Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Airtel to Bharti...Jingoism rules !!!

When you stand for what you believe in you can change the world ......says the new Airtel ad….

It is a cool ad to watch no doubt and bit tickling the INDIANNESS in all of us but a closer analysis gives a feel of jingoism with which a brand, facing competition ( Airtel is still the market leader with a major percent of the share and closely followed by Reliance and Vodafone) launching a tirade ,proclaiming its Indian tag with a clear hint that the others are foreign or videshi and hence un trustable. Jingoism is good to hear and even wonderful to live in but odd to take on in your life. The implication that Vodafone is a videshi and so to keep away from it is simply a deplorable concept, not only because the ad comes in English (a videshi language) and the tie up with Wal-Mart (videshi again) that Bharti is so proud of but also because of the fact that old style, Ambassador car like be Indian, buy Indian nonsense will not make brands, any longer.

“Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it” said George Bernard Shaw, and even that is not evident here where the typical Indianness to feel proud of the golden past because the present is bad, is evident… and in any case what did Airtel and Bharti for that matter give back to India and to its people to be proud of? To stand for and change their world?

It is good that big brands and first movers in a market slowly change their communication from we are also there to totally owning up their category. Heinz when it says have ketch up the world knows what they mean, they don’t have to say Heinz ketch up, same with Maggi… owning up the category is but a risk and you need to have the confidence of the category leader to be doing that, not just the fear and fright of an also player who is afraid of the other players and hence resort to jingoism. Airtel did start that journey but novelty suddenly gets lost to no mans land... ( see them here) with the famous “Deewarein gir jaati hain, faasle mit jaate hain, jahan do baatein ho jaati hain (Barriers break when people talk).” campaign which all said an done made some impact but lost that sheen with its agency change and this new one (Percept…. I am told) is nowhere taking the brand to the category leadership and that too when history is full of blood bath of leaders (read it as first movers who created the category) but lost out battered and badly bruised when others over ran them with innovation and better communication.

To quote Samuel Johnson, “Patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel” and I seem to with difficulty agreeing with that statement when I see this ad. I agree that it is just my viewpoint and there may be many for whom this ad had engulfed them as a tour de force and evoked the Indian in them, for many this ad is would have been simply marvelous, still some would be completely taken over by patriotic emotions but for me it is plain jingoism born out of celebrated ignorance and a confused brand in the crossroads of its journey to leadership. Alas the agency, who should be the parent who should take the kid to the path, seems to be more confused.....

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