dated April 3, 2022.

कालिया 

सेलफोन के ईजाद से बहुत साल पहले, एक काले रोटरी-डायल टेलीफोन के जादुई शक्ति ने मेरे बचपन और अस्सी के दशक में जन्में अन्य बच्चों की कल्पनाओं को ऊँची उड़ान दी थी।

देवाशीष मखीजा, लेखक और फिल्म निर्देशक

कोरोमंडल एक्सप्रेस में हमारे डिब्बे को अलग कर बैंगलोर मेल में लगाया जा रहा था। हमारे डिब्बे को छोड़कर अन्य सभी यात्रियों की यात्रा मद्रास में समाप्त हो चुकी थी । हमारा वाला डिब्बा करीब तीन घंटे से एक ही जगह स्थिर खड़ा था, और उसके दोबारा चलने के इंतज़ार ने मेरी बेचैनी को बढ़ा दिया था । मैंने माँ से हमारा काला वाला टेलीफोन मांगा ताकि मैं नानी को कॉल कर उनसे कुछ गुलाब जामुन भेजने के लिए कह सकूं। “अगर हमारी ट्रेन कभी शुरू नहीं हुई तो हम कभी बैंगलोर नहीं पहुंचेंगे,” मैंने कहा, “और पिंकू सब कुछ चट कर जायेगा ।” अपनी छोटी बेटी के साथ यात्रा कर रही एक मारवाड़ी महिला बगल की सीट पर बैठी थी। माँ को उलझन में देखकर उसने मुझे खुश करने के लिए कुछ पेपर सोप निकाल कर मेरे हांथों में थमा दिया । मैंने पहले कभी पेपर सोप नहीं देखा था। उसने मुझसे कहा, “अगर नानी का नंबर डायल करने पर आपकी उंगलियां साफ नहीं होंगी, तो वह आपको नहीं सुन पाएगी,” और धीरे से मुस्कुराई। दरवाजे के पास वॉश बेसिन में अपने हाथों को साफ करने में मैंने लगभग आधा पैक इस्तेमाल कर लिया । तब तक बोगी नई ट्रेन से जुड़ चुकी थी और हमारी यात्रा फिर से शुरू हो गयी थी । 

कैम्पा-कोला बेचने वाले लड़के को देखकर मैं गुलाब जामुन को भूल ही गया ।

अबोध बचपन में उस काले रोटरी-डायल टेलीफोन को मैं किसी जादू से कम नहीं समझता था। उससे मैं अपने लिविंग रूम में घूमते उस ग्लोब के दूसरे छोर पर बसे चाचा-चाची की आवाज़ें सुन सकता था। मुझे किसी से संपर्क करने के लिए केवल एक जादुई कोड की आवश्यकता थी – पांच अंकों की संख्या। इसलिए मुझे यह मानने में बिल्कुल भी संकोच नहीं हुआ ही कि वह ब्लैक बॉक्स बहुत कुछ करने में सक्षम था। अगर मैं अपनी आंखें बंद कर लेता और एकाग्र हो जाता तो शायद मैं उन लोगों को देख सकता जिनसे मैं बातें करता था। और शायद मैं उन्हें टेलीफोन के नीचे खिसकाकर पत्र भी भेज सकता था। और यह भी कि मैं उसकी मांग अपनी ट्रेन यात्रा पर भी कर सकता था, और नंबर घुमा कर नानी से बात कर सकता था।

लगभग बीस साल बाद मैं जिस विज्ञापन एजेंसी में बतौर कॉपीराइटर कार्यरत था वहां मैंने उस दिन खुद को अपने बॉस के केबिन में बंद कर लिया था क्यूंकि मैंने कसम खायी थी कि जब तक मैं बिहार में सेल-फोन सेवाओं के शुभारंभ की घोषणा करने के लिए एक प्रेस विज्ञापन के लिए एक शीर्षक नहीं लिख लेता, तब तक बाहर नहीं निकलूंगा ।

मुझे उस कमरे में बंद हुए एक दिन से अधिक समय बीत गया था। मेरी समय सीमा बहुत पहले बीत चुकी थी और मैं हताश, कमजोर और बेचैन महसूस कर रहा था। 

तभी दरवाजे पर एक हलकी सी खट-खट हुई और किसी ने फैक्स पेपर नीचे से खिसका दी। उस पर एक मोटा-मोटी खींचे हुए डिब्बे के अन्दर लिखा हुआ था – ‘हमारी प्रतियोगी का अभियान।’ डिब्बे के अंदर मेरे काले टेलीफोन का जाना-पहचाना ग्राफ़िक था। और उसके बगल में, एक बदसूरत हिंदी फ़ॉन्ट में शोले का प्रसिद्ध डायलॉग था: “अब तेरा क्या होगा कालिया?”

उस वक़्त मुझे पता नहीं क्यों अचानक गुलाब जामुन खाने कि इच्छा हुई थी।

(नोट: बैंगलोर बेंगलुरु में बदल गया है, मद्रास चेन्नई हो गया है, और कालिया अब ‘पीरियड’ फिल्म की शूटिंग के लिए मुश्किल से मिलने वाला प्रॉप है)

देवाशीष मखीजा (nakedindianfakir@gmail.com) मुंबई में रहने वाले एक लेखक और फिल्म निर्देशक हैं, जिन्होंने लघु फिल्में ‘अगली बार’ (2015) और ‘तांडव’ (2016), फीचर फिल्में ‘अज्जी’ (2017),  और राष्ट्रीय पुरस्कार विजेता ‘भोंसले’ (2020) बनाई हैं। मखीजा लघु कहानियों के संग्रह ‘फॉर्गेटिंग’ (2014) और नीव पुरस्कार विजेता उपन्यास ‘ओंगा’ (2021) के लेखक हैं।
(The piece was first published in Vol LVI No 48, dated November 27, 2021, in the Economic & Political Weekly in English, and has been adapted in Hindi by Shillpi A Singh for this blog)

Street hawker Kallu Kewat songs reflect people’s poet Nazeer Akbarabadi’s style

नज़ीर अकबराबादी दुनिया के पहले एडवरटाइजिंग जिंगल राइटर थे।उन्होंने लगभग हर चीज़ पर नज़्म लिखी है। नज़ीर ऐसे जनकवि थे जिन्हें आप कुछ भी दे दीजिये, वो उसको बेचने के लिए आम जन की जुबान में नज़्म लिख डालते थे।रंगकर्मी, शायर और लेखक हबीब तनवीर ने अपने सबसे यादगार कृति ‘आगरा बाज़ार’ में शायर नज़ीर अकबराबादी की नज़्मों को पहली बार १९५४ में नाट्य रूप में पेश किया था।आगरा के बाज़ार में घोर मंदी छाई हुई थी और कुछ भी नहीं बिक रहा था। वहां एक ककड़ी वाले के दिमाग़ में यह बात आयी कि यदि कोई कवि उसकी ककड़ी के गुणों का बखान कविता में कर दे तो बिक्री ज़रूर बढ़ेगी। वो कई शायरों के पास गया पर कोई भी इस काम के लिए राज़ी नहीं हुआ । अंत में वह शायर नज़ीर साहब के पास पहुंचा। उन्होंने फौरन उसका काम कर दिया। वह नज़ीर की लिखी ककड़ी पर कविता गाता हुआ बाजार में आता है और उसके यहां ग्राहकों की भीड़ लग जाती है। फिर तो लड्डूवाला, तरबूज़ वाला, बाला बेचने वाला, आदि सब एक-एक करके वही करने लगते हैं और देखते ही देखते सारा बाज़ार नज़ीर साहब के गीतों से गूंजने लगता है।
बरसों बाद एक आम भारतीय ने अपने लिखे शब्दों से मुझे जनकवि नज़ीर अकबराबादी की याद दिला दी है। जी हाँ, मैं उस लड्डूवाले की बात कर रहा हूँ जिसने ट्विटर पर हुए वायरल एक वीडियो से हमारा दिल जीत लिया है। नज़ीर साहब की मानवीय शायरी के इर्द-गिर्द बुना गया नाटक आगरा बाजार और बुंदेली कलाकार कल्लू केवट द्वारा लड्डू बेचने के लिए लिखा हुआ मजेदार गीत दोनों ही दिल को छू लेते हैं । कल्लू केवट का अंदाज-ए-बयान नज़ीर अकबराबादी साहब से बहुत मिलता-जुलता है। मिलिए कल्लू कलाकार से..

Kallu Kalakar!

Oral-B Pro-Health’s ‘batteesi’ campaign made my jaw drop

Circa 2013: It was supposedly the most awaited FMCG launch to happen… a challenger that would shake the No 1 brand and run tremors of fear through it… a market shaker who prompted competitors to pre-empt with their challenger launches.

As I watched the ads, my jaw dropped, and it even touched the floor. I was amazed, zapped, stupefied all at once. The first ad I saw was of an inane set of people chewing and eating, with Madhuri Dixit Nene appearing at the end, stating some lines about toothpaste that does everything. Someone who wrote the positioning will undoubtedly get an honourable mention when I teach my students about the ‘E2=0’ principle… which means ‘when you emphasise everything, you emphasise nothing’.

As a proponent of correct language, it also appalled me to hear the repeated use of the word ‘batteesi’. 

In Hindi, the word is common in the context of dentures. A modified phrase ‘batteeson barkaraar’ was used for years to advertise a popular brand while rendering its ’32 intact’ promise in Hindi. For a Hindi speaking person, batteesi is a negative word, most often used for reprimanding, such as ‘batteesi mat dikhao’ (most often used to condemn those who laugh or grin irreverently). In worst cases, ‘batteesi tod denge… or batteesi bahar nikal denge’ is used to threaten someone with dire consequences. 

I wondered why did the brand say, ‘India ki batteesi’.

Then I saw another ad for Oral-B toothbrush, with a jaded Madhuri Dixit Nene mouthing out her ‘Smile Officer’ role with a plasticky smile in tow… at the end, I saw a ‘buy an Oral-B brush and get a toothpaste free offer’. 

Wonder what the client and its agencies were thinking as they set out to launch a superior, anticipated brand in a cut-throat and high loyalty toothpaste market through an offer. If I try hard and give P&G its due, this may be the company’s way of promoting trials. But again, does this reflect how the company has positioned itself in India. Ask anyone who knows the company beyond being just a consumer, and the individual will talk about the company’s products being premium and high market. If that is how they have built their perception across their several brands, why would they want to explore trials through a bundled offer?

All I can say with my professional experience is that this entry strategy of P&G had for sure shaken their competitors. In this case, the competitors must be shaking with uncontrolled laughter, as they need not do anything to protect their interests. P&G had done them a great favour with their launch communication, which passes by like a ship in the dark and tops it with a ‘take it home free’ offer. I hoped once again that marketers and advertisers were more innovative. Anyway, years later, I continue to wonder as Ghalib said, ‘Ya ilaahi ye majra kya hai’.

‘Nigel, Nigel, is that you?’

In the early 90s, British Airways created history with the launch of its cinema commercial.

It was one of the most brilliant and freshest ideas in advertising history. Created by advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, the commercial was a textbook case of media innovation.

Set in a Parisian boulevard, a man and woman were shown embracing each other. And then came the unexpected.

A woman in the cinema audience jumps to her feet and starts shouting to the man on the screen: “Nigel, Nigel, is that you?”

Not until “onscreen Nigel” answers back does the penny drop.

The woman was an actress who was planted in the audience by British Airways. She continued a rather emotional dialogue with Nigel, her lover, who was with another woman on a British Airways romantic break.

The commercial, if it can be called that (it was more like a new type of advertising medium), culminated with the actress storming out of the cinema. Every time that was staged, the audience spontaneously applauded.

The challenge with a cinema commercial is somehow to make sure that it will be recalled after the intense experience of the film. If this one didn’t, nothing could.

More here:

https://www.britishairways.com/100/story/memorable-television-adverts

Media planning in the agency

The workflow or the various stages through which a media plan evolves within an agency differs from agency to agency and also within the agency’s account to account. The variations depend on the size of the problem and the agency’s organization and its relation with its clients. The development of almost all plans must follow a similar pattern, although the stages may be telescoped and considerations made implicit rather than being discussed at meetings.

The initial planning meeting is usually a large one and will see the involvement of senior people working on the account, and possibly the agency management. The account director, his team and creative and media planning people also take part in that meeting. In some cases, the client team may also be present. The purpose of this meeting is to formally evaluate the current progress of the brand and its market, and the plan for the period under review, usually the following financial year. The end product of the meeting should be a draft marketing strategy, which outlines the way the agency feels the brand’s target can best be achieved.

This first draft will then be thrashed out with the client, the agency being represented possibly by the management and certainly by the account team. When approved, the marketing objectives form the basis for both creative and media work.

Media owners, mind your language

Language is the most important means of communication for human beings. It has been, it is, it will be. Besides verbal languages, we have non-verbal languages such as sign language, body language and so on. Without a language, no communication is possible.

When a pharmaceutical company hires a medical representative, it makes sure that the person being hired is conversant with the doctor’s language; because a doctor cannot be convinced by a person who does not speak his language. When an engineering company hires a salesman to sell its equipment, it makes sure that the candidate selected is well-versed in the engineering industry.

How do media houses hire people to sell their advertising space or time? There are two types. One is the owner who does not want to invest in fresh people. Instead, that person looks around and finds a person who has already proved himself in the field. That recruiter is the one who believes in fresh talent (which is really a good thing considering the number of unemployed graduates around).

Unfortunately, the good intentions of the latter don’t go much further because such media owners haven’t recognised the need for professionalism.
They hire fresh graduates and push them into the field with one-line brief: ‘Go and get some ads’. These poor freshers who have had no exposure to marketing and advertising move amongst advertising professionals without any direction. Worse, they don’t even know the language of the advertising agency, media planners or the product managers at the advertises’ office.

They have been told that their job is to get some ads. So, they visit advertising agencies and advertisers and start asking, quite literally, ‘give me some ads’.

Some of the other demands which one often hears from media sellers are:

How about an ad? (just like that).

Give me an ad. My job is at stake (it happens about once a week).

You handle so many products; you must give something to us too.

I saw your ad in X. Why was it not released in our publication or channel? (occurs about once a day )

What should a media owner do to avoid getting himself the image of a “scrounger”?

First, recruit people with a marketing and advertising background. In the case of fresh graduates, please provide them with adequate training in marketing and advertising. It will eliminate to a large extent the re-occurrence of the scenario mentioned earlier. When a media seller makes a fool of himself, it reflects more on the media owner than on the person himself through sheer ignorance.

Media owners must familiarise their representative with the media planning process in an advertising agency; so, when his representative visits an ad agency, he can speak the media planners’ language.

A good media seller, in my opinion, is familiar with inter-media comparisons. He is the one who understands the target audience for his client’s products, understands the nature and seasonal patterns of various products. And above all, he is thoroughly familiar with the singular characteristics of the medium he represents.

Unless media owners understand the need for talking to advertising professionals in their language, they will continue to be in a difficult situation, as most are today.

Divided We Fall

My thoughts on maintaining a safe distance from politics and religion was carried in the article published in The Free Press Journal on November 21, 2021. https://www.freepressjournal.in/weekend/divided-we-fall-when-politics-strainspersonal-relationships

Veteran advertising professional and founder of Katha Kathan Jameel Gulrays has suitably amended Karl Marx’s statement to better fit our current context. He says, “Both religion and politics are the opiate of the people. Both work as drugs that can dumb the mind and make people believe that these two alone can guarantee the future vitality of our nation. They divide people, and yet, we still find ourselves taking the opium every day, hoping that somehow it can do wonders for us and the country.” In reality, Gulrays adds, how a combination of these two drugs is lethal and has the power to do more harm than the most powerful nuclear bombs. “In our country, it is this combination which could destroy us. I have a simple solution, I refuse to discuss these two topics,” he says, on dealing with people with political differences.