According to a New York Times article, Quebec is one of the developed world’s few markets where the positions of Pepsi and Coca-Cola are reversed. Pepsi’s market share is 29.9%, versus Coke’s 12.3%. And all of Pepsi’s brands account for a 60% share of the province’s soft drink business. The Ad Contrarian, in his unique style attributes laziness of global advertisers to simply adapt and change their ads for global markets.
Advertising in India, is in a way akin to marketing to the world. Ads created in Mumbai have to resonate across several languages, cultural contexts and regional differences. Agency folks in India are fully aware of the challenges for decades. An idiom in Hindi does not automatically find an equivalent in other languages. Translations don’t always capture the essence of the original creation. Ads shot with dialogues mouthed in Hindi have to be lip synced in at least 6 languages, yet appear alien to those it is meant for. Add to it the problem of a celebrity not always evoking the same feelings across India – SRK is just another model for those in TN, not a super star- and countless other issues to grapple with.
Similar to some global advertisers, most advertising in India is created with a one-size-fits-all approach. Some of the translations in Tamil or Kannada (both of which I understand) are horrendous to say the least. It subliminally cues to the consumer that ‘the brand is not talking my language’. Recently, dubbing artistes have begun to dub for languages they aren’t familiar with and the result is an assault on the senses. I cringe whenever I hear ‘Pudhiyaa‘ (new) in a Tamil ad – obviously dubbed by someone who is not a native Tamil speaker. Thrusting a cultural context on to an unsuspecting Southern audience is another common occurrence. I remember seeing a promo ad for Lays during Diwali showing Saif and his friends engaging in a game of taash (cards). This was a Tamil ad and in TN, playing cards is not part of Diwali celebrations at all. It reinforces the notion that this is a ‘Naarth Indian’ thingy and the brand is faking a close relationship with me by dubbing it in Tamil.
Not surprisingly, the ads that are popular locally are the ones created for that market. In TN, Hamam’s ‘Pavitra’ ad has perhaps reached legendary status. The ad’s content and dialogue are part of everyday parlance and even TV programmes. Years ago, an ad Waterbury’s Compound ad in Tamil was so popular that it led to several spoofs and jokes. In Bangalore, UB Group’s campaign featuring the Kannada film star Upendra (Uppi to fans) and the line ‘Yella OK, cool drink yaake?‘ (everything is fine, why go for a cool drink?) could only have been created by people who understood the local nuance.
Major advertisers for whom TN is a major market, have created ads specifically for that market. Coca-Cola, Horlicks, Mirinda, Bru, Aircel have all either created original concepts there or have signed on local celebrities. Interestingly, Tamil Nadu has witnessed the growth of several regional brands too. Gold Winner cooking oil for example is a brand which has grown in stature recently. When they started off, their base line was ‘Gold Winner na, Gold Winner dhaan!’ (Gold Winner means, Gold Winner!). Now that’s a baseline that would have been laughed off in advertising. But they understood the Tamil audience’s penchant for punch dialogues (unintended alliteration), thanks to the movies. Almost all ads in TN strive to develop this ‘punch line’ – there was a newspaper ad which ended with ‘Super, ma!’. The ads for Power Soaps featuring a Tamil film star, the retail ads or the ads for Aircel all understand this need for a local touch. Some of them throw conventional advertising wisdom out of the window and may leave us baffled. But they seem to work.
In country as complex as India where tastes, language and culture could change every 500 miles, it is near impossible to appeal to everybody. Advertising does not have the luxury of say, regional movies who cater to a clear demographic. But a lot more could be done to be sensitive to regional differences and build a connect.