Ambi Parameswaran: I hope our ads stay uniquely Indian

Jun 09, 2016, 08:47 IST | Fiona Fernandez

Adman Ambi Parameswaran's new title salutes Indian advertising that has wooed the desi consumer for five decades

  Q. Several books have attempted to unravel the world of Indian advertising; why did you zero in on the last 50 years for your book?
While there have been several books that have spoken about a particular person's journey in advertising or particular brands and campaigns, no one has attempted to paint a large landscape of advertising and the changing Indian society. There have been books about society and Bollywood, and society and Television. Nothing approaching the scope of Nawabs Nudes Noodles has been attempted till date. Hence this bold attempt.

Also read: Ambi Parameswaran lists five iconic ad campaigns that scripted the 'era of change' in India

Nawabs Nudes Noodles, Ambi Parameswaran, Pan Macmillan India, Rs 599. Available in bookstores and e-stores
Nawabs Nudes Noodles, Ambi Parameswaran, Pan Macmillan India, Rs 599. Available in bookstores and e-stores

Q. What were some of the discoveries that surprised you during research?
As I started reading published reports and especially American and other international books on the subject I realised that in India, advertising is probably a lot more loved than advertising in other countries. Our advertising is loved by one and all; sometimes, even more than the content on television. The reason for this is that due to our license permit raj, we did not have a deluge of advertising till twenty years ago. Even when the deluge started, our advertising has stayed true to our popular culture. So just as Indian movies are uniquely Indian, Indian ads are also uniquely Indian. I only hope they stay that way.

Ambi Parameswaran Advertising professional & author
Ambi Parameswaran. Advertising professional & author

Q. What factors have changed in Indian advertising since the 1960s and 70s and now?
The ad industry was a small one for many decades; in the 1960s and 70s it was an industry that spoke English, acted in theatre and had two martini lunches in tony clubs. Not any more. The industry first saw the influx of MBAs in the late 70s and 80s; then the influx of Indian language writers and creative talent. The industry is now pan Indian, not just based in South Mumbai [only two large agencies are still operating out of South Mumbai]. There is a huge growth of the media function and media agencies; now there is the Digital explosion.

Q. Are advertisers taking longer than expected to speak about gender bias, and other social stigmas today? Or has it come of age, finally?
I think advertising’s primary job is to sell products and services. That is the goal. We cannot forget that. We for a minute cannot say that the role of the Finance function is CSR. But while trying to connect with changing consumer attitudes and desires, brand need to change and reflect the change. In Nawabs Nudes Noodles, I have vividly explained how advertising has changed to reflect the changing moral values of society. Sometimes, ads have gone a little ahead to speak of an emergent trend. Often they have stayed true to the current values. There is nothing wrong with that.

Q. What age bracket is the most challenging for an adman to convince? Why?
Undoubtedly, the youth, the 15 to 25 year-olds are the most difficult. Look at all the mobile handset ads being beamed at them — the confusion and vanilla flavour is showing through. Most of them just show kids singing and dancing. Compare that with some of the more intelligent ads aimed at the youth.

Q. If there were one ad campaign that resonated Indian psyche in a humourous way, what would

it be?
Fevicol holds the Grand Jury prize for being the most interesting long-running execution of a simple idea that continues to resonate with the Indian psyche.

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Famous 5 indian campaigns
Raymond (Complete Man)
2. Surf: Lalitaji  
3. Cadbury: Cricket
4. Naukri: Hari Sadu
5. Tanishq: Remarriage

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