Regionalization: the next big thing in Indian advertising?

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For years, creating ads for regional channels (sometimes referred to as ‘vernacular’ advertising) in India meant dreaming up a TVC in English, having it translated into Hindi and then giving the approved script to various translators.Ironically, this triple-distilled process made things murkier as far as the end product is concerned. Since I know Tamil, I would cringe every time I viewed a ‘translated’ ad that was so artificial & forced in its translation. Despite this, gems like ‘Hata maane Bata‘ and ‘Narasu’s Coffee’ have emerged. But such successes are few and far between.Adding insult to injury are the voice over artists who have now begin to dub in languages they are not familiar with. And finally, ideas that do not work in the South are happily dubbed without a thought to the relevance of the idea. For example, taash (playing cards) during Diwali is an integral part of celebration in the North. In the South it is not. Yet, Lays had a Tamil ‘Diwali’ ad, with Saif as the spokesperson, centred around ‘taash’.

Thankfully, this trend is changing now with marketers & agencies realizing that huge regional markets like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka & West Bengal deserve better.The regional brands used to be one notch lower than ‘national brands’ as far as production values and slickness went. No longer. Same is the case with regional films. They match the Bollywood films in budget and production values with home-grown talent. It is a matter of time before advertising too goes that way.Some agencies have set up specialist divisions focusing with efforts in the South. They are as yet restricted to releasing what are called dealer ads for durables.

In the future, we are likely to see agencies focusing on regional markets, a la the Hispanic agencies in the US. Some of these agencies are part of global networks and have realized that the Hispanic community needs to be targeted specially. So, are we likely to see a global agency setting up unit to handle the Southern market?

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