From THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, December 14, 2001


Ads help unify tastes

Jaiboy Joseph

"INDIAN Terrain" is the likeable name of a brand of shirts, trousers, knitwear and accessories in the market. It makes a bid to gain greater attention, which it does through an imaginative ad headed "I made Pizza Tandoori".

Pictured is a young man in a splendid shirt meant to look both formal and casual.

Elaborating, the young man asks, "Ever heard of the Vegetable Hamburger? Or Masala Tea? Or a Pizza Tandoori? all creations inspired by my refusal to read exactly like the rest of world does."

So it is that to please the new taste food chains have "tailored a new menu to my taste".

Tailored to the new taste are the new Cruise shirts.

There are some home truths inherent in the copy that makes one think of the gastronomical revolution in tastes as no doubt the blending of western fare in Indian recipes, an example being `Pan Pizzas' offered by Pizza Hut to celebrate the festive season.

Reminds us of a passage in Ernest Van Den Haag's `Man Alone'. "The aggregate effect of advertising is to bring about wide sharing of tastes...Advertising helps to unify taste, to de-individualise it and thus to make mass production possible."

Biscuits and cakes cannot be any more regarded as a colonial legacy. Biscuits for example are staple in every tea stall in villages all over India.

In case of chocolates too there is universal clamour and nobody ever thinks of where it all first originated. As part of its advertising, Nestle chocolates in the thirties was the offer of an album called `Stars of the Silver Screen' in which you stuck a large number of pictures found in the chocolate packets. The pictures were of Hollywood stars, but as a concession to Indian feelings there were just a couple of them belonging to New Theatres and Bombay Talkies of old.

Over the years there has been a conscious efforts to turn chocolates as an item to be relished as much as any other traditional sweet here. That takes a lot of doing because jalebis, mysore paks and rassagolas are deeply rooted in the psyche.

Cadbury's, for example, has commendable commercials to inject the notion that their chocolates are the right things on special occasions. Appealing to the spirit of Diwali was their range of chocolates, in a special festive packaging.

"A gift for someone you love" was the unbeatable slogan coined by Amul. A chocolate treat is hard to resist even in the face of doctor's advice.

A Maharajah of Mysore who was a connoisseur of European classical music, and also a religious scholar had earned the title of His Heaviness, and folklore has it, that he had an abiding weakness for chocolates.

Chocolates were the favourite of dancers east and west if only to keep their energy levels up. Julian Braunsweng the famous impresario recalls prima ballerina Alicia Markova's great passion for chocolates. "She toured with a nutcracker pink carpet for her dressing room and a large box of Black Magic chocolates. She had a voracious appetite and was addicted to them. She ate them by the box and ate them all herself". The name `Perk' by Cadbury's we now know holds a significance.

It is the mania for quality chocolates that perhaps prompted Cadbury's to contrive the ad "Now enjoy the international taste of chocolate" which was the headline of the "New Cadbury's Diary milk chocolate".

Pan masala once treated as an item almost in hiding was pictured in ads as an item enjoying a special place in festivities in stately homes. "Uske Bin Jeena Mushkill" is the refrain in the Pan Parag commercial though the fleeting statutory warning hardly noticed may have a different story to tell. The spreading of tastes to every quarter is all part of advertising's goal.

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