Random Musings: Speak less than you know, always

One who is courteous and cultured deliberately attempts to be civil and polite under all circumstances, come what may. One who is sophisticated and refined also chooses to follow the etiquette and adopts the righteous way of conduct with others even in the most trying times. Our civility, courtesy and cultured approach towards others make us human and humane, and define us.
My mother, who single-handedly raised me and my siblings, taught us these principles of life and living quite early on in our lives and inculcated them deep in our beings. Her life lessons and learnings have profoundly influenced me all through. They were deeply ingrained in my being and stayed with me long after she was gone. What troubles me is to see how these life values are mostly conspicuous by their absence in our younger generation.
Let me explain what I mean when I say one who is courteous is always calm, composed and quiet. More importantly, one must learn to lend an ear to all but refrain from saying everything that one thinks. This restraint comes with age and experience, I agree, but one can start conditioning oneself right from childhood. The most significant difference between being couth and uncouth is the tone and tenor of one’s voice. If one can master one’s voice, one can rule the world, vanquish one’s enemies and emerge victorious. She taught that being soft-spoken doesn’t mean being diffident; instead, it is a great character strength and a defining trait of a good upbringing. Still waters run deep, she would often say, and so I still believe. She despised raising one’s voice because being loud may do more harm than good, is what she told us. Voice is the medium that conveys our message, and how one says what one wants to say is what makes the real difference. One can take a firm stance by being courteous, polite and calm, and without raising one’s voice. The command over one’s voice requires a kind of maturity that often seems missing among today’s children, and it pains to see their inconsiderate, unruly and unkind behaviour towards their youngsters, peers and even elders, in private and public conversations. Their conversations are more of a noise and nuisance to others, but unfortunately, these youngsters are unmindful of this habit that may do them more harm than good in the long run.
The second most important thing that my mother taught us was to be patient while listening. She said listening helps us understand, increases trust, improves relationships and reduces conflict. She often emphasised that one must let the speaker finish their bit first and patiently wait for our turn to speak. Well, today, you cannot complete a sentence without being stopped midway, and that annoys me no end. The most livid examples are our television news debates, which are more of a nuisance than information, where only two people have the right to speak, either the news anchor or the one allowed to air their views.
Her third piece of advice for mindful conversation was to respect the elders and listen to them carefully, without interrupting and interjecting them in between. This too, is long foregone, and I see none following it, not anymore.
The list of my mother’s life lessons is long; I fondly remember her and deeply admire her parenting style, and I will keep sharing these nuggets of wisdom with you as we go along. But remember that as a parent one must practise what one preaches to children. That way they learn better.
(Cover Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)


The Naked Truth

The article was carried in The Free Press Journal, Mumbai, on July 31, 2022. http://freepressjournal.in/weekend/ranveer-singhs-nude-photoshoot-what-drives-brands-to-use-nudity-in-ad-campaigns

Interview of the Week: Actor Naseeruddin Shah

“हजार मिटाने की कोशिश करें लेकिन मेरे ख्याल से उर्दू सलामत रहेगी।”

नसीरूद्दीन शाह 

आवारा ख़यालात

“चा चा चा” फ़िल्म में मख़्दूम मोहीउद्दीन की नज़्म “चारागर” को कुछ इस तरह गाया गाया था कि उसके मतलब बड़े ही आमियाना से लगते थे. “एक चमेली के मंडवे तले…”

एक नज़्म और उसकी यादें

1968 में हम ने एस एस सी का इम्तिहान पास किया. तब एस एस सी, ग्यरहवीं जमात हुआ करती थी. जी हाँ, हम 11+4 के ज़माने की देन हैं. 10+2+3 दौर की नहीं. आजकल, बच्चे दसवीं पास करने के बाद, अपने पसंद के कॉलेज में दाख़िला पाने की कोशिश में जुट जाते हैं. उन दिनों , बम्बई ( जी हाँ, तब बम्बई ही था.) गिनती के ही कॉलेज थे, स्टूडेंट भी कम ही थे. इसलिए हर किसी को अपने पसंद के कॉलेज में दाख़िला आसानी से मिल जाया करता था. तब बम्बई की आबादी तक़रीबन 55–60 लाख ही थी.
हमारे वालिद तो हमें छोड़ कर इस दुनिया से तब जा चुके थे, जब हम आठ ही साल के थे. अकेले माँ ने पाला था. इसलिए ग़रीब थे, काफ़ी ग़रीब थे हम. आठ बाय दस की खोली मकान था. लेकिन अम्मी हमें पढ़ाना चाहती थीं. अम्मी ने हमें इस्माइल यूसुफ़ कॉलेज में दाख़िला लेने के लिए कहा, उन्होंने 30 रूपये की रक़म (जो उस ज़माने में हमारी अम्मी के लिए बड़ी रक़म थी) दे कर फ़ौरन कॉलेज में दाख़िला कराने को कहा. हम फ़ीस की रक़म ले कर कॉलेज पहुँचे. फ़ॉर्म भरा, फ़ीस और फ़ॉर्म जमा कराया. बस, हो गया, हमारा दाख़िला.
हमारे कॉलेज का कैम्पस बहुत बड़ा था (उस वक़्त कैम्पस का एक चक्कर लगाने में एक घंटा लग जाया करता था). मुंबई में जहां, आज भी ज़मीन के दाम सोने से महँगे हैं, कहते हैं कि आज भी हमारे कॉलेज का कैम्पस बहुत बड़ा है हालाँकि उस कैम्पस पर कुछ और इमारतें बन जाने के बावजूद.
उन दिनों दो ही कोर्स थे. आर्ट्स या साइंस. कामर्स बहुत नया-नया था. कम ही लोग उस तरफ़ का रुख़ किया करते थे. हमने भी आर्ट्स में दाख़िला लिया. अदब से इश्क़ जो था. कॉलेज का पहला दिन बेहद परेशान-कुन था. हम ग्यारहवीं तक उर्दू मीडियम में पढ़ कर आए थे और कॉलेज में आते ही मीडियम बदल कर अंग्रेज़ी हो गया था. हमारे प्रोफ़ेसर क्या पढ़ा रहे थे, हमारी समझ में कुछ नहीं आ रहा था. (हमने ये मुश्किल कैसे आसान की? अंग्रेज़ी कैसे सीखी? इसकी बात किसी और रोज़ करेंगे).
अब दो ही सब्जेक्ट किसी हद तक राहत का बाएस थे. एक उर्दू और दूसरा फ़ारसी.
आज हम अपने उर्दू के एक प्रोफ़ेसर डॉक्टर आली जाफ़री का ज़िक्र कर रहे हैं.
जनाब वक़ार क़ादरी की किताब “दर्शन” में जो ज़िक्र क़ादरी साहब ने डॉक्टर आली जाफ़री का किया है. उसी से आग़ाज़ करते हैं. क़ादरी साहब फ़रमाते हैं “आली जाफ़री साहब अपने अव्वलीन लेक्चर के लिए आए. उजली शक्ल और मुनासिब क़द ओ क़ामत के मालिक, ये साहब, मुझे किसी पुरानी ब्लैक एंड वाइट फ़िल्म के हीरो महसूस हुए.” क़ादरी साहब, मुझसे काफ़ी जूनियर हैं. इस लिए जब उन्होंने जाफ़री साहब को देखा था तब उनकी सेहत का ग्राफ़ उतरना शुरू हो गया था. लेकिन जब उन्होंने हमें जीने का सलीक़ा सिखाया था तब माशल्लाह, सेहतमंद थे. जैसी उर्दू जाफ़री साहब बोला करते थे वैसी उर्दू सुनने को कान तरसते हैं. शेर पढ़ने का उनका अन्दाज़, बड़ा ही दिलनवाज़ था. हमने शेर पढ़ने का हुनर, उन्हीं से सीखा. क़ादरी साहब ने उनसे सुने जिन अशआर का ज़िक्र किया है, वो हम जाफ़री साहब से बरसों पहले सुन चुके थे. क़ादरी साहब ने इन अशआर का ज़िक्र किया है —

ख़ूबरू ख़ूब काम करते हैं
इक निगाह सूं ग़ुलाम करते हैं
दिल के आइने में है तस्वीर ए यार
इक ज़रा गर्दन झुकाई देख ली
कैसे कैसे ऐसे वैसे हो गए
ऐसे वैसे कैसे कैसे हो गए

हम कॉलेज के दिनों में Inter Collegiate Elocution Competitions में बढ़-चढ़ कर हिस्सा लिया करते थे. एक बार हमें नए मुक़ाबले में जाना था. नई तक़रीर लिखने का मूड नहीं था. इसलिए पुरानी तक़रीरों के हिस्से मिला कर एक नई तक़रीर लिख ली और जाफ़री साहब को Approval के लिए दे दी.
कुछ देर बाद जाफ़री साहब ने हमें कॉमन रूम में बुलाया और तक़रीर का काग़ज़ वापस करते हुए कहा “मियाँ, इन सारे अल्फ़ाज़ से कान आशना हैं.” हमने अपनी दुम दबाई, काग़ज़ वापस लिया और लौट आए.
कॉलेज मैगज़ीन के लिए हमने एक नज़्म लिखी और जाफ़री साहब को approval के लिए दे दी. जाफ़री साहब क्लास में तशरीफ़ लाए, नज़्म हमें लौटाते हुए कहने लगे “बहर में नहीं है”. हमने कहा “सर, पढ़ कर सुना दूँ”. जाफ़री साहब का जवाब था, “गाई जा सकती है, बहर में नहीं है.”
इसके बाद “अरूज़” की तालीम हमें जाफ़री साहब ने ही दी.

उन्हों दिनों एक फ़िल्म रिलीज़ हुई थी जिसका उनवान था “चा चा चा”. इस फ़िल्म में मख़्दूम मोहीउद्दीन की नज़्म “चारागर” को कुछ इस तरह गाया गाया था कि उसके मतलब बड़े ही आमियाना से लगते थे.
नज़्म कुछ यूँ है—

एक चमेली के मंडवे तले
मैकदे से ज़रा दूर उस मोड़ पर
दो बदन
प्यार की आग में जल गए
प्यार हर्फ़ ए वफ़ा प्यार उनका ख़ुदा
प्यार उनकी चिता
दो बदन
ओस में भीगते, चाँदनी में नहाते हुए
जैसे दो ताज़ा रु ओ ताज़ा दम फूल पिछले पहर
ठंडी ठंडी सुबक-रव चमन की हवा
सर्फ़ ए मातम हुई
काली काली लटों से लिपट गर्म रुख़सार पर
एक पल के लिए रुक गई
हमने देखा उन्हें
दिन और रात में
नूर ओ ज़ुल्मात में
मस्जिदों के मीनारों ने देखा उन्हें
मंदिरों की किवाड़ों ने देखा उन्हें
मैकदे की द्राडों ने देखा उन्हें
अज़ अज़ल ता अबद
ये बता चारगर
तेरीज़ंबील में
नुस्ख़ा ए कीमिया ए मोहब्बत भी है
कुछ इलाज ओ मदावा ए उल्फ़त भी है?
एक चंबेली के मंडवे तले
दो बदन

फ़िल्मी गाना फ़हश सा था, हम गुनगुनाते हुए ख़ुशी ख़ुशी चले जा रहे थे अपनो कैम्पस में. हमें मालूम ना था की हमारे पीछे जाफ़री साहब हैं. उन्होंने हमसे पूछा “मियाँ, इल्म है, ये नज़्म मख़्दूम ने क्यूँ कही थी?” हमने अपनी ला इलमी का इज़हार किया. जाफ़री साहब ने बताया कि जब हैदराबाद में एक नवजवान लड़के और नवजवान लड़की को इसलिए जला दिया गाया था कि वो दोनों अलग अलग मज़हब के होने के बावजूद शादी कर ली थी. उन दोनों को ज़िंदा जला दिया गाया था. उसी जुल्म का सोग मनाने के लिए मख़्दूम ने ये नज़्म कही थी. ये सुनते ही हमारे रोंगटे खड़े हो गए. उस दिन से आजतक जब भी ये नज़्म सुनता हूँ या पढ़ता हूँ तो आँखें भीग ही जाती हैं.

Ek Chameli Ke Mandve Tale ~ एक चमेली के मंडवे तले


What’s in a name?

छोटे-छोटे काम वाले लोग ऐसा कर सकते हैं। कोई बड़ी कंपनी ऐसा रिस्क नहीं ले सकती है। जिसका करोड़ो का बिजनेस है वह ऐसा काम नहीं करेगा। कोई बड़ी कंपनी कहे कि हम सबसे खराब नमक दे रहे हैं, खाकर तो देखें तो कोई खरीदेगा ? यह छोटे शहरों और छोटी जगहों पर चल सकता है। चला तो ठीक, नहीं चला तो दूसरा नाम रख लेंगे।

Jameel Gulrays
My thoughts on the negative product naming culture prevalent these days was published in Navbharat Times’ edition dated April 3, 2022.


सेलफोन के ईजाद से बहुत साल पहले, एक काले रोटरी-डायल टेलीफोन के जादुई शक्ति ने मेरे बचपन और अस्सी के दशक में जन्में अन्य बच्चों की कल्पनाओं को ऊँची उड़ान दी थी।

देवाशीष मखीजा, लेखक और फिल्म निर्देशक

कोरोमंडल एक्सप्रेस में हमारे डिब्बे को अलग कर बैंगलोर मेल में लगाया जा रहा था। हमारे डिब्बे को छोड़कर अन्य सभी यात्रियों की यात्रा मद्रास में समाप्त हो चुकी थी । हमारा वाला डिब्बा करीब तीन घंटे से एक ही जगह स्थिर खड़ा था, और उसके दोबारा चलने के इंतज़ार ने मेरी बेचैनी को बढ़ा दिया था । मैंने माँ से हमारा काला वाला टेलीफोन मांगा ताकि मैं नानी को कॉल कर उनसे कुछ गुलाब जामुन भेजने के लिए कह सकूं। “अगर हमारी ट्रेन कभी शुरू नहीं हुई तो हम कभी बैंगलोर नहीं पहुंचेंगे,” मैंने कहा, “और पिंकू सब कुछ चट कर जायेगा ।” अपनी छोटी बेटी के साथ यात्रा कर रही एक मारवाड़ी महिला बगल की सीट पर बैठी थी। माँ को उलझन में देखकर उसने मुझे खुश करने के लिए कुछ पेपर सोप निकाल कर मेरे हांथों में थमा दिया । मैंने पहले कभी पेपर सोप नहीं देखा था। उसने मुझसे कहा, “अगर नानी का नंबर डायल करने पर आपकी उंगलियां साफ नहीं होंगी, तो वह आपको नहीं सुन पाएगी,” और धीरे से मुस्कुराई। दरवाजे के पास वॉश बेसिन में अपने हाथों को साफ करने में मैंने लगभग आधा पैक इस्तेमाल कर लिया । तब तक बोगी नई ट्रेन से जुड़ चुकी थी और हमारी यात्रा फिर से शुरू हो गयी थी । 

कैम्पा-कोला बेचने वाले लड़के को देखकर मैं गुलाब जामुन को भूल ही गया ।

अबोध बचपन में उस काले रोटरी-डायल टेलीफोन को मैं किसी जादू से कम नहीं समझता था। उससे मैं अपने लिविंग रूम में घूमते उस ग्लोब के दूसरे छोर पर बसे चाचा-चाची की आवाज़ें सुन सकता था। मुझे किसी से संपर्क करने के लिए केवल एक जादुई कोड की आवश्यकता थी – पांच अंकों की संख्या। इसलिए मुझे यह मानने में बिल्कुल भी संकोच नहीं हुआ ही कि वह ब्लैक बॉक्स बहुत कुछ करने में सक्षम था। अगर मैं अपनी आंखें बंद कर लेता और एकाग्र हो जाता तो शायद मैं उन लोगों को देख सकता जिनसे मैं बातें करता था। और शायद मैं उन्हें टेलीफोन के नीचे खिसकाकर पत्र भी भेज सकता था। और यह भी कि मैं उसकी मांग अपनी ट्रेन यात्रा पर भी कर सकता था, और नंबर घुमा कर नानी से बात कर सकता था।

लगभग बीस साल बाद मैं जिस विज्ञापन एजेंसी में बतौर कॉपीराइटर कार्यरत था वहां मैंने उस दिन खुद को अपने बॉस के केबिन में बंद कर लिया था क्यूंकि मैंने कसम खायी थी कि जब तक मैं बिहार में सेल-फोन सेवाओं के शुभारंभ की घोषणा करने के लिए एक प्रेस विज्ञापन के लिए एक शीर्षक नहीं लिख लेता, तब तक बाहर नहीं निकलूंगा ।

मुझे उस कमरे में बंद हुए एक दिन से अधिक समय बीत गया था। मेरी समय सीमा बहुत पहले बीत चुकी थी और मैं हताश, कमजोर और बेचैन महसूस कर रहा था। 

तभी दरवाजे पर एक हलकी सी खट-खट हुई और किसी ने फैक्स पेपर नीचे से खिसका दी। उस पर एक मोटा-मोटी खींचे हुए डिब्बे के अन्दर लिखा हुआ था – ‘हमारी प्रतियोगी का अभियान।’ डिब्बे के अंदर मेरे काले टेलीफोन का जाना-पहचाना ग्राफ़िक था। और उसके बगल में, एक बदसूरत हिंदी फ़ॉन्ट में शोले का प्रसिद्ध डायलॉग था: “अब तेरा क्या होगा कालिया?”

उस वक़्त मुझे पता नहीं क्यों अचानक गुलाब जामुन खाने कि इच्छा हुई थी।

(नोट: बैंगलोर बेंगलुरु में बदल गया है, मद्रास चेन्नई हो गया है, और कालिया अब ‘पीरियड’ फिल्म की शूटिंग के लिए मुश्किल से मिलने वाला प्रॉप है)

देवाशीष मखीजा (nakedindianfakir@gmail.com) मुंबई में रहने वाले एक लेखक और फिल्म निर्देशक हैं, जिन्होंने लघु फिल्में ‘अगली बार’ (2015) और ‘तांडव’ (2016), फीचर फिल्में ‘अज्जी’ (2017),  और राष्ट्रीय पुरस्कार विजेता ‘भोंसले’ (2020) बनाई हैं। मखीजा लघु कहानियों के संग्रह ‘फॉर्गेटिंग’ (2014) और नीव पुरस्कार विजेता उपन्यास ‘ओंगा’ (2021) के लेखक हैं।
(The piece was first published in Vol LVI No 48, dated November 27, 2021, in the Economic & Political Weekly in English, and has been adapted in Hindi by Shillpi A Singh for this blog)


Street hawker Kallu Kewat songs reflect people’s poet Nazeer Akbarabadi’s style

नज़ीर अकबराबादी दुनिया के पहले एडवरटाइजिंग जिंगल राइटर थे।उन्होंने लगभग हर चीज़ पर नज़्म लिखी है। नज़ीर ऐसे जनकवि थे जिन्हें आप कुछ भी दे दीजिये, वो उसको बेचने के लिए आम जन की जुबान में नज़्म लिख डालते थे।रंगकर्मी, शायर और लेखक हबीब तनवीर ने अपने सबसे यादगार कृति ‘आगरा बाज़ार’ में शायर नज़ीर अकबराबादी की नज़्मों को पहली बार १९५४ में नाट्य रूप में पेश किया था।आगरा के बाज़ार में घोर मंदी छाई हुई थी और कुछ भी नहीं बिक रहा था। वहां एक ककड़ी वाले के दिमाग़ में यह बात आयी कि यदि कोई कवि उसकी ककड़ी के गुणों का बखान कविता में कर दे तो बिक्री ज़रूर बढ़ेगी। वो कई शायरों के पास गया पर कोई भी इस काम के लिए राज़ी नहीं हुआ । अंत में वह शायर नज़ीर साहब के पास पहुंचा। उन्होंने फौरन उसका काम कर दिया। वह नज़ीर की लिखी ककड़ी पर कविता गाता हुआ बाजार में आता है और उसके यहां ग्राहकों की भीड़ लग जाती है। फिर तो लड्डूवाला, तरबूज़ वाला, बाला बेचने वाला, आदि सब एक-एक करके वही करने लगते हैं और देखते ही देखते सारा बाज़ार नज़ीर साहब के गीतों से गूंजने लगता है।
बरसों बाद एक आम भारतीय ने अपने लिखे शब्दों से मुझे जनकवि नज़ीर अकबराबादी की याद दिला दी है। जी हाँ, मैं उस लड्डूवाले की बात कर रहा हूँ जिसने ट्विटर पर हुए वायरल एक वीडियो से हमारा दिल जीत लिया है। नज़ीर साहब की मानवीय शायरी के इर्द-गिर्द बुना गया नाटक आगरा बाजार और बुंदेली कलाकार कल्लू केवट द्वारा लड्डू बेचने के लिए लिखा हुआ मजेदार गीत दोनों ही दिल को छू लेते हैं । कल्लू केवट का अंदाज-ए-बयान नज़ीर अकबराबादी साहब से बहुत मिलता-जुलता है। मिलिए कल्लू कलाकार से..

Kallu Kalakar!

Oral-B Pro-Health’s ‘batteesi’ campaign made my jaw drop

Circa 2013: It was supposedly the most awaited FMCG launch to happen… a challenger that would shake the No 1 brand and run tremors of fear through it… a market shaker who prompted competitors to pre-empt with their challenger launches.

As I watched the ads, my jaw dropped, and it even touched the floor. I was amazed, zapped, stupefied all at once. The first ad I saw was of an inane set of people chewing and eating, with Madhuri Dixit Nene appearing at the end, stating some lines about toothpaste that does everything. Someone who wrote the positioning will undoubtedly get an honourable mention when I teach my students about the ‘E2=0’ principle… which means ‘when you emphasise everything, you emphasise nothing’.

As a proponent of correct language, it also appalled me to hear the repeated use of the word ‘batteesi’. 

In Hindi, the word is common in the context of dentures. A modified phrase ‘batteeson barkaraar’ was used for years to advertise a popular brand while rendering its ’32 intact’ promise in Hindi. For a Hindi speaking person, batteesi is a negative word, most often used for reprimanding, such as ‘batteesi mat dikhao’ (most often used to condemn those who laugh or grin irreverently). In worst cases, ‘batteesi tod denge… or batteesi bahar nikal denge’ is used to threaten someone with dire consequences. 

I wondered why did the brand say, ‘India ki batteesi’.

Then I saw another ad for Oral-B toothbrush, with a jaded Madhuri Dixit Nene mouthing out her ‘Smile Officer’ role with a plasticky smile in tow… at the end, I saw a ‘buy an Oral-B brush and get a toothpaste free offer’. 

Wonder what the client and its agencies were thinking as they set out to launch a superior, anticipated brand in a cut-throat and high loyalty toothpaste market through an offer. If I try hard and give P&G its due, this may be the company’s way of promoting trials. But again, does this reflect how the company has positioned itself in India. Ask anyone who knows the company beyond being just a consumer, and the individual will talk about the company’s products being premium and high market. If that is how they have built their perception across their several brands, why would they want to explore trials through a bundled offer?

All I can say with my professional experience is that this entry strategy of P&G had for sure shaken their competitors. In this case, the competitors must be shaking with uncontrolled laughter, as they need not do anything to protect their interests. P&G had done them a great favour with their launch communication, which passes by like a ship in the dark and tops it with a ‘take it home free’ offer. I hoped once again that marketers and advertisers were more innovative. Anyway, years later, I continue to wonder as Ghalib said, ‘Ya ilaahi ye majra kya hai’.


‘Nigel, Nigel, is that you?’

In the early 90s, British Airways created history with the launch of its cinema commercial.

It was one of the most brilliant and freshest ideas in advertising history. Created by advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, the commercial was a textbook case of media innovation.

Set in a Parisian boulevard, a man and woman were shown embracing each other. And then came the unexpected.

A woman in the cinema audience jumps to her feet and starts shouting to the man on the screen: “Nigel, Nigel, is that you?”

Not until “onscreen Nigel” answers back does the penny drop.

The woman was an actress who was planted in the audience by British Airways. She continued a rather emotional dialogue with Nigel, her lover, who was with another woman on a British Airways romantic break.

The commercial, if it can be called that (it was more like a new type of advertising medium), culminated with the actress storming out of the cinema. Every time that was staged, the audience spontaneously applauded.

The challenge with a cinema commercial is somehow to make sure that it will be recalled after the intense experience of the film. If this one didn’t, nothing could.

More here:



Media planning in the agency

The workflow or the various stages through which a media plan evolves within an agency differs from agency to agency and also within the agency’s account to account. The variations depend on the size of the problem and the agency’s organization and its relation with its clients. The development of almost all plans must follow a similar pattern, although the stages may be telescoped and considerations made implicit rather than being discussed at meetings.

The initial planning meeting is usually a large one and will see the involvement of senior people working on the account, and possibly the agency management. The account director, his team and creative and media planning people also take part in that meeting. In some cases, the client team may also be present. The purpose of this meeting is to formally evaluate the current progress of the brand and its market, and the plan for the period under review, usually the following financial year. The end product of the meeting should be a draft marketing strategy, which outlines the way the agency feels the brand’s target can best be achieved.

This first draft will then be thrashed out with the client, the agency being represented possibly by the management and certainly by the account team. When approved, the marketing objectives form the basis for both creative and media work.


Media owners, mind your language

Language is the most important means of communication for human beings. It has been, it is, it will be. Besides verbal languages, we have non-verbal languages such as sign language, body language and so on. Without a language, no communication is possible.

When a pharmaceutical company hires a medical representative, it makes sure that the person being hired is conversant with the doctor’s language; because a doctor cannot be convinced by a person who does not speak his language. When an engineering company hires a salesman to sell its equipment, it makes sure that the candidate selected is well-versed in the engineering industry.

How do media houses hire people to sell their advertising space or time? There are two types. One is the owner who does not want to invest in fresh people. Instead, that person looks around and finds a person who has already proved himself in the field. That recruiter is the one who believes in fresh talent (which is really a good thing considering the number of unemployed graduates around).

Unfortunately, the good intentions of the latter don’t go much further because such media owners haven’t recognised the need for professionalism.
They hire fresh graduates and push them into the field with one-line brief: ‘Go and get some ads’. These poor freshers who have had no exposure to marketing and advertising move amongst advertising professionals without any direction. Worse, they don’t even know the language of the advertising agency, media planners or the product managers at the advertises’ office.

They have been told that their job is to get some ads. So, they visit advertising agencies and advertisers and start asking, quite literally, ‘give me some ads’.

Some of the other demands which one often hears from media sellers are:

How about an ad? (just like that).

Give me an ad. My job is at stake (it happens about once a week).

You handle so many products; you must give something to us too.

I saw your ad in X. Why was it not released in our publication or channel? (occurs about once a day )

What should a media owner do to avoid getting himself the image of a “scrounger”?

First, recruit people with a marketing and advertising background. In the case of fresh graduates, please provide them with adequate training in marketing and advertising. It will eliminate to a large extent the re-occurrence of the scenario mentioned earlier. When a media seller makes a fool of himself, it reflects more on the media owner than on the person himself through sheer ignorance.

Media owners must familiarise their representative with the media planning process in an advertising agency; so, when his representative visits an ad agency, he can speak the media planners’ language.

A good media seller, in my opinion, is familiar with inter-media comparisons. He is the one who understands the target audience for his client’s products, understands the nature and seasonal patterns of various products. And above all, he is thoroughly familiar with the singular characteristics of the medium he represents.

Unless media owners understand the need for talking to advertising professionals in their language, they will continue to be in a difficult situation, as most are today.


Divided We Fall

My thoughts on maintaining a safe distance from politics and religion was carried in the article published in The Free Press Journal on November 21, 2021. https://www.freepressjournal.in/weekend/divided-we-fall-when-politics-strainspersonal-relationships

Veteran advertising professional and founder of Katha Kathan Jameel Gulrays has suitably amended Karl Marx’s statement to better fit our current context. He says, “Both religion and politics are the opiate of the people. Both work as drugs that can dumb the mind and make people believe that these two alone can guarantee the future vitality of our nation. They divide people, and yet, we still find ourselves taking the opium every day, hoping that somehow it can do wonders for us and the country.” In reality, Gulrays adds, how a combination of these two drugs is lethal and has the power to do more harm than the most powerful nuclear bombs. “In our country, it is this combination which could destroy us. I have a simple solution, I refuse to discuss these two topics,” he says, on dealing with people with political differences.



Jingles are a form of sound branding where the sales pitch is sung to a musical tune. It is pretty popular in our country.
When I was trying to trace back its origin, I found it in Urdu poetry.
Nazeer Akbarabadi wrote various poems on various fruits, sweet meat, etc. to help its sellers sell there wares better.
All these poems were collected by legendary playwright Habeeb Tanveer and was used in his classical play Agra Bazaar.
Here I reproduce a part of his poem titled “Kakdi” to illustrate my point:

क्या प्यारी प्यारी मीठी और पतली पतलियां हैं
गन्ने की पोरियां हैं रेशम की तकलियाँ हैं
फ़रहाद की निगाहें शीरीं की हंसलियां हैं
मजनूँ की सर्द आहें लैला की ऊँगलियाँ हैं
क्या ख़ूब ककड़ियाँ हैं क्या ख़ूब ककड़ियाँ हैं


The Ad-ventures of Mr B

Actor extraordinaire Manoj Bajpayee has made some exciting choices vis-a-vis brand endorsements. Here’s retracing his journey in the ad world in 2021.

Jameel Gulrays

Padma Shri Manoj Bajpayee’s prolific career has been accentuated with numerous awards for his spectacular performances, and the latest addition is the National Film Award for Best Actor 2019 for his searing portrayal of a retired cop – Ganpat Bhonsle – in Bhonsle

The actor extraordinaire has traversed a long and exciting journey across the medium, from television to films, and then OTT, navigating his way through each medium with deftness, and in between, he has also made interesting forays in the world of advertising to promote/endorse brands that he can relate and connect. 

“I come from a middle-class rural family, and that’s my biggest identity to date. I proudly wear it as a badge of honour on my sleeves. I was born and brought up in a village, and I have always flaunted being a farmer’s son with immense pride. It is the core of my being, my work and how I choose to do what I do. I am extremely choosy about the brands. The brand has to reflect my identity, and I have to relate to the product/service and connect with the idea that the brand wants me to portray onscreen.”

Manoj Bajpayee, actor

The choices that he has made further endorse his belief on all that matters to a common person – home, finance, farm, and food – and rightly so. Here’s a rundown of the brands he chose to endorse in 2021, and his reasons for doing so.   

House that!

On January 25, the actor surprised his fans and followers by tweeting that he is planning to sell his Bandra home and solicited help in looking for a suitable buyer. 

On the other hand, actor Rajkummar Rao posted something similar – tips on home buying in a new city.

The duo’s posts on social media invited curious reactions from all quarters, and their fun home buying and selling journey ended with the launch of Housing.com’s campaign, #YahanSearchKhatamKaro, a few days later. The social media posts were activated before the campaign’s launch and worked wonders in creating a favourable buzz around the idea.  

“The campaign has highlighted the integration of technology in the real estate business. The tech-enabled services can make the process simpler and considerably ease the innumerable challenges posed by the pandemic, and reduce the burden for a consumer, be it a home buyer, seller or tenant,” states Bajpayee. The reason for choosing this campaign was his strong belief and backing for technology. “Technology can be a great enabler in any given field, and it is a tool if used wisely can do wonders in making our lives a tad easier,” says the actor.   

The ad featuring actor Manoj Bajpayee on a quest to sell his house and finally find the perfect buyer by listing it on housing.com.#YahanSearchKhatamKaro 

Counting on his charisma

In February, Bajpayee chose to associate with Zee Cinema and Tata Capital’s campaign, Heroes Ka Jazba, to honour the sacrifices made by India’s COVID-19 heroes. The campaign was integrated with Tata Capital’s #KarzNahiFarzBhiHai initiative of launching ‘Shubharambh’ loans with lesser EMIs, flexible and higher tenure with eased flexibility. 

“The campaign had topicality and was an apt way to start 2021, with hope, happiness and a promise to help the frontline workers who kept our lives going during the tough times of the pandemic, just like heroes do,” he says, reflecting on his choice. 

The brand endorsement was innovatively pegged around Bajpayee’s 2020 release Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari (playing on Zee5). Together, along with the film festival on Zee Cinema in February, it paralleled Tata Capital’s Count on Us idea. Bajpayee gave his touch to the concept by explaining how, like his character, the pandemic has been weighing us down, and had become ‘Bhari’ in our lives, adding how the Heroes Ka Jazba salutes the real-life heroes. He urged all to rise up like a hero and win against this real-life Mangal (pandemic). “The advertisement personified a promise and heralded optimism, and that’s what was needed to start life afresh back then,” he says.  

Life ki har chunauti ka saamna karne wale heroes ke shubharambh mein unki madad karna humara #KarzNahiFarzBhi hai! Watch Tata Capital presents, Heroes Ka Jazba on Zee Cinema every Saturday night at 8 and begin your hero story again by applying for a Shubharambh Loan today! #CountOnUs https://bit.ly/2ZcvwQt 

Fin(e) Take

Bajpayee and actor Priyamani became the face of fintech platform Rupeek’s first integrated advertising campaign early in September. Together, they made the idea of availing a loan against gold an unchallenging idea for the middle-class to pursue. “I know from my own experiences that securing a loan can be a challenge for the middle-class. It has always been an emotionally taxing process. I could see the huge potential that Rupeek’s proposition brought forth. The use of technology-led hassle-free doorstep gold loan offering at the lowest interest rates could very well become a disruptor in this segment,” he emphasises. The claim of offering online gold loans to its customers with minimal documentation and the lowest interest rate of 0.69% per month clicked with Bajpayee. 

The TVC featuring the actors shows them walking in avail gold loan, getting disheartened at the whole process of waiting in long queues, paying high-interest rates and going through the tedious documentation process, leaving them sorely disappointed. “I loved the idea. The advertisement highlights the struggles faced by people in availing gold loans and how the company solves the credit pain. The advertisement is for the common man and woman, who need to take pride in using their gold to access credit in a safe and tension-free manner. I chose the brand because it was a credible idea, and I could relate to the thought,” he adds.  

We know that gold is precious to you. Which is why, when parting with it, you don’t deserve to wait in a long line, and be put through tedious procedures. That’s why Rupeek comes to your doorstep in 30 minutes. With Rupeek, sab kuch ghar baithe baithe ho jayega. That too, at an interest rate as low as 0.69%* per month. Ab se, #SonePeLoanRightFromHome.   

Sowing hope 

In his second outing for the brand, the actor chose to endorse Mahindra’s new Farming as a Service (FaaS) business, Krish-e. For the unversed, his first brand endorsement for the Mahindra Group was for Maha Bolero Pik-Up many moons ago.

The Group recently launched the first digital video commercial for the crop advisory app early in October. It banked heavily on the brand value of Bajpayee as a son of the soil and used his credibility to its advantage by highlighting the unique benefits of the app. The reasons for choosing this brand for endorsement were obvious – a proud farmer’s son and his humble ways of returning the favour. 

Elucidating it further, he says, “Technology is a great enabler. It has changed the landscape of so many sectors, including agriculture, and for good. Farmers can use this app and benefit from the unique combination of expert advisory. The app offers a fertiliser calculator, pesticide spray calculator, digital book of accounts and a diary to maintain the credit and debit details for the farmers. Krish-e has leveraged science and technology to help farmers reduce costs, increase productivity, and ultimately farmers’ income.”  

Krish-e by Mahindra rightly calls itself #ChamatkarNahiYehHaiAvishkar. The agriculture app provides a personalised crop calendar for the farm by leveraging the combination of technology and farming expertise which improves the crop yield for each farmer. Krish-e app provides premium agricultural advisory services for various crops and boosts the crop yield. These Agri advisory services offer a scientific and personalized crop calendar for every farm. Krish-e is the best-in-class agriculture app providing end-to-end crop planning, i.e., land preparation, seed treatment, nutrition, and harvesting. Available in 8 popular Indian languages, this farm app is the preferred technology solution to boost your farm yields.

Business sense

The actor has no qualms in admitting that he has had a fair share of struggle and strife to survive in the world of cinema. “The accolades in India and abroad that celebrate me and my roles is a profoundly humbling experience. Still, I choose to look at all of it objectively and avoid being indulgent,” he says. His cinematic journey is akin to the rigour and persistence required for small and medium businesses (SMBs) to survive and thrive in the post-pandemic world. 

He chose to endorse another fintech FloBiz in October. Capitalising on the brand Bajpayee, the neo-bank for Indian SMBs aims to accelerate its outreach to the SMB sector and promote the adoption of its flagship product, myBillBook, a simple to use GST billing and accounting software. The series of ads under the core theme of #BusinessKoLeSeriously will highlight the power of digital solutions to improve the performance of SMBs and take them on a growth path. “I was impressed, once again, at the power of technology and how small and medium businesses can benefit from it. SMBs are an integral part of our economy, and the pandemic has made it paramount for businesses to go digital. FloBiz’s myBillBook is a dedicated digital tool that has immense potential to change the landscape of SMBs by accelerating its growth in the right direction,” says the actor. 

The brand’s core theme remains #BusinessKoLeSeriously. The witty script has helped the actor explore his sarcastic self to the hilt and use it to his advantage to take the messaging forward.  

Billing sahi na ho to payment collection ek joke ban jata hai! Jaanein kaise kar sakte hain aap sahi billing aur timely collection myBillBook ke sath. Business ko 5X badhane ke liye, myBillBook download karein aur apne business ko digital banayein! Best billing and accounting software for Small & Medium Businesses in India. Agar apne business ko lete hain seriously to abhi download karein myBillBook! 

Food and friends = Fun 

Food has the power to evoke memory, bring people together and transport people to places, and who wouldn’t love that. The actor relived a nostalgic moment with his offscreen friends and co-stars — Pankaj Tripathi and Nawazuddin Siddiqui — while shooting two TV commercials for BL Agro, a leading FMCG company’s signature brand, ‘Bail Kolhu’, mustard oil. The first in the series was about the actors fondly reminiscing their cinematic journey, from their nondescript villages to the city of dreams, and released in May 2021. 

The second one has them recounting the smell that conjures up food memories and shows the camaraderie that Gangs of Wasseypur actors share while feasting on a lavish spread prepared in mustard oil. Khushbu Ka Yaadon Se Rishta remains the tagline and shows how the actors connect with the idea and each other.  

To see these three actors sharing screen space is a truly delectable treat, and who better them to convey the message of the 50-year-old signature brand, which has become a household name over the years, much like the trio.   


The lost art of marketing: Mystery Shopper Scheme

Veteran advertising legend Ayaz Peerbhoy had established MAA in 1959. I had joined MAA in 1967. In 1973, we launched Ensor Razor Blade, a TTK product, and during that exercise, I realised that Advertising is the 4th P of Marketing.
His son and my friend Bunty was handling the account, and besides media, he made me handle the promotion schemes for consumers and retailers.
We organised contests for consumers and retailers. Not many in the current generation of advertising professionals would know about “The Mystery Shopper Scheme”. Why is it run amongst retailers to promote a product at the launch?

Mystery Shopping is a process in which a person visits a retail store, restaurant, bank branch, or any such location to measure the quality of customer experience.
Many companies define detailed processes and parameters to ensure that customers have a good experience in their sales locations. Some examples are:
How customers will be greeted
What is the maximum acceptable waiting time
What is the ambience of the place
How many products should be on display, etc.
A Mystery Shopper visits the location pretending to be a customer and carefully notes things they have been asked to measure. The data is reported to the mystery shopping company, who compiles and analyses data gathered from different locations to help their clients measure and improve their customer experience.

But for our Ensor blade campaign, we used a three-pronged marketing plan for our product. Two of them involved the retailers, while one was for the consumer. Spread over 45 days, I was responsible for all three – Mystery Shopper and Display Contest for the retailers and Complete the Slogan Contest for the consumers. I remember travelling from Churchgate to Borivali in the Western suburb, and then again, went about covering all the areas in the Eastern suburb, all in a day. In a way, I covered 36 cities in one city in a day. I say so because the area around a station in Mumbai is a city itself, isn’t it? Phew! It was too much travelling, but the interactions with the people fuelled my energy levels and kept me going.
The Mystery Shopper Scheme was on for about 45 days, and since the product was new, we had given prior intimation to the dealers about the same. That one and a half month were quite crucial because it was a pre-launch activity for Ensor blade. The advertising campaign was to be launched after this period, and in the meanwhile, we got ample time to check the inventory, keep the spirits high for the retailers and build a buzz among the customers.
Sometimes the mystery shopper used to go to the shops to buy a blade. He couldn’t ask for a blade straight away. As a regular customer, he would buy many items before asking for a blade brand. If the shopkeeper gave him an Ensor blade, the mystery shopper would reveal his identity and give him ₹1000 in cash right away as a “loyalty prize.” The mystery shopper had to get an invoice signed and then hand over the money. If the shopkeeper didn’t give Ensor blade to the mystery shopper, then it was the mystery shopper’s job to enlighten the shopkeeper about the ongoing promotional scheme. It used to be a considerable amount in those days. The exercise was to promote and encourage the customers to buy the Ensor blade. It was a mutually beneficial scheme where both the mystery shopper and retailer used to benefit. Both of them stood a chance to get a handsome amount in return.
In the Display Contest, we had given some promotional material to the retailers, and we expected them to display them at their outlet. The jury used to go around the city judging the best retail outlet, and the retailer stood another chance to win a prize.
We also had a contest for the consumers. They had to complete a slogan, and in return, they used to get some goodies. But this one was difficult because I had to liaison with different government departments to ensure that this one was skill-based and had nothing to do with chance. I remember spending long hours at the government offices ensuring that there was no breach of the law, especially for the consumer contest. I had to ensure that this one didn’t fall under the ambit of the Maharashtra Lotteries (Control and Tax) and Prize Competitions (Tax) Act, 1958.
I had implemented this scheme personally in Bombay (as it was called then) because my dear friend Bunty was handling the brand, and he had immense belief in my “marketing talent.”
I can bet that not even 5% of advertising professionals would know about the Marketing Schemes because guys do not think Advertising has anything to do with Marketing. Sadly, Marketing has become more of Sales. Hence, nobody is willing to guarantee the product’s sale as a result of the advertising campaign. We, even today, ensure the achievement of marketing goals, provided the Client doesn’t interfere in our job.


MRUC, media manual and a secret between two friends

The first-ever readership survey in India was conducted in 1971, by ORG if I remember right.
After that, subsequent readership studies took five years gap to complete. Research agencies kept changing, and differences of opinion led to Roda Mehta parting ways with Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI). Roda showed her middle finger to AAAI and established “Her Own” outfit called Media Research Users Council India (MRUC India).
I recall an interesting incident with Roda.
When AAAI decided to start Media Planning Workshops, I compiled the manual for workshops. The day manual was released, my friend Bahadur Merwan, who was on the sub-committee with me, called me.
Bahadur said, “Jameel, Roda is upset with you. She may sue you.”
I asked, “Why Bahadur? What did I do?”
Bahadur replied, “You have taken page 1 to page 15 of your manual from Roda’s manual and haven’t bothered to give her credit.”
I was stunned, but very calmly, I replied, “Bahadur, please tell Roda that my source is the book called Media Planning by James Adams. I shall be grateful if Roda could tell me what her source is.”
What conversation took place between Bahadur and me after that will go to my grave.
Anyway, I am told now MRUC publishes Readership Study every year.
Whatever I could look at tells me what study being published by MRUC seems to be “Desk Research.” 😉


My memory needle is stuck in the past

During my stint at MAA, I was associated with Sheel Kumar and Swadesh Chaddha of Radiowani. We used to produce radio commercials. One commercial is still stuck in my head, even after 43 years. It was for Singer Sewing Machine Needles.
The commercial was:
चल चल चमेली
बाग़ में मेवा खिलाऊँगा
मेवे की डाल टूट गई तो?
चादर बिछाऊँगा
चादरका कोना फट गया तो?
दर्ज़ी बुलाऊँगा
दर्जी की सुई टूट गई तो?
सिंगर की सुई लाउँगा
Those were the good old days of advertising!


How a brand smartly switched on success

David Ogilvy had once famously said, “Unless your campaign has a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.” True that. 

My dear friend and colleague Gopi Kukde of “Onida Devil” fame and I tried to work around this thought when we got Leon International aboard as a client. The foreign brand offered various products ranging from switches and sockets to suit every need, with safety as the priority. 

It was entering the Indian market with a lot of hope. Our job was to make the right noises for the brand to be noticed by the target audience – the engineers, architects and interior decorators – who would eventually recommend the product. 

It was a premium brand in this segment. Leon International’s switches and sockets cost Rs 150-Rs 10K during those days while the Indian products came much cheaper.     

We deliberately avoided a celebrity to endorse these products because it was a standalone brand with little or no competition in the Indian market. Also, because we believed that these switches and sockets came with ample credibility, it alone could help the product live up to the 4Ps and keep the promise made to its customers. 

In hindsight, I feel the TVC was a simple but fantastic idea. It showed only the hands painted with different flags moving towards the switch. The last one was the hand with the tricolour on it. The copy below was crisp and clear in its messaging. It said, “Leon International, Now in India.” With that, we had announced Leon International’s arrival, made an impact and reached out to the target audience. 

The media planning and buying were sharp in their approach as well. We had promised the brand that we would deliver value for money, and I am glad we could do it. The brand spent a frugal amount, but got a good deal in return. We managed to get 20 ad spots on a leading news channel’s two of the most popular programmes, five of them during prime time. It was quite a catch, cheap and best. 

It helped us cut across the clutter and steer the brand safely, and anchor it in the minds of the prospective customers who would eventually buy these products. It happened, and that too without any celebrity endorsement. The initial splash helped the brand make inroads into the Indian market and has sustained it all along. I don’t remember them doing any advertisements after their debut outing, and that’s why I say that a good start is a good beginning, always.


Work with pleasure, always

That’s what my boss Murli Manohar Swarup taught me… on how to find the elusive Anand (bliss) in work.

Jameel Gulrays

I lost my mother in 1969, 12 years after my father’s demise. I was all alone in this world with two young brothers. To fend for myself and my siblings, I had joined my father Abid Gulrays’ friend Ayaz Peerbhoy’s Marketing Advertising Associates Pvt. Ltd. while pursuing my studies.
I was working with Murli Manohar Swarup for the Indian languages copy and radio department. Simultaneously, I was also working with the media department as an assistant to M.A. Khan.
On March 12, 1971, Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Rajesh Khanna-Amitabh Bachchan starrer Anand had released. I was, and still am, a movie buff, so I had to watch the film on the first day itself, if not the first day, first show.
That evening, I had booked my ticket for the evening show at Regal and had planned to scoot after calling it a day at work. The theatre was across the road, and the show was to start at 6.15 pm.
Just when I was about to leave office, my boss Murli Manohar Swarup walked up to me and said, “Today, I have got a sudden engagement. Sanforized Ke Mehman’s next episode is scheduled to be recorded at 7.30 pm. Jameel, you will have to go to HMV studio to supervise the recording.”
I replied, “But Sir, I have booked my ticket for the evening show, and I am going to watch Anand.” He was pretty curt in his response. “Either watch a movie or build your career. I leave it to you,” and walked away in a huff, leaving me in a fix. No doubt, I had a difficult choice to make, and quickly because it was already 6 pm. The Hamletian dilemma got the better of me. Whether to be at the Regal theatre or the HMV recording studio was a tough call.

The iconic movie celebrated its 5oth anniversary in March 2021.

I was visibly upset with the sudden change of plan because I felt it was unfair on my boss’ part to assign work, and that too, after office hours. But Mr Swarup was my boss, and come what may, and I had to abide by his impromptu order. I didn’t want to miss my movie, but Mr Swarup’s words were echoing in my ears, loud and clear. “Either watch that movie or build your career.” Finally, I tore my movie ticket and went on to supervise the recording.
I learned to give precedence to business and not mix it with pleasure, but instead work with pleasure.
Such is life and its invaluable lessons. 😊
And to date, work alone gives me Anand (joy), quite literally.


Copywriting is all about being word wise

In February 1977, I met K. Kurian, founder and chairman of Radeus Advertising, for the first time. He was interviewing me for the post of Hindi copywriter in the agency. 

He said, “Before I ask you any question, I want you to look at our existing Hindi advertisements and give your comments”. 

Then he called for all his clients’ guard books. I don’t think today’s advertising professionals would know what guard books are. A guard book is an advertising agency’s internal archive of work done for a particular client. 

First, the guard book was for Firestone Tyres

In the first ad, in its first two sentences itself, I could spot errors. I asked him, “May I please get a pencil, Mr Kurian?”

He was amused and wondered, and rightly so. “Why do would need a pencil?” was his question. 

I replied, “To mark spelling errors, first.”

Mr Kurian shot back, “You mean to say our published ads have spelling errors?” 

Well, yes, they had. But he was gracious enough not to get offended, and that’s how I bagged my copywriting job at Radeus.  

Today, spelling errors ain’t a great deal because “sab chalta hai dude.” 😀😀😀


Dr Verghese Kurien: The brightest star of the Milky Way

A trip down memory lane, reminiscing my professional association with the Milkman of India on Amul’s 75th anniversary that also coincides with his centenary year celebration. Truly, it is nothing but ‘pyaar ki meethi bhent’ for someone I deeply admired. 

We are supposedly in a galaxy made up of about 200 billion stars and an all-encompassing halo… Looking back at one of the strongest influences in my life, I cannot but liken this man, who the world calls the ‘Milkman of India’, to this galaxy, ironically also called the Milky Way.

My first encounter with Dr Verghese Kurien, the man behind AMUL, GCMMF, NDDB, IRMA, was almost four decades ago. I first met him as a raw, young advertising man who was introduced to him as the media planner on the account. I knew him as my client. My first encounter with him set the course of what I term as my coming of age in advertising.

Dr Kurien was, what most advertising professionals today may term, a terror. But again, which client isn’t, one may ask? But the terror here was not the one who would yell or scream or misbehave or want one to do stuff his way. In fact, he was just the opposite. A client who called his agency, briefed them, set targets and cordially told them he would meet them a year later… if we met the targets, we continued servicing AMUL; if we did not, he would give us a warm send-off. Now which advertising professional would not find this terrorising… an invisible sword hanging over our heads that reasonably said, meant perform, increase sales and continue on the account. If you fail to meet the marketing goal, EXIT! Clear. Precise. Unarguable. 

When I first met him, I felt I was starting school. Still, after continuously servicing his account for 17 successful years, meeting targets year after year, I felt I had successfully graduated and post-graduated, year-on-year, with honours.

The man was clear in his vision, precise in his method and unarguably accurate in what he believed was good for the farmers. His indefatigable attitude of taking a bull by its horns made sure he successfully took on every challenge thrown up by the white revolution. When the problem of excess milk going to waste surfaced after AMUL successfully harnessed the massive support of milkmen, who contributed directly to the co-operative eliminating middlemen, he started the manufacture of AMUL milk powder. When he saw multinationals successfully market milk chocolates, his next thought was ‘why not AMUL’ and here came Amul Milk Chocolates…

The introduction of AMUL milk chocolates was a chapter in communications by itself. The chocolate went through multiple modifications to suit the 4 Ps of marketing. When it melted in summers due to retailers not having refrigeration to store it, he introduced carton packing to keep the chocolate safe. When it came to fighting out the frequency war in advertising, he, like the dream client he was, quickly took on my media suggestion of running 10-second commercials to every ‘slice of life’ commercial of the leader. 

We re-wrote the way creative worked, by aligning them to adhering to ‘only 10-second commercials’. At one-third of the budget, AMUL Chocolates soon captured the nation’s heart with its ‘A Gift for Someone You Love’ proposition.

Amul Chocolate advertisement.

His journey to make AMUL a head-on competitor, if not a leader in every milk product category, drove him to manufacture condensed milk, a product he felt was not as good as the competitors despite several modifications. But he was relentless in his pursuit of taking the co-operative to heights none of its shareholders could imagine.

Manthan by Shyam Benegal.

The story of the co-operative’s success behind the “Anand Pattern” of dairy development, which today has been adopted all over the country, was captured in the Shyam Benegal movie Manthan. This was the first time in India that a feature film was financed by farmers — the 500,000 farmers of Gujarat, as part of Dr Kurien’s Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation.

In 1994, when the agency where I was working for, Radeus, another co-operative, was surreptitiously sold off to what is now TBWA-Anthem, Dr Kurien withdrew the account stating, “Your agency may be up for sale. My account isn’t.” 

Maybe the man behind India’s most successful co-operative movement felt as cheated as us, that his namesake Kurien, the head of Radeus had committed this breach.

For more than five decades, this ‘Milkman of India’ blazed many trails, taking his dream project to dizzying heights. India is what she is today due to the contributions of great men like Dr Verghese — an engineer who gave up the prospect of a good life and walked into a village to lead India to her glory. Rare is such selflessness, and rarer is the ability to see the largesse such men build, not for themselves but the masses. After struggling and fighting against middlemen and establishing a profitable co-operative, he saw the path he had made slowly obliterated, with none other than his protégés in an uprising against him. Dr Kurien was subject to utmost humiliation, by none other than those who served and were mentored by him, and finally gave up by resigning in 2006.

He, however, continued to stay in Anand, which from an unknown, remote village transformed into an invigorating, recognisable and exemplary speck on the world map. Today, many shall sing his praises, and many of these would be his detractors, who put this great man through ignominy. But like all great men, he too must be laughing all the way, at this farce that will be put up, as a good show, devoid of all sincerity.

I pay my heartfelt tribute to this man, who is as much a reason for my success as my other mentor, his namesake Kurien. My book would not have been what it is if it was not for the experiences I earned from Amul.

As I bid remember my dearest teacher, I cannot but recite this apt couplet, “Woh log humne ek hi shokhi mein kho diye, Paida kiya falak ne jinhe khaak chhan kar”.


I wish if I could…

I have a wish to make at least 4 more good advertising professionals before I leave this world. I have been a teacher and would love to pass on whatever little I know to a few eager-to-learn bunch of advertising newbies. It will be a small group so that I can respond to queries, and give individual attention. The takeaway would be an opportunity to learn the nuances of media planning.
Unfortunately, today most of the advertising agencies are owned by “Foreigners” who have made every employee, including CEOs to earn “Profits” for them. With the account type individuals, training, professional development has taken a back seat.
Even professional associations, etc., too have mediocre people at the helm of affairs. If any one is offended with my remark, I invite them to debate with me on a public forum.
Looking at the situation, I’ve now decided to conduct my Creative Workshop for students, once again.
Would you want to join?


Why this furore over Jashn-e-Riwaaz?

दीवाली पर जश्न-ए-रिवाज कहने में क्या गुनाह है? भाजपा नेता तेजस्वी सूर्या की धमकी के बाद फैब इंडिया ने हटाया विज्ञापन। सफाई भी दी। लेकिन फैब इंडिया के बहाने किस पर निशाना लगा रहे हैं तेजस्वी? उर्दू क्या मुसलमानों की भाषा है? आलोक जोशी के साथ जमील गुलरेज़, शरत प्रधान, नवीन जोशी और हिमांशु बाजपेई।


Advertising: Believe it or not?

In this age of skepticism, cleverness for the sake of cleverness will be a liability rather than an asset.
Consumers do not appreciate, cleverness for the sake of cleverness in any of the promotional message. Their reactions to our promotional messages have been:
A. I don’t trust you. Why should I ?
B. I am surprised when something I buy actually performs the way it was advertise to perform.
C. Others make the same claim you do; most of you lying.


Writing that copy right is an art

For a copywriter of a television commercial, the copy should be the words (audio) that accompany the pictures in a television commercial.
Pictures must tell the story. Audio is supposed to support the visuals. But today, look at most commercials; almost all of them are radio spots where visuals support audio. We haven’t got over the hangover of radio commercials.
We got to remember that a lot of television viewers look at commercial breaks with sound muted. Visuals must tell the story even without audio.
Most of our copywriters tend to get carried away with the idea of writing “piece of life” commercials and fall into this trap of writing radio spots when they are supposed to be writing TV commercials.


RIP Media Planning

In 1969, at the age of 19, I came into advertising. At that moment, the media planning was limited to raising an estimate, drawing a schedule, and only upon client approval, release orders (RO) were issued.
A movement to professionalise Media Planning saw the birth of the first readership survey in 1971. ORG conducted the research.
The report had too many errors and not an error of judgement. However, over a while constant efforts to make media planning as professional as possible & we did reach there with Media Planners such as Roda Mehta, Ketaki Gupte, PRP Nair, Paulomi Dhawan, Lynn de Souza, Arvind Vinayak & Yours Truly.
In 1990s, Martin Sorrel went on a buying spree and managed to buy over 80% of Indian Advertising Agencies. With an accountant as the owner, Advertising was destined to see its lowest ebb. Which I am looking at almost every day.
Now, there ain’t any media planners left.
Recently, for one my largest account as consultant, The No. 1 agency presented The Effective Media Reach as The Plan Reach while presenting a media plan. When I asked them, “how did you work this out?”, the meek answer was “Software” to which I asked, “do you know the formula?” The answer was meeker this time, “No”.
May I say any more?
In 1970, when I joined advertising, advertising media was limited to raising estimates, drawing up schedules for client’s product, service or idea promotion and nothing else. The media went to the summit of planning. Now it is back to just drawing up estimates, schedules once again.
Happy Media Buying. Goodbye Media Planning.


What is PR?

Today’s so-called PR agencies were “Financial Agencies” during the Harshad Mehta Scam. Once the bluff was called off, those “Financial Agencies” started converting themselves into “PR” agencies with Global Tie-Ups.
Neither were they aware of the real meaning of “Public Relations” back then, nor are they any wiser now. During my tenure as Training & Professional Development Chairman at AAAI, we had requested our dear friend Sushil Bahl, Communication Street, to put together a manual for PR professionals. Sushil did a fabulous job. In this generation, I don’t know anybody who read or seen Sushil’s manual. Had they seen it, they would have been much better professionals.


Name, numerology and Bisca ready-to-eat noodles

It was in 1980s that Parle’s had launched first ever ready-to-eat noodles. The name of instant food was branded as Bisca (Yes, on astrologer’s recommendations five letters brand name like Limca. Pandit Ji’s recommendations did not work as product didn’t work with consumers. Probably the product was much ahead of it times). You were supposed to add boiling water in the pack and wait for 3 minutes & it was ready to eat.
The commercial for Bisca, which I wrote was:
Iss ka Bisca
Uss ka Bisca
Mera Bisca
Sab ka Bisca
(Product Window)
We were taught that we must try to brand name as often as possible because product was the hero and monies were spent to promote it.
These days when I am watching commercials, there are times when I struggle to get the brand name. Ain’t monies going down the drain if a consumer is made to struggle to get the name of the product?


भाषाएं कहीं महज बोलियों में न बदल जाएं

भाषाएं कहीं महज बोलियों में न बदल जाएं जमील गुलरेज पाकिस्तान से पिछले दिनों उर्दू को लेकर एक खबर सामने आई। खबर कुछ यूं थी, ‘पाक सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने उर्दू को लेकर इमरान खान को लगाई फटकार।’ खबर को
— Read on epaper.navbharattimes.com/imageview_54126_58375_4_13_04-10-2021_14_i_1_sf.html


Remembering RK Swamy

I recall my days with the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) when Larry Grant, Govind Sajnani, Bahadur Merwan, Gopi Kukde, and I conducted “creative workshops” in Mumbai.
I conducted 52, 3-months workshops at a stretch without any break. I am sure it was some record, but I never bothered to run after records. AAAI also published my advertising book in Hindi; the book being the first one on this subject in Hindi. That, too, was a record, but neither AAAI nor I claimed the record. We with AAAI also compiled the first-ever manual for Creative Planning, Media Planning, Film Production, PR Planning & Print Production. Today, AAAI doesn’t seem to take any pride in these firsts which they pioneered. All these activities were started when the great R K Swamy was the president of AAAI. He earnestly believed in training and professional development for our profession. Mr R K Swamy, you are being sorely missed.

(Photo sourced from RK Swamy BBDO Pvt. Ltd.)


विज्ञापन की परिभाषाएँ

विज्ञापन क्या है? कभी किसी ने अपने एक लेख में चकब्लोर की परिभाषा का उल्लेख किया था. चकब्लोर के अनुसार, “विज्ञापन मानवीय बुद्धि को बस उतनी देर अवरुध्द कर देने की कला है, जितनी देर उसकी जेब से रक़म निकलवाने में लगे।”

इस परिभाषा को अगर पूरी तरह सही मान लिया जाए तो सारे विज्ञापन अभियान केवल दुकानों के आस पास ही चलने चाहिएँ, क्यूँकि ये वही स्थान है जहां उपभोक्ता अपनी जेब से रक़म निकालता है। टी वी पर कोई विज्ञापन देखने के बाद, जेब से रुपये निकाल कर दुकानों की ओर नहीं दौड़ते हैं। मेरी राय में ये परिभाषा सड़कों पर मजमा लगा कर लोगों को मूर्ख बनाने वालों पर ज़्यादा लागू होती है।

आज सभी उत्पादक (जो व्यावसायिक हैं) मानते हैं कि उपभोक्ता कम अक़्ल हस्ती नहीं, बल्कि बुद्धिमान जीव है। इसीलिए वो उसे तर्क द्वारा अपना उत्पादन ख़रीदने और इस्तेमाल करने के लिए प्रेरित करते हैं।

परिभाषाओं की बात निकली है तो आइए, चंद और परिभाषाओं पर भी एक नज़र डाल लेते हैं। एच जी वेल्स का कहना है “विज्ञापन वैध झूठ का दूसरा नाम है” उनकी ये राय शायद ‘शादी से पहले, शादी के बाद ज़रूर मिलें, खोई हुई ताक़त दुबारा हासिल करें, जवानी की भूल पर ना पछताएँ” जैसे विज्ञापनों पर आधारित होगी। इनकी इस राये के लिए हम विज्ञापन व्यवसायी स्वयं ज़िम्मेदार हैं, क्यूँकि अक्सर हम उत्पादनों के बढ़े-चढ़े झूठे बखान के दोषी होते हैं ।

टॉमस जेफ़रसन के अनुसार, “समाचार पत्रों में केवल विज्ञापन वे सत्य बयान करते हैं, जिन पर भरोसा किया जा सकता है।” ज़ाहिर है जेफ़रसन साहब का वास्ता उन विज्ञापनों से पड़ा होगा जो ईमानदारी के से उपभोक्ताओं को अपनी ओर खींचने का प्रयत्न करते हैं।

ब्रूस बरटन का कहना है “यदि विज्ञापन लोगों से उनकी हैसियत से ज़्यादा ख़र्च करवाता है तो उसे गरिया क्यूँ जाए क्यूँकि लोग शादी करके भी तो अपनी हैसियत से बेहतर जीवन जीने का प्रयत्न करते ही हैं।”

यहाँ सिवाए मज़ाक़ के कोई और तुक नज़र नहीं आती। हाँ, ये ज़रूर सही है कि अगर कोई अपनी हैसियत से बध कर जीने की कोशिश करता है तो इसमें विज्ञापन का क्या दोष? करोड़ों लोग होंगे जो मर्सिडीज़ का विज्ञापन देख कर उसे ख़रीदने और इस्तेमाल करने की इच्छा रखते होंगे लेकिन ख़रीदते वही हैं जिनके जेब में दाम होते हैं।


Purpose defeated

The enormity of advertising clutter is on the rise. The latest is the half-page advertisement by Stanley Lifestyles in the leading national daily today.
It makes sense to reiterate once again that advertising happens incidentally.  
In a layman’s language, incidental ad exposure implies that an advertisement receives minimal attentional resources. At the same time, other more relevant information is being processed like a radio advertising spot between a news discussion or an advertising ticker on a primetime news show or a half-page advertisement on the first page of a leading newspaper will make the advertising message get lost in the melee of information.
A study on incidental ad exposure to examine whether incidental exposure to an ad increases the likelihood that a product depicted in the ad will be included in a consideration set suggested that the incidental exposure effect is relatively robust, occurring across a variety of factors such as when the consideration set formation context was memory or stimulus-based, when the buying situation was familiar or unfamiliar, and across two different product classes. Further, these effects were found despite subjects’ lack of explicit memory for the ads.
The advertisement aims to grab a consumer by the collar, hold his attention, and become the medium to convey the message, i.e. buy the product.
The advertisement by Stanley Lifestyles miserably fails to achieve even one of these advertising goals.
Because the messaging is not clear. “Makers of the Beautiful.” “Stanley Bespoke Luxury for the Aristocratic Few.” What does this imply? Your guess is as good as mine. There’s zilch clarity about the product and its USP that this advertising tries to sell. To add to it, how do you process a white horse, a lady with a birdcage and a high-end sofa. Is it a bespoke furniture brand’s advertisement? Could be. It isn’t staring at me in the face so I chose to look away.
Because of the missing centre of the layout. This particular advertisement’s centre is a confusing spot. It fails to grab a reader’s attention.
Because there’s no entry-exit point for a reader. The advertisement space has no access point for a reader to get in, stay for a few minutes, and then leave. The images, copy, and layout are all so jumbled up.
The purpose stands defeated. It must have cost a bomb to buy that half-page of prime advertising space in a leading daily. There’s going to be no return on the furniture boutique’s investment because of the messy advertisement, and that is saddening.


Nothing to add

Well, if yesterday was about two full pages of political advertorial, today it was about a coaching institute and its online preparatory programme for chartered accountancy exams hogging the entire first page one of my newspaper that spoiled my morning reading exercise.
The ‘well-intentioned’ advertisement claimed that the said coaching institute has a perfect understanding of the painpoints of CA aspirant like no other and enrolling here might help one crack the exam with flying colours and without taking too many attempts.
A small box at the end mentioned the packages available, and a promo code to avail further discount for the 360° comprehensive online coaching.
The said coaching institute already has a programme running for banking/SSC/State PSC exam, and plans to introduce civil services exam coaching soon.
To say the least, the institute must have spent crores to bag this prime space in the leading national daily.
My two cents on their attempt to capture the market of specialised online coaching questions the veracity of their claim, and the missing trust factor. “On an average, it takes 5 attempts to crack CA.” After repeating the previous sentence thrice, it says, “Don’t like repeating, then XYZ is for you.” It is a misleading statement to start with, and there would be many gullible ones who are likely to fall for their tall claim.
To say the least, the full-page ad openly flouts the ASCI’s Code for Self-Regulation in Advertising because the advertisement states and leads the public at large to believe that enrolment in the preparation programme at the said coaching class will provide the student a guaranteed CA degree in less than five attempts. My question here is – will the advertiser submit substantiation to such effect and also assume full responsibility thereof in the same advertisement?
If not, then the advertisement fails to excel, and stays at the veranda.


Politically correct

During our advertising days, we swore by ethics. It was our responsibility to ensure that what we did was as good as how we did. We could not dither because playing by the rules was a norm and not an exception back then. That was a fair and straightforward way of how we operated, come what may.

With time, values change, and it saddens me to write this, but ethics have been the first casualty in today’s cut-throat age and across the board. People and organizations want to stay ahead of each other; they push and shove to be in the reckoning, and it is justified by one statement – all is fair in love and war.

But if you are thinking, why am I beating around the bush with all these words like advertising, ethics, rules, exception, values, competition, et all? let me tell you that it is all because of my newspaper, my morning tea companion. The humble newspaper has made me ponder and broach this topic here with all of you today.

Akbar Allahabadi had once famously said,
khīñcho na kamānoñ ko na talvār nikālo
jab top muqābil ho to aḳhbār nikālo
It means that one requires neither a bow and arrow nor a sword but publishing a newspaper alone is the best ammo against the firing of a cannon. Yes, that’s the power that a newspaper wields. With great power comes great responsibility, and as a reader, it hurts when a newspaper loses track of its responsibilities towards its readers, which is, unfortunately, a rule with a few exceptions hither and thither.

Today, a full-page advertisement about the importance of vaccines in combating the anticipated third wave and the ongoing vaccination drives in a faraway northern state here in Mumbai greeted me as soon as I picked up my copy of the leading newspaper. I was put off by the advertisement and kept aside my copy aside in disdain. As I slowly sipped my sugarless tea, one thought kept stirring in my mind. I wondered the purpose behind a pompous full-page devoted to harping a state’s vaccination drive and then anointing oneself as the real winner in the fight against the mighty coronavirus when the truth is miles and miles away from this, and we all know this very well. How does this advertisement serve the readers in Mumbai? How is it going to help the state government in its outreach plan? What irked me further was the line at the bottom that proclaimed that this is a joint initiative of XYZ paper and ABC Govt. That perhaps sums up how a sacrosanct newspaper space, its Page 1, has been traded off for pelf. The irreparable loss of the sanctity of the printed word hurts me most.  

The newspaper’s front page is the face of a newspaper, and it belongs to the reader. It usually is read first. It draws attention, which makes it a coveted space for advertising as well. No doubts about that. But an old school reader like me would like more news and less advertisement on the first page, at least. I feel shortchanged and let down by the leading newspaper’s politically correct move.  


‘विज्ञापन व्यवसाय कला के इंद्रधनुषी रंगों से सजा विज्ञान है’

अपने पचास वर्षों के अनुभव के आधार पर विश्वास से कह सकता हूँ कि भारत में या फिर शायद सारे संसार में विज्ञापन व्यवसाय से जुड़े लोगों की एक जटिल समस्या है और वो है, इस दुनिया में हर व्यक्ति के दो व्यवसाय होना।

जी हाँ, हर व्यक्ति के दो व्यवसाय होते हैं, एक वो, जिससे वो व्यक्ति जुड़ा है, और दूसरा होता है विज्ञापन व्यवसाय। हर व्यक्ति समझता है कि वो विज्ञापन बना सकता है। उसका मानना है कि विज्ञापन आख़िर होता क्या है — सिवाए एक तस्वीर और एक नारे के। तस्वीर खोज लो। एक अच्छा, बुरा या ऊट पटाँग नारा लिख लो, बस, विज्ञापन तैयार है। तभी तो वो विज्ञापन अभियान जिसे विज्ञापन अजेंसियाँ महीनों की मेहनत के बाद तैयार करती हैं, उन्हें उत्पादक स्वयं या उनकी पत्नियाँ या फिर उनके कर्मचारी मिनटों में तहस नहस कर देते हैं।

जो लोग विज्ञापन व्यवसाय से जुड़े हैं और सही मायनों में व्यवसायिक हैं, जानते हैं कि एक नारा और एक तस्वीर तय करने में कितनी छान-बीन करनी पड़ती है। जिस उत्पादन का विज्ञापन करना होता है, उसके बारे में लगभग सब कुछ जानना और समझना पड़ता है। क्यूँकि विज्ञापन व्यवसाय कला भी है और विज्ञान भी, ये कहना भी ग़लत नहीं होगा कि विज्ञापन व्यवसाय कला के इंद्रधनुषी रंगों से सजा विज्ञान है, जहां तर्क भी खोजने पड़ते हैं और उन्हें कला के रंगों से सजाना संवारना भी पड़ता है। 

हर अच्छा विज्ञापन उपभोक्ता तक पहुँचने से पहले विज्ञापन एजेन्सी में तीन मुख्य चरणों से गुजरता है। पहले चरण में इस बात का फ़ैसला किया जाता है कि क्या कहना है जबकि दूसरे और तीसरे चरण में ये तय किया जाता है कि कैसे कहना है और कहाँ कहना है।

पहले चरण में, यानी क्या कहना है, में जिस उत्पाद का विज्ञापन करना है उसके गुणों और कमज़ोरियों का उसी समान या उसके प्रतिस्पर्धी की तुलना में अध्ययन किया जाता है और ये मालूम करने की कोशिश की जाती है कि वे कौन से गुण हैं जिनका उल्लेख प्रतिस्पर्धी ब्रांड अपने विज्ञापनों में नहीं कर रहे हैं।

उत्पादक के तौर पर, लिम्का से पहले और अब फिर शीतल पेयों के विज्ञापनों में रंगारंग तस्वीरें का बड़े पैमाने पर इस्तेमाल होता है। जब हम लिम्का पर काम करते थे तब हम जान बूझ कर तस्वीरों की जगह इलसटरे्शन का इस्तेमाल किया। उस समय, प्रिंट, सबसे बड़ा माध्यम हुआ करता था। इसके इलावा सारे शीतल पेय रंग जामने की बात किया करते थे। उस समय लिम्का सारे अभियान का आधार प्यास था. हमारा मानना था कि शीतल पेयों का पहला काम होता है, प्यास बुझाना और ज़्यादातर उपभोक्ता प्यास बुझाने के लिए ही पेय ख़रीदते हैं। 

इसी को आधार बना कर, विज्ञापन अभियान बना गया था। 

इस चरण में क्या कहना है का फ़ैसला होता है। 

कैसे कहना है और कहाँ कहना है, दोनों चरण पर साथ-साथ काम होता है क्यूँकि इस बात का फ़ैसला कर लेने के बाद किस प्रकार के उपभोक्ताओं से बात करनी है, ये फ़ैसला करना होता है कि उनसे कहाँ बात करनी है? टी वी पर, रेडीओ पर, डिजिटल मीडिया में या प्रिंट मीडिया द्वारा? 

मान लीजिए कि हम आफ्टर शेव लोशन पर काम कर रहे हैं और सर्वेक्षण द्वारा मालूम होता है कि क़स्बों में रहने वाले रईस किसानों में आफ्टर शेव लोशन ख़रीदने की सम्भावना अधिक है। उस स्तिथि में पत्र-पत्रिकाओं की जगह टी वी और डिजिटल मीडिया बेहतर विकल्प होंगे। 

इस बात का फ़ैसला हो जाने पर उन माध्यमों के लिए उपयुक्त विज्ञापन अभियान तैयार करने की प्रक्रिया शुरू हो जाती है। 

मिसाल के तौर पर आयोडेक्स द्वारा ये तय कर लेने के बाद कि उपभोक्ताओं से कहना है कि आयोडेक्स दर्द भी दूर करता है और अच्छा भी करता है। तीन शब्दों ‘ऊह, आ, आउच’ का चयन किया गया होगा । यही उनके विज्ञापन अभियान के चिन्ह बन गए।


The Audio Medium


Nostalgia reloaded | My thoughts on Clubhouse in The Free Press Journal

The audio medium has always been music to former adman and Urdu connoisseur Jameel Gulrays’ ears. Having worked extensively in the field of aural communication during his advertising days, he is a firm believer in reading through one’s ears. 

“A voice playing on any device serves as the perfect background to many activities. A listener can interpret a voice visually, just the way they want,” he says, talking about how his six-year-old read-aloud stories’ project Katha Kathan has found a new home on Clubhouse. But unlike the Youtube and SoundCloud uploads, he finds storytelling sessions on Clubhouse more interactive and engaging. 

“Everything in writing begins with language. Language begins with listening. We give these storytelling sessions a feel of the radio play. I also get to speak to the audience, clear their doubts, discuss the story and get their feedback in real-time,” he says.

Gulrays and his Team Kathan perform dramatised readings of the lesser-known stories of Premchand on Saturdays at 10 pm as part of Jashn-e-Premchand and those of Saadat Hasan Manto on Sundays at 10 pm for The Other Side of Manto.  Gulrays’ storytelling sessions on Clubhouse has listeners across the world joining in.

The Other Side of Manto and Jashn-e-Premchand evoke nostalgia, reminding me of the good old days of the popular radio show Hawa Mahal.

An avid attendee from London, who grew up listening to the show on radio during her early years in Bhopal.

There’s a huge uptick in the user base of these platforms because as Gulrays says, “After all, you can truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.”  


विज्ञापन क्या है

विज्ञापन एक प्रकार का अनलिखा अनुबंध होता है — उत्पादक और उपभोक्ता के बीच । जहां उत्पादक यह वादा करता है कि वो अपने उत्पादन की क्वालिटी बढ़िया बनाए रखेगा और उसके उत्पादन में किसी प्रकार का दोष होने पर उपभोक्ता उसे, उसके पते पर धर सकता है। वहीं उपभोक्ता का कहना होता है कि चलिए हम आपके दावे पर भरोसा किए लेते हैं और आपका उत्पाद ख़रीद कर देखते हैं।

यही कारण है कि आम तौर पर उपभोक्ताओं में विज्ञापित उत्पादनों के प्रति अधिक विश्वास दिखाई देता है। आप खुद कभी ना कभी ऐसे अनुभव से ज़रूर गुज़रे होंगे। मान लीजिए आप टेलिविज़न सेट ख़रीदने जाते हैं। आपको चंद नाम याद आते हैं — सैमसंग, एल जी, सोनी, आदि, लेकिन दुकानदार आपको एक ऐसा सेट दिखाता है, जिसका आपने कभी नाम भी नहीं सुना है। माना उसके दाम आपको याद आने वाले नामों की तुलना में काफ़ी कम हैं, लेकिन आप हिचकिचाते हैं और अंत में निर्णय करते हैं — “नहीं भैया, भले कुछ अधिक दाम देने पड़ें, हम लेंगे वही सेट, जिसे हम जानते हैं”।

एक और मिसाल ले लीजिए, आप अपने लिए जींस ख़रीदना चाहते हैं और आपको एक ऐसी जींस नज़र आती है, जिसका नाम ना तो लीवाएज़ है और ना ही रैंगलर, ना ही डीज़ल है। बल्कि उस का नाम है “टिनपॉट”। हो सकता है उसकी क़ीमत कम हो, यहाँ भी आप झिझकेंगे। उसे नहीं ख़रीदेंगे।

विज्ञापन व्यवसाय में इन अनुबंधनों के मसौदे तैयार करने वाले कापीरायटर कहलाते हैं। यह वे लोग होते हैं जो उत्पादनों में छुपे गुणों को खोज निकालते हैं । इन्हें मसौदा तैयार करने से पहले कई बातों का ध्यान रखना होता है। सबसे पहले वे उन गुणों की खोज करते हैं जो केवल उनके उत्पादन में हों। जैसे लिरिल साबुन में नींबू की सनसनाती ताज़गी का एहसास। जब लिरिल का विज्ञापन अभियान शुरू हुआ था, तब लिरिल नींबू की ताज़गी वाला इकलौता साबुन था। अगर ऐसी स्थिति पैदा हो जाए, जहां अपनेउत्पादन और प्रतिस्पर्धी उत्पादनों में कोई फ़र्क़ ना हो, वहाँ ऐसा गुण खोजने की चेष्टा की जाती है, जो प्रतिस्पर्धी उत्पादन में भी शामिल हो, लेकिन प्रतिस्पर्धी ने उसका दावा अपने विज्ञापन में कभी ना किया हो।

इसका सबसे अच्छा उदारहण लिम्का है । जब हम लिम्का पर काम कर रहे थे, तब यही सोच रहे थे कि लिम्का के बारे में क्या कहा जाए जो दूसरे सॉफ़्ट ड्रिंक्स से अलग हो । सारे प्रतिस्पर्धी उत्पादों का अधय्यन करते हुए, हमने पाया कि जब पानी में कार्बन डाईआक्सायड मिलाई जाती है तब कोई बैकटेरिया जीवित नहीं रहता । पानी, पीने के लिए पूर्ण रूप से सुरक्षित हो जाता है । उसी अधय्यन में हमने ये भी पाया कि कोई सॉफ़्ट ड्रिंक उत्पाद ये दावा नहीं करता है । हमने, लिम्का के लिए “ज़ीरो बैकटेरिया सॉफ़्ट ड्रिंक” का दावा इस्तेमाल करना शुरू किया। ये दावा इतना कामयाब हुआ कि सन 1988 में, भारत अकेला वो देश बना जहां, कोला ड्रिंक की जगह, नींबू स्वाद वाल सॉफ़्ट ड्रिंक, नंबर एक सॉफ़्ट ड्रिंक था ।

अर्थात्, लिम्का के उस दावे को स्वीकार करते हुए, उपभोक्ताओं ने लिम्का को अपनाया। लिम्का, आज भी लोकप्रिय सॉफ़्ट ड्रिंक है, हालाँकि कोका-कोला ने इसे समाप्त करने के लिए अपना ज़ोर लगा कर देख लिया है । वैसे वो एक और लोकप्रिय सॉफ़्ट ड्रिंक, गोल्ड स्पॉट, को मौत के घाट उतारने में सफल हो चुके हैं।

ये अनुबंध टूटते भी जल्दी हैं । इनके टूटने के कई कारण होते हैं। सबसे पहला कारण होता है, अनुबंध में किए गए वादे पर पूरा ना उतरना। अक्सर लोग विज्ञापन बनाते समय यथार्थ की सीमाएँ फलांग जाते हैं और ऐसे दावे कर बैठते हैं, जिनका कसौटी पर खरा उतरना सम्भव नहीं होता है।

मुझे बड़ा आश्चर्य तब होता है जब राजनीतिक पार्टियाँ अपने अनुबंधों में किए गए वादों से बार-बार पलट जाती हैं लेकिन जनता का मोह फिर भी उनसे भंग नहीं होता है। कोई अगर राजनीतिक दलों का यह जादुई फ़ार्मूला हमें बता दे तो हम उस फ़ार्मूले को अन्य उत्पादों पर लागू कर हर विज्ञापन अभियान को सफल बना सकेंगे। 


World Chocolate Day

Amul Chocolate was one among the many brands that I nurtured during my 18-year stint at Radeus Advertising Pvt Ltd, Mumbai.

“A gift for someone you love.” These words are etched in our memories, yours and mine, and for obvious reasons. A mere mention of this slogan leaves a sweet taste in the mouth. It serves as a reminder of how Amul Chocolate’s six flavours – milk chocolate, crisp, orange, fruit and nut, bitter and coffee – transformed a bar of humble chocolate, till then considered a luxury product meant for the elite class, into a household name, loved by one and sundry. Today, on World Chocolate Day, I can’t help but remember my sweet association with the brand. Undoubtedly, it remains the most loved advertisement for Amul Chocolate from the 80s and 90s when the market space was dominated by two other giants, Nestle and Cadbury. 

The story of how we arrived at this slogan is interesting. My boss, K. Kurian, founder and chairman of Radeus Advertising, asked us to find out why a person buys a bar of chocolate before we started work on the campaign.

He told us that if we didn’t have enough money for a formal research, we must do “Janta Research”, but we couldn’t do without research. Accordingly, we got to our business with a sample size of 40. It included all the employees working for Radeus, who responded to this question. The answers were not surprising. The responses from 40 odd people conveyed the larger thought of 90% Indians of how a chocolate bar was something that people only bought to offer to others, as a gift, reward or a token of love or remembrance, but never for themselves. And that’s how we coined, A gift for someone you love or प्यार की मीठी भेंट. 

The slogan was more than just a corporate positioning or an advertising jargon. It conveyed a noble sentiment. It was all about the love between a father-child, mother-child, husband-wife, friends, lovers, etc., that made them buy chocolate as a gift. 

The slogan for Amul Chocolate — A gift for someone you love or प्यार की मीठी भेंट — cast a spell on the public and made them choose Amul above others because love was the defining thought; a gift of love bought with love for someone you love and to spread love.   

अमूल चॉकलेट। प्यार की मीठी भेंट
Amul Chocolate | A gift for someone you love

Public relations advertising

Public relations advertising as a single phrase seems almost a contradiction, certainly a paradox. Not too many years ago, and even today, public relations activities are widely separated from advertising. The debate about whether to build an image or to sell a product through advertising persists.
Building image generally is termed institutional advertising; rarely, public relations advertising.
If one goes the public relations advertising route, perhaps the precept to put high on the list is that it is a mistake to look upon paid time and space as paid editorial material.
It is far better to seize upon a cause, launch a genuine public service.
Public relations advertising is not designed to incite the public to rush out to trade with you.
Companies could take certain topics and pursue them through advertising for the betterment of the public at large.
In the recent past, the campaign to create awareness for Rotavirus is a good example in my opinion.
I would like to see companies promoting:
* youth fitness
* youth opportunity
* help prevent crime
* equal employment opportunity
* aid for higher education
* our Indian heritage
The list is just off the cuff.