Ultra brown is the new wave. Today, we hoist the tricolour for Indian ads that are comfortable in their own skins and don’t need to thump their chests as patriotic sons of the soil to establish brand credentials. India is arriving, and with it, self-confident commercials such as those for Greenply, Matrix phone card, Xbox 360’s India launch et al. They all feature Indian folks, settings, themes, and celebrate our idiosyncracies with no apologies. More importantly, these ‘be-yourself’ scripts entertain without getting jingoistic. So, Greenply’s reincarnated sardar boy meets his now-elderly South Indian wife, villagers have elastic necks in Xbox consoles, and Matrix’s buffoon keeps yakking on his mobile phone.
That’s a far cry from old nationalism, or patriotic advertising which earnestly strode the ‘Made in India’ plank. Of course, some of it worked well for a country that was not yet Brand India. Umbrella brand Amul spread its ‘Taste of India’ ad line as it diversified across food categories. Bajaj zoomed on the ad jingle ‘Hamara Bajaj’ from the 1980s onwards. Hero Honda travelled on ‘Desh Ki Dhadkan’, Tata Salt’s baseline was ‘Desh Ka Namak’. Coca-Cola went from Yankee to desi in its ‘Thanda Matlab Coca-Cola’ some years back. And now, computers titans such as Lenovo tout ‘Made in India’ tags. A telling new twist is the ‘Made for India’ track adopted by multinationals such as Nokia Corp. Indian backdrops are also increasingly featuring in ads for cutting-edge products such as the Xbox 360. Some call this localizing a global idea.
Pride of India has had its debacles, though. The BJP’s election ad line of ‘India Shining’ fell flat since on-street reality was far removed. In all, consumers don’t buy into patriotic hooks, especially if a brand’s image doesn’t fit the ad promise. So, a Tata or Amul can talk about being the nation’s flavour, but not those of lesser stature. And when patriotic ads leverage a disaster, as some did post 9/11 in the US, consumers get repelled. Ad men say that patriotism and even ultra brown are often used as crutches when there’s a weak ad idea. Still, ultra brown is cool because we are laughing at ourselves more easily now. I enjoy seeing the tyrant boss in Naukri, Channel V’s desi spoofs and the goofy spokesperson in Orbit’s chewing gum ads. Yes, brown is ultra good.
Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor. Your comments are welcome at email@example.com