Radio City: Sikkapatte Kannada, Swalpa Hindi – total fit

Kannadigas in Bangalore have always felt that the ‘outsiders’ are more dominant in Bangalore. Non-Kannadigas can live in Bangalore without feeling the need to learn the local language. I know people who have lived in Bangalore for a decade and yet don’t know a single word of Kannada. Maybe it sheer laziness or a not feeling the need. If people from outside the State move to Chennai or Kolkata, they make an effort to learn the local language (except for a few who don’t have to since they deal only with the upper echelons). But contrast that with Bangaloe – some friends of mine automatically switch to Tamil or Hindi while talking to people who they think will not know English – you know, cab drivers, shop owners and the like. And very often they will get a reply back in the same lingo! The Kannadigas by nature are the adjusting type (we invented ‘adjust maadi‘ after all) and its not uncommon to find them learning Tamil or Hindi simply by hanging out with people who speak that language. The average Bangalorean would be familiar with at least 2 languages and is not averse to speaking in Hindi. They would be fans of Hindi or Tamil films & music. But Kannada films & music have remained popular only with the locals. There has been always an undercurrent of resentment with all this.

The advent of FM radio helped change this feeling. I think it was Radio Mirchi that started the trend with the Sakkath Hot Magaa campaign. It was the first time that I recall a Kannada-ethos being given a cool quotient. Radio One and other channels followed suit with lots more Kannada music and RJ’s mouthing Kanglish. Big FM was the first to unabashedly focus on the local flavour. For most others, the skew was mostly towards Hindi film music. Playing Kannada music and Kannada-speaking RJs were seen as recipe for being ‘uncool’ by them.

The trend has reversed completely now. Market forces have caught up and almost all of them have resorted to playing Kaalt textnnada music by and large. Radio Indigo has chosen to focus on a niche audience, playing only English music.

In this milieu, Radio City has released a new campaign, trying to equate their offering with the ‘ethos’ of Bangalore, i.e. ‘Lots of Kannada, little Hindi’. The rendition is interesting – old film poster style hoardings depicting Kannada heroes with what look like Bollywood heroines. Nice.

It’s another matter that almost all FM brands in Bangalore, sound alike without any significant differentiation. Fever 104 made the promise of ‘more music, less advertising’ but they don’t sound like that any more. I listen to only about 30 minutes of radio in a day and for me they all have the same formula: some Kanglish speaking RJs, call-ins over some trivial issue, Kannada music, creation of some character (like Chamrajpet Charles) and some contests. Ho hum. Everything is hinged on the novelty factor of contests & call-ins and the quality of music.

Anyway, this reinforces the need for brands to connect with their audience at a local level. There was a time when regional advertising was referred to as ‘vernacular’ advertising, almost derogatorily. It also meant a simple translation of a concept originally thought in English or Hindi. It is heartening to see people who think in regional languages being given the opportunity to independently create ideas.

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