Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Joy of Ads

Advertising, the dirty A word, is usually agreed to be the most evil thing invented by consumerism. It springs at you from billboards on the expressway, and from the TV, often at the critical moment of the hero's adventure as he hangs off a cliff. But without advertising, you wouldn't be reading this blog, because guess what makes blogspot free? It is the singular entity driving most of the businesses in the world, from the repetitive, nasal cries of the market fisherman, to the flashy icons of Microsoft.

Over the years, advertising media has matured and become more sophisticated, as the market does the same. New ideas have to be thought of to catch the consumer's attention, from the thousand other ads that surround him. As a person who appreciates film, I always appreciate good creative ads. But what makes a good ad?

From now on, let it be known that jingles are EVIL. Evil right down to their hyperactive lyrics that stick in your head, and give you a headache everytime you hear it. I hate any ad with a jingle, and make maximum effort not to buy that product. I refuse to fall for repetitive-song-induced hypnotism. Nope. No siree. Never. *worriedly searches her room for such products*

One of the worst ads I've seen is where, typically, a woman hyperactively waxes lyrical about the product, usually dishwasher liquid. She oohs, aahs, and swears by the product for her successful home life.

Recently, the ad that has invaded our everyday space is the NTUC Income ad about insurance, playing on most MRTs. I literally winced when I watched it, wondering if the writers had just come out of a 20-year confinement and had lost all creativity. The actors looked like they had just gotten a botox shot and couldn't move a muscle.

Then of course, there is the infamous Richard Gere ad, waving his Visa card in India. Apart from the cultural depiction which I shall not comment on, it is utterly nonsensical. Show a bird seller in India a Visa card, and he'll ask you whether it is a new type of food for birds. He certainly wouldn't sell a thousand birds to you in an instant so that you can play the hero with a little girl. The only saving grace? Richard Gere's oozing sex appeal and effortless goofiness, and the oh-so-cute little girl.

Ironically, one of the best ads I've seen are from India, considering I grew up watching the dishwashing-liquid ads which used to be rampant there. This Airtel advertisement is seen on Asianet, the Malayalee channel.

You hear an Airtel ringtone playing somewhere, but you don't see where it comes from. A well-dressed, rich young man exits from his sports car and checks his handphone. It is not from his handphone. A auto-rickshaw driver is boasting to his friends about a rich tourist, and he whips out his handphone to check. It it not his handphone either. Cut to a rickshaw driver pedalling his livelihood, and he takes out the phone to answer. "New customer? At the Hotel? Foreigner, ah? I'll be there immediately!" Cut to the amazed expressions on the autorickshaw drivers' faces.

It is a simple, but powerful advertisement. Message? Our prices are so low, even a rickshaw driver can afford one. And what I like most about this ad is that it is reflective of a social trend in India, where handphones are catching on so fast the companies can't keep up. [Mainly due to the fact that most houses don't have a landline installed, either due to infrastructure or affordability problems. Infrastructure, most of the time, due to the inefficient Indian government]

One can debate the evils of advertisements, how it is driving the young to buy things they don't need, how it drives up anorexia and other problems. But it is useless to deny the existence of an artform that has evolved from this necessary evil.

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