The new series of Vodafone ads earned a ‘oh cho chweet‘ response from some of my friends – mainly with respect to the return of the pug. I must admit that the ads, especially the cycle one, evoked an uneasy feeling in me. The reaction to the campaign has been divided – some are accusing those who take objection to the ads as being hypocrites. Celebrities have also commented in on the ad through micro blogs.
One line of argument from those who feel the ads are fine is to say that we all (including children) are anyway exposed to ‘bold’ messages in popular entertainment like movies & music videos. Others say that this is merely a portrayal of innocent friendship, quite like the friendship between Kevin & Winnie in Wonder Years (which we all loved). And those who see anything beyond just innocent friendship have a perverse mind. My views:
It’s tough being a kid these days in any case. From the time they are in school, they are put through all kinds of influences, pulls & pressures. Parents struggle to stave them from ‘bad’ influences as far as possible. But the attraction of popular culture is far too magnetic for kids. The influence of mass media is all pervading. As a parent I find it disgusting when innocent little kids imitate vulgar gyrations of an ‘item number’ or mouth words from songs filled with double entendre. Up to a certain age it can be overlooked; as one assumes that nothing can take away a child’s innocence. After a certain age, parents do take steps to ensure that kids don’t get distracted [that distraction can come in several forms – addiction to internet, gaming and so on] and ‘behave their age’. Parents teach children about pros & cons of relationships because deep down they want them to do the right things. So the portrayal of what 12-13 year olds catching furtive glances and wanting to spend time alone can cause some uneasiness. As Harish Bijoor says, ‘this kind of advertising thrusts adulthood on children a little too early’.
I do realize that kids today are far more aware than kids of the earlier generation. It is healthy for them to interact with the opposite gender from an early age and see them as good friends. But the tone of a brand content is likely to come under more scrutiny than mass media. Unsavoury stuff from popular cinema can be dismissed as ‘that’s how they are’. ”It’s only advertising’ can be the argument here too but we are talking about a commercial transaction at some level. We want the consumer to feel good about what we say & how we say it. And go out buy our brand and be its advocate. Since the execution of the ad can be construed by some as suggestive, why leave room for negative take outs?
The argument that there are even more vulgar things being shown on TV in the form of movies & music videos does not wash for me because that kind of entertainment is not sponsored by a brand. If advertising is meant to create positive associations about a brand and increase sales, every piece of communication sponsored & paid for by the brand has to work towards making the consumer feel good about the brand. While the Vodafone ads may be seen as cute, well executed, it may have earned more brickbats than accolades. Your views?