Wednesday, March 27, 2013

You can have any color as long as it's *****

Ford Sorry for Mocked-up Ads in India Showing Bound and Gagged Women

All this, over this:

Here's the much-maligned, three-time Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi flashing a sign of victory, with three under-dressed ladies tied up and placed in the boot. And the Ford Figo with a "Leave Your Worries Behind" (LYWB) sign-off. So, what is this - is Silvio happy with his catch? Or is he 'leaving his worries behind' by abducting three potential witnesses from his many court cases? The latter would make sense, given the tagline. But it seems to be the former that has garnered everyone's attention and (shudder) outrage. Given this confusion, I don't think the boffins at JWT were up to the mark with this particular piece of creative. 

The remainder of the campaign, however, actually comes closer to the LYWB promise. There's Michael Schumacher in his latest and lesser avatar as a Mercedes driver, with the top three Formula 1 drivers bound and gagged in the Figo's boot. Given his tepid performance after an Afridi-esque reneging of a retirement promise, leaving his worries, i.e. Messrs. Alonso, Hamilton, and Vettel tied up in the boot of a little Indian hatchback was probably the only way he could have won on track.

And there's Paris Hilton doing the LYWB with the Kardashians. This I shall not comment upon as I'm slightly disconnected from the celeb glitterati. But just going by my Twitter feed, it seems that the Kardashians are more discussed than Ms.Hilton and her pink Bentley. Or her Yellow Figo, as the creative suggests. So Paris gets back to the limelight by doing a Schumi and Silvio number on the family that stole her limelight. Fair enough. 

All in all, it's a so-so campaign that's mildly tasteless and tangentially funny. It's a note on three (in)famous individuals who have a lot of worries. It's a poke at Silvio, who is up to his slicked-back hair in criminal cases ranging from drug trafficking, to colluding with the Mafia. But does it merit the resignation of an advertising executive? The black-listing of a young and mildly talented creative team in what is essentially a small, tight-knit professional community? Or the panning of a brand of cars, and also the 'degenerates' who stoop to buy them? Someone actually tweeted "If this is what Ford stands for, I'll never sit in a Ford again, much less buy one."

I am aghast at the bad PR that Ford and JWT have earned because of a series of scam ads. Scam, as in "I never in my life hope to publish these, but I'd like to see what the creative community thinks of my creative prowess." Because that's what scam ads are. A series of creatives done with the express intent of posting them on an intra-community advertising website, such as adsoftheworld. And possibly getting an honorable mention for creative excellence at one of the countless advertising award functions. It's not a reflection of the brand, nor is it sponsored by the advertising agency (in most cases). 

Much of the ire was directed towards the Berlusconi ad in particular. Very few publications and bloggers bothered to find the other two in the series, which would of course have put things in perspective. What I'm reading and hearing is this : guy-captures-guys is ok. Girl-captures-girls is ok. But guy-captures-girls is a big no-no. And whoever mentions guy-captures-girls is a sexist, misogynist pig. Never mind that the ad is just caricaturing Berlusconi - a man who has been criminally charged with all sorts of sexual hanky-panky. 

Now, thanks to a social media universe that neither takes the time to make an informed opinion for itself, nor stays off any bandwagon that promises 15 minutes of fame and countless Likes and retweets, Ford finds itself besieged by world media. Ford couldn't have got more bad PR if Princess Diana had crashed in a Mondeo - and there's no such thing as bad PR. And of course, the guilty creative team from JWT may find themselves jobless; not for a lack of creativity and suaveness, but because their brand of funny was not really funny according to The World. And where's the fairness in that? I sometimes fear that the whole world has lost perception, and lies in wait for a new cause to be outraged about. Sleep well, friends.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lay off Laxman

I've been waking up to The Great Indian Batting Nightmare for pretty much every mach day these past 20 days. Today, I woke up wanting to tear my TOI to little bits and burn it along with the paal pongal. I haven't bothered learning the name of the reporter - not worth those 3 seconds.

They've torn apart VVS. These callow pen wielders who couldn't put a barn wall to a Wasim Akram delivery are analyzing his technique, questioning his commitment, and suggesting demanding his exit from the team, the tour, and Indian cricket. This to a man who, since Jan 2010, averages 94 in 9 matches India have won, and over 50 runs/innings in 24 matches played in the same time period. And he scored a match-winning 176* two months ago. A man who has played so many memorable innings deserves to decide when he becomes just a memory.

I hate drawing comparisons, but the press may be better served looking at the stats of India's most celebrated opener, who has kept young blood like Rahane and Mukund out of the team. Sehwag's last meaningful contribution outside the subcontinent was a 151 against this opposition at Adelaide in....January 2008. 4 years ago. Including that knock, he averages just 31 outside the Indian subcontinent.

And what about El Capitan? The Man Who Won The World Cup With a Six. India's favorite success story. He averages 30.2 against A-list oppositions away from home. And he is an atrocious captain in the longer format, recognized for his failings by folks who know a couple of things about leading a side -  like Ian Chappell and Wasim Akram.

Both these undroppables get a free pass into the Test team because of their performance in the shorter formats; one with the bat (quite magnificent, with 7 centuries and an average touching 49), and the other with his captaincy and his average-bulking not-outs. VVS doesn't play the shorter format, and is remembered only for his Test appearances. He doesn't fuel hysteria like a meaningless ODI 200 against pedestrian bowling on flat tracks does, poor sod. For a man with precious few sound-bites, it's his distance from the public eye that is becoming his noose.

He's the youngest of the "creaking terminators", and has the technique, temperament, and big-game hunger to make a serious come back at Adelaide. Much like Ponting, Hussey, and Rahul Dravid have done at various points over the last year. And even if he doesn't, remember his sterling service to Indian cricket over the past decade, and give him the chance to call time on his career.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

South Africa jaana hai!

The plan is to visit South Africa, and embark on a safari. This trip is like no other, and my imagination has been running over-time, filling my dreams with vivid images of The Dark Continent. The happy sequence starts off with me driving a commandeered Land Rover (open-top, of course). I will be wearing my favorite Shikari Shambu hat and Rajinikanth-spec gold-rimmed Ray Ban Aviators. The Yashica WW-II era binocular handed down to me by my grandfather (whose glasses are about as thick as the Yash these days) will hang nonchalantly 'round my neck. The wife, dutifully perched behind me, shall use her export quality Chinese-made electric mosquito bat to keep pesky bloodsuckers at bay. For every ZAP, I plan to reward her with 60 seconds of binocular usage. Whistling happily, I will negotiate the jungle trail, and suddenly chance upon a well-fed lion resting at the other end of a blind curve. The SLR shall be grabbed from the seat beside mine, and the click-click of the shutter will capture the Sultan of the Shrubs for posterity. Even fifty years after this trip, I shall regale the young 'uns with a mildly creative version, snifter of brandy in hand - Ah!

I can feel it in my bones - this trip is going to define me. My unrequited love for big cats, gazelles, and Table Mountain shall be fulfilled! A quick trip to the cricketing Mecca of the Southern Hemisphere - Wanderers - is an added bonus. The lucre has been saved up under a benaami, and the boss has been intimated. What could possibly go wrong?

Damn the cool November evenings in Bangalore. The little bundle of joy is on a trajectory designed to derail our 2nd anniversary plans. Arriving mid-August, he/she (shall be referred to as 'it' henceforth) is homing in like an Exocet, and with every passing day our plan of going somewhere wild - or inundated with wildlife, whichever's cheaper - seems to be disappearing in a conflagration. But I shall not lose hope - I can punish myself by going alone and enjoying this pilgrimage enough for both the wife and myself. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Making the customer feel special

This morning, I got a call from Asia in a Box. The lady at the other end of the line said she was calling to let me know that A.i.a.B would be closed for renovation for the next 6 weeks.

This call blew my socks off for a couple of reasons:

- I am definitely not their most valuable customer. Anu and I possibly provide them with our custom once a month, if that. And our average order is between Rs.600 and Rs.1000, depending on whether we have guests over or not.

- Though I tip the delivery guy quite generously, I have never taken the trouble to call A.i.a.B after a meal and commend them on the outstanding Satay or Pad Thai. A.i.a.B would therefore have no reason to believe that we love them as much as we do.

- They aren't starved for customers. Our friends who live within their delivery radius call them more frequently than we do. Those who live outside their delivery radius keep telling us how they are prepared to move in to East Bangalore, just so that they can get order from A.i.a.B. Ergo, pretty popular.

The call this morning isn't a big deal. For all I know, they could have outsourced it to a couple of college kids wanting to make some extra dough (of course, the afore-mentioned college kids would have then had better luck at a pizza place, what?). But it leaves me feeling special. I know that when we have guests over any time in the next 6 weeks, I won't look stupid for promising them the best Thai food for dinner. I also know that I will definitely call them on the first day they re-open.

Small gesture, big payback. There's a lesson somewhere in there.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thangamani Enjoy!

The synapses are sparking away with newly discovered mojo. The Mrs. (and I acknowledge the high probability of her reading this) is going to be away for a couple of days next week.

Already, the troops are alive to the fact that the CO is getting some shore leave. Plans of a collegial nature are afoot, with blue prints being circulated across various media. A bottle of Single Malt (thank you, Bharat!) awaits its uncorking. My good friend Mary Joe might drop in. I've keyed in all the home delivery greasy spoons on my speed dial. That eclectic genre of film - the stoner movies - have been downloaded and primed for DVD release (forgive me, piracy police). ITC has been forewarned of a sudden spike in demand. Music of a loud and often tuneless nature has been "pre-loaded" onto my iPod - I love attaching "pre-" to every activity word (verb, if you will). It's a meaningless prefix that George Carlin hates - something I pre-ordered on a pre-vious trip State-side

And yet...and yet...I am pretty sure I'm going to miss the Mrs. (pardone moi for the tasteless pun) terribly. Honey, if you're reading this - it's not a get-out-of-jail card. I really mean it! There are many things that we married men as a class take for granted (I will not delve into the most private of these, you pervs). By the way, what's the difference between being kinky and pervy? Being kinky is using a feather; you're a perv if you use the entire chicken!

Party's at my place next week, gentlemen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Labor Pains

A Vice President (HR) was recently clubbed to death in Coimbatore. Reason? He laid off a bunch of striking workers who were obstructing others who actually wanted to get some work done.

I now wait for the Labor Minister to make a statement similar to the one last year (when the MD of Graziano got nailed). Something on the lines of "Modern business should recognize the power of labour, and should consider all other options before retrenching employees." Duh!
For a socio-capitalist nation, we do have some strange practices. What next? A gangland-type execution reserved for the Facilities Manager because he removed the current canteen wallah?

I'm going to stick my neck out here and point an accusing finger at two parties:

1. Armchair communists: You know the type. The ones who wear Fab India kurtaas and drive around in mildly luxurious cars while spouting Marx and writing copious pages in a leading national fortnightly about the bleak outlook for India's poor. If you're reading this, I hate you for your hypocrisy. I hate you for your rabble rousing. And I hate you for supporting causes to gain publicity.

2. Bolly, Kolly, Tolly, Molly, and other types of 70 mm wood: The greedy industrialist (GI) and his cruel side kick with a hair lip and steroid-infused musculature. And the common man hero who's lost his father, mother, unwed sister, and kindly grandmother to a fit of rage courtesy Hair Lip. And the police, by way of being in the pocket of GI, justice is denied.
Namma Hero executes a devilishly clever plan. He joins GI's company and reforms people from the inside. Hair Lip turns out to be a kind-hearted chap whose father used to shoe-beat him when he was a kid. And voila! Everyone turns on GI. Oh, and GI's daughter falls for Namma Hero.
I hate the constant rich vs. poor theme that stereotypes the successful as greedy and cruel, and the poor as being hopelessly subjugated. I hate the way the hero (whose billing for that particular film is slightly more than Cuba's GDP) mindlessly seeks that elusive reward - justice! And I especially hate the way violence is projected as the only way of making one's point.

You want to strike? Strike peacefully. You want to be heard? Make an intelligent argument. Fasting, demonstrating, stoning cars, burning effigies, blocking roads, and voicing lewd suggestions are not the best ways to win sympathy and make your point.

That said, my father-in-law is an HR professional. For his birthday later this year, I'm gifting him a little something that my friends Smith & Wesson made for me.

What Maketh a Bangalorean?

I met a charming man (CM) the other day. He was about 5' 10", of slight build, and his stained teeth betrayed a fondness for the paan. He was weaving through the light afternoon traffic on a gear-less step-through scooter, confident in the belief that his vehicle's derrière ended where he sat. It was this belief that encouraged him to brake-test me while cutting from Lane 1 to Lane 3 at an acute angle.

I braked heavily, startling my parents and wife. I also punched the horn button, tooting angrily at the said CM. CM obviously didn't enjoy being tooted at (who does?) and he pulled up in front of me to have a mano a mano type argument. Being stout-hearted and nursing a fondness for the m-a-m myself, I decided to exit the car and introduce myself to CM.

CM proceeded to employ some fruity Hindi cuss words. It was a sheer waste of breath and time, as I frankly don't get Hindi c.w. Give me the poetic Tamizh c.w. any day of the week. A well-directed Kaep Maari, Porambokku, or l.k.b (this last one is of Hindi origin, but has been fondly and permanently adopted by my state mates).

Anyway, CM realized that Hindi wasn't doing it for him, whereupon he decided to share his hypothesis on Tamizhian drivers with me. My car sports a TN registration (bit of the DQ charging the windmills there), and it wasn't difficult for him to deduce my native. CM claimed that TN drivers honked more than Bangaloreans, drove worse than Bangaloreans, and didn't belong in Bangalore. He was apparently some sort of an Ambassador for Bangalore, as he interspersed his tirade with sweet entreaties such as, "Chill, machan. Why are you getting tense? You are in Bangalore now. So chill machan....". Such e. failed to convince me of his friendly intentions, as the body of his monologue questioned the legality of my parentage, with mild threats of how easy it would be to set fire to my car.

Seeing that this friendly chat was going nowhere, I turned away from him. As I walked back to the car, he screamed out in frustration, asking me to return to where I belong. This last statement stung me. For Madras is closer to Bangalore than Patna is.