The ‘I’ in ‘Advertising’…

Advertising, what comes first in your mind when you hear this word?

Being a 90’s kid, for me, advertising was all about the little breaks in-between our favorite shows on TV. TV was still new in India at that time, and brands were killing each other to take any amount of time possible to be on TV in front of these huge audiences sitting in front of it. When TV started early in India, there were only a couple of TV channels available to broadcast having only a few shows to watch for the audience. So to be on TV was like getting in front of all the people watching it at that time, at the same time. Remember this was before the internet was “a thing” in our day-to-day life. So people spend a considerable amount of time in front of the TV for entertainment, information, and everything. The ads we watched at that time on TVs shaped the way we think about the world. For a kid, brands being advertised were the closest things to anything on TV that we can have in our real life. I mean, I couldn’t have had my favorite cricketer teaching me how to play like him, as a kid, but I can certainly drink the milk powder that he drinks in the advert or the bat that he uses in the videos, to feel like him.

There was a long-running rivalry between TV advertising and Newspaper/print advertising, for a long time, to get the greater share of the advertising revenue. Where TV advertising is mainly dominated by lifestyle advertising with huge celebrities endorsing popular brands in the videos, print advertising is existing because of the lower cost of advertisement involved with it and the huge reader-base that it provides. Newspaper/Print advertising provided a great amount of exposure in India. Especially in small cities where a TV was seen as a luxury. People were consuming those printed adverts not only while reading it, the people who can’t read it, were also subjected to these adverts, like even today you can see street-side vendors in India using newspapers/magazine papers as “napkins”, to reduce their cost. So in a sense, newspaper/print advertising was reaching far more audiences, all through its life cycle, from being printed to getting recycled/decomposed.

Street foods like samosa, are still served on newspapers as napkins by small street-side vendors.

Radio advertising was a subset of TV advertising in the early days. Radio broadcast had shows, which broadcast advertising while taking breaks in between. But because of being an audible media, there was a lot of creativity constraints as you had to have your audience’s attention within a few seconds while providing all the necessary information. This can be a very difficult task at hand as visual reception of any media provides much more information and trigger response, than just the audible reception. But radio advertising thrived because it was accessible for the lower-income families and households to have a radio at home for entertainment and information in those days.

A 1967 outdoor advert, India

Indoor advertising was mainly dominated by these three modes of advertising. But in outdoor, the place has always been a real mess as its extremely difficult to account for outdoor advertising especially in the informal business sectors of the smaller cities. You can see hoardings, billboards, flexes, posters, painted walls and you never know what other things, as advertising, right there in the middle of the city, side of the road, or over the roof of any building. Outdoor advertising mainly involved these huge structures erected to place a printed flex over them making it visible to the crowd outside at any specific location. Where TV, Radio, and Newspaper/Print advertising were very effective for advertising to a huge number of audiences, outdoor advertising was very effective for advertising local brands/products or a specifically targeted location. But being a printed media, it lacked the creative appeal of the “lifestyle” TV advertising. It has the ability of targeted local advertising but either you can make it creative to get the attention of any passerby, or informative to deliver the information/message it intends to deliver to its audience within a few seconds, that anyone passes by it.

For a long time, there was a huge innovation gap in the advertising industry. Advertising was just about getting any brand’s message, drafted by any advertiser, for any audience, through any agency. Brands, Advertisers, and Agencies needed data from the audience to improve the efficiency of the product/service/brand and advertising. the audience sometimes needed more information about any product/service/brand before using it. 21st Century changed this with the Internet. Now everybody has the tool to get the information that they needed earlier, making advertising more accurate. While the vintage modes of advertising are still very relevant in our daily lives, internet advertising has grown considerably in reputation taking over the former. But does it have the same impact on us that the lifestyle TV adverts had on us which made us believe we can play and be like our favorite cricketer by drinking the same milk powder that he drinks in the advert?

I would like to take few words out of the movie “Fight Club”(starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton for sure), that “ Advertising has us chase cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh!# we don’t need”. And that what makes “advertising”, a “necessary evil” in today’s world. We assume we need advertising only for selling things or ideas. But do we need advertising as an audience? Ask yourself, and let me know about your thoughts too…



Intersecting Advertising with Technologies…

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