Since our lazy and incompetent netas and babus aren’t able to deal with our myriad social problems, it appears that private marketers have taken it upon themselves to sort out screw-ups facing the nation (and the world at large). And curiously enough, this route is being used by brands, which, er, have nothing new to say to the consumers about themselves. Brands that are stuck in product categories packed with rival hysterical brands and promises. In other words, commerce, not social conscience, is the driving force behind this bleeding-heart strategy.
After IDEA and Tata Tea, it’s the turn of a munchies brand to save us from the fast-approaching Armageddon. And Parle’s Hippo couldn’t be bothered with faltu stuff like losing weight, saving trees and casting votes. They want to solve the mother of all problems: eradicating hunger!
The television commercial stirs things up with an ancient Hindi film song, ‘Pyaar baant te chalo’, and it features an invisible creature called ‘Hippo’ which solves the world's food crisis. The core message is that since hunger is the root cause of all the evils plaguing the world, it’s best to kill this first so that other issues can get sorted out on their own. So no more wars, riots, terror attacks, corruption, child exploitation, milk adulteration, etc. And the TVC has criminals and other assorted elements mending their ways immediately after Hippo is offered to them.
Bizarre and insane? Yup, of course. And what about that small thing called credibility? Absolute zero. And what does this social message have to do with time-pass munchies? Zilch. In fact all that a fatty, low-nutrition food would do is make people more angsty and more obese. (And then IDEA can step in and re-release its ‘walk when you talk’ campaign).
So then why are they indulging in this madness? Well, for two reasons. One, to generate some cheap, good laughs. In other words, they are happily mocking the malaise of hunger, and so only the well-fed might be amused. And two, devoid of any USP within the brand, the trick is to break the high television clutter by creating totally wild, atrocious advertising. So if nothing else works, at least the brand will be recalled at the retail outlet by the otherwise forgetful housewife. Admittedly, for the last part, the brand could achieve some amount of success. So good luck to them.
Having said that, spoofing serious problems for commercial gains is a questionable tactic. What next, one wonders. An ice-cream brand running an anti-rape campaign? Or a refrigerator brand running an anti-dowry campaign? Well, Kelvinator definitely won’t. It’s unofficially called India’s ‘dowry fridge’.— Anil Thakraney