Stereotypes in advertising

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There is a minor debate going on in the Blogosphere about a recent set of ads from, which appeared during the Super Bowl.

In one of the ads, the ‘Boss’ threatens to fire a salesman named Ramesh Chakrapani, who he claims is the worst sales person in the company, unless he improves his sales. Ramesh panics and searches at “Genie” search engine to find where they offer to provide 100 free sales leads for every salesperson in a company. Ramesh becomes a hero.

Ho-Hum. A harmless (and predictable) ad. What’s the debate about? Stereotypes. Ramesh has a thick ‘Indian’ accent and sound very much like Apu of The Simpsons.

There is another ad for the same brand which has two Chinese Pandas having sales problems, only to be helped by Salesgenie. They are considered to even more offensive.

The ‘odder’ part of the story is that both the ads are written by the CEO of InfoUSA (which owns Salesgenie), Vinod Gupta! Vinod is from Sharanpur, UP and is a IIT Kharagpur product. The irony of it all! I don’t even know what the ruckus is – the ads are not racial but further the stereotypical notion.

In India, we have stereotypes galore in our movies and adverts. A Punjabi or a Sardar is always loud and boisterous. He has to pepper every sentence with an Oye! A South Indian is always in a mundu and has a white tilak on his forehead. In the 70s and 80s, our movies used to have the mandatory alcoholic, Pinto who used to be a mechanic. Ads are no less – I hate the portrayal of South Indians like in the Kingfisher ad. The ad for Big Bazaar meant for the South markets show what the Mumbai art director thinks is a typical South Indian family – grand father in mundu and women with loads of jasmine in their hair. Grow up!

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  1. i don’t think it’s a creative ad, or even particularly entertaining for that matter! but i don’t get what’s there to be offended about?!
    so we have an accent. people from every country in the world have their own accents. can’t we just get over our inferiority complexes and realise that we’re pretty f***ing cool!

    • hi Nidhi, nope, no inferiority complex here. Just vexed about how stereotypes in general, are part of popular communication. It’s not just limited to all South Indians being labeled Madrasis or said to have an accent. In movies down South, there are such stereotypes too – Naarth Indians are cunning, money-minded people, for example.

      • what I don’t understand is, why do people take things so seriously? well, at times when you come up with an idea of using a stereotypical based concept, its your choice.. It doesn’t do any harm to people and it is not offensive either. Then why do people come up with their own assumptions?? If i were to make an advertisement using 4 people from 4 different countries (eg: Africa, China, America and India) saying that they have to impress a girl and take her for a movie.. How would they impress her? Lets mix it with other ads, African gives her a dairymilk, Chinese a dress from Mango, American a Bracelet and Indian Drinks a Sprite (Seedhi Baat, No Bakwaas) and Asks her directly.. and she agrees… Now what about the other 3?? If I used them in making of my ad , its not being a RACIST, STEREOTYPICAL, OR WHATEVER! It is my concept.. how is it offending to anyone?? People should learn to Grow Up!!!!

        P.S: The Girl Is a Brunette!!!!

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