Spot Light | Gujarat Tourism

Reviewer: Prathap Suthan

Old-fashioned: Prathap Suthan


The latest campaign for Gujarat Tourism by Ogilvy and Mather India features actor Amitabh Bachchan praising the beauty of the state and its tourist destinations, including the Somnath and Dwarka temples, Gir National Park, Porbandar and Lothal.

What did you think of the campaign?

No doubt, this is a pretty hard-working campaign. And this is also an effort that has been well sustained. If I haven’t got it all wrong, this is either the second or the third avatar. On the question whether I like the concept, well, this isn’t the typical idea-driven campaign. It’s a more factual, quasi-educational route. But for some classic Big B inflections, the audio is at best average, perhaps with good reason. You really don’t want to distract the viewer too much from Gujarat. As it is, Big B is enough of a distraction. From a content perspective, the film does evident justice to the destinations. You do get to see much more than one expects. I was surprised that you could actually see deep inside the Somnath temple. However, this isn’t the kind of creative work that will win big at festivals. On the effectiveness scale, this works for the basic Indian tourist.

This is a tricky one because brand Gujarat is seriously schizophrenic—and not all the sides are pretty. Consider the state from an industrial/investment prism, and Gujarat indeed is the land of opportunity, entrepreneurship, progress and efficient leadership. See it from an educational/youth perspective, and it has most of India’s finest academic institutions— the National Institute of Design, the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University, the Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad, the Institute of Rural Management Anand and the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Ponder about Gujarat along an artistic/cultural beam, and the state is a palette of brilliance and craft and dance and Garba. Flip through the pages of its history, and it stands taller than all of India. As the home of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel. But look at Gujarat from a political/communal prism, and it suddenly turns inflammable. Despite all assurances, there are still too many question marks. The last prism burns a redder fire. And unfortunately, brand Gujarat gets discoloured in its glare; gullible as we are to the influence of media. In the business of building a brand, one really can’t segregate a part from the whole. Especially in tourism advertising, everything works together, and everything blends into one another. I can’t be a suspect criminal and an honest banker at the same time. I can do my best to hide my dark side, but people will be wary, and I will not succeed in banking.

How does the campaign compare with those for other tourism boards such as Kerala and Madhya Pradesh (MP)?

I think this campaign is jaded, old-fashioned and traditional. This is advertising at its basic best. I am certainly not catching a train to Gujarat. I have lived in Gujarat, and there’s so much more magic to that land, and much more exuberance. It’s not as though Ogilvy is a stranger to great work. And it’s not that they wouldn’t have looked at other angles. The answer lies in the definition of their target audience. It will tickle the basic Indian traveller, especially the more religious variety. They will come in hordes, stay in cheap hotels and be frugal about it all. But I get a strong feeling that the religious angle is slanting Gujarat more towards a Hindu fundamental appeal. It’s an angle they might want to avoid for all the right reasons. It’s an open admission of the inclination. Barring Big B and the charm he brings, the rest is at the edge of boring.

Tourism advertising as a category offers tremendous opportunities for fantastic work. Given Ogilvy’s awesome creative strengths, this is the other end of the spectrum. Look at their work on MP. It was one of the lesser-known parts of India, but today it’s top of the mind. Kerala might have been a bit too clever for themselves. Despite the fact that they are reaching out to a more refined niche of the global audience.

Do you think it makes sense for the brand to use Bachchan as a celebrity endorser?

He is the best thing that’s happened for them. He is the only hope on which they can build, fortify and sustain a brand. Keeping Gujarat’s problems in mind, it needed someone like Big B to nullify the thorns. Big B carries a lot of clout. He assuages. His presence lends credibility. He lends trust. Somehow, in my head, I am convinced that he won’t stand for bigotry. Somehow, I believe that he won’t cheat me. That he won’t tell a lie. And that he won’t support, represent or recommend any place that’s unsafe and dangerous for my fellow citizens and me. I trust him to have checked, ratified and okayed every angle of Gujarat before he signed up. Because to most of India, he is on an untainted pedestal. The common man in me sees him as a guarantor of peace, well-being and encouragement. And according to me, if he can vouch more for Gujarat, he could be doing the biggest rescue acts of all time.

As told to Gouri Shah.