Times Of India, where is your judgment?

One rich woman in Mumbai goes to Starbucks in South Mumbai with two daughters. The daughters accidentally spill water in washroom. Another rich woman sees this and forces the girls to wipe the floor. The daughters inform this to the mother. The rich woman makes a big issue out if this and lodges a complaint in the police station.

On 6th January 2015, The Times Of India published ‘news’ about this incident on page 3 of its Mumbai edition, rather prominently. See the link here.

Both the rich, arrogant women may have nothing better to do in life than making disproportionate issues out of everything. That could be helpful in pampering their inflated ego. But, I don’t understand why Times Of India gave such a huge importance to this. Did this incident matter such a disproportionate exposure on the pages of a national daily?

Was this incident so vital that “the nation had to know” about it?

Or is it in their business interest to dance to the tunes of idiosyncrasies of the rich and the powerful?

Whatever may be the reason, I think it is a disappointment. A let down from a powerful media icon. A responsible media should exercise rationality in giving importance to the issues which are reported to it.

Let us hope for better, impartial and more sensible Times.

We find what we are looking for. Bombay Times proves it.

Medha Jalota (wife of Singer, Musician Anup Jalota) passed away in USA on 24th November 2014. In the news item informing her death, this is how Bombay Times (dated 26 November 2014, Page 10) referred to her past marriage with the renowned filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, quoting from her biography. “the reason she separated from him was because he never fully understood her passion for music.”

On the contrary, as mentioned in the same piece by BT, this is what Shekhar Kapur had to say about his ex-wife, on her death. He expressed his graceful tribute thus through a Tweet : “Probably the bravest person I ever knew. Medha Jalota. Rest in Peace Medha, You showed that life can be lived and loved despite all odds.”

When we have a choice to extract few remarkable lines from the hundreds of pages of the biography of a dead person, what we choose reflects our own preference, our attitude and our focus.

Media is commonly known for looking at and highlighting the dark side of everything. Including at the tragic times of death.

We generally find what we are looking for. In life or in death. Bombay Times has reinforced this belief.

How traditional media is losing relevance?

Traditionally, media has considered itself to be the Fourth Estate, wielding a lot of power to inform and influence.

It commands a lot of clout in forming and informing views. With their formidable influence, they could shape and change opinions. They could herald revolutions. They could topple governments. They could finish careers. They could tilt electoral outcomes. But not any more.

Why? Many media houses have assumed much more power than they legitimately should have. Any papdi patrakar does not mind writing any insulting or irresponsible piece about anybody, just to be more popular and controversial.

In India, particularly regional language media has been more irresponsible in its content, focus and presentation. Many publications only can look at the negative side of any story. For example,  28th October 2013 issue of Chitralekha magazine has a cover story about
Sachin’s announcement of retirement. It means to say “Sachin (un)willingly announces retirement.”

The only thing such publications write positive is about some powerful or rich business person when they go out of the way to praise their life journey. Of course, many of such features are ‘inspired’ by some other motives, some of them financial. Indian media is not known to be averse to be purchased. Many PR agencies thrive on planting ‘success’ stories touting some wannabes as ‘the most successful’ in such opportunistic and greedy publications. They call it ‘win-win’ deals. ‘Win’ for the publication, and ‘win’ for the wannabe. But ‘lose’ for the reader.

In-authenticity and irrelevance of such cheap gimmicky media houses was exposed rather openly, when the social media took charge of Sachin’s retirement day. All the negativity generated by irresponsible media surrounding his announcement of retirement was eclipsed by the sheer enthusiasm, loyalty and love showered on Sachin by Indians of all ages to their icon. Opportunistic and negativity-focused regional media looked irrelevant and clueless. The irresponsible media publications like Chitralekha had simply failed at their attempt to tarnish the image of this humble but great personality. They also could not fathom the power and magnitude of the respect Sachin had gathered in India’s minds and hearts. Reluctantly, they started covering Sachin mania because they had completely missed the pulse of the populace they are supposed to represent and educate.

Today, the clout of such irresponsible and opportunistic regional media is reducing thanks to the emergence of social media. The traditional, easily ‘saleable’ and adulterated media has only itself to blame for this sorry state. They made a mistake of assuming more power than they actually had. They sold their reputation by giving charge to brokers (who call themselves journalists), who wrote fiction to be passed on as informative journalism. The new highly connected generation can’t be influenced by paid content. It has its own voice and its own language.

Words can be bought, because such wordsmiths can be bought. But the emptiness of such ‘bought’ words gets exposed. In-authenticity has to die. Sooner or later.

Social media is a tight slap on the irresponsible media. And the slap was long overdue. Let’s hope it brings the senses of this media who looks like a drunkard back to normalcy.

No, we’re not missing Sirji… We’re happy Honey Bunny…

What an idea Sirji…. An idea can change your life.

That is what the campaign for Idea Cellular shouted for few years. Even though the concept of social awareness and the creativity of the campaign was excellent, the choice of Abhishek Bachchan as brand Idea’s ambassador was a blooper. Generally, the intention of brand associations and endorsements is to leverage a product/service brand based on the popularity of the celebrity or the associating brand. But, in case of Idea Cellular, it was the other way round…! For small B, who never really got any worthwhile success on his own, being the brand ambassador of Idea was the only bright spot on his lacklustre resume… So, it looked like Idea was endorsing a struggling actor, who had nothing much to his credit and who had a listless work-bio.

The recent spurt of new commercials from Idea (Hunny Bunny, Telephone Exchange and Aiyo Holi…) have won more visibility to the brand than the years of wisecracks mouthed by the Bollywood disaster, who never came out of his immature attempts to imitate his legendary father’s baritone. This failed attempts to imitate lends his voice an inauthenticity, because of the obvious lack of originality.

It has been proved much more convincingly, with ordinary people, that the message has more power than the messenger, and if the messenger is weak, it affects the credibility of the message. The departure of Bachchan from Idea campaign has lent a breeze of freshness to the stale, predictable, irritating communication.

I read in ET  (Brand Equity, dated 10 Apr 2013) that the persons in charge of brand positioning of Idea are still vouching for Abhishek Bachchan to come back. They say that it is the X-factor and will help to recharge the brand after a break. The question is which brand? Brand Idea or brand Abhishek Bachchan?

A brand loses if it associates itself with a loser. But, some sycophants in the media business, who act as gullible disciples of some Guru, really can’t see the obvious what anybody with ordinary commonsense can see. These people may be good at ideating, but they really miss out when it comes to understanding the process of communication and execution. The honchos are blind to the fact that succumbing to the over allegiance of some of your decision makers to the Bachchans  is costing heavily to the brand. A chacha fails to see that the bhatija has failed to come out of his father’s shadow, and it’s futile to waste money on failures.

Why should any self-respecting brand manager indulge into such wasteful exercise of associating a strong brand with a loser? There does not seem to be any rational or commercial reason behind this foolishness.

My suggestion to the team in charge of brand Idea Cellular: please wake up. An idea to get rid of AB Jr has helped your brand while at the same time saving you some money.The only weak part of the Idea campaign was the brand ambassador. Let an idea change your own mind forever now.

Meanwhile, I congratulate the creative souls behind Honey Bunny and Telephone Exchange. You are bigger than the small, artificial, irritatingly unconvincing Sirji and his stupid wisecracks….

Circus of Bollywood branding or mutual back-scratching?

Brands exist in the minds of people.

They are not found only in logos, advertisements,  promotion materials, displays, goods etc. These are just the reminders serving as a recall to the brand. So, sometimes, even if there is no tangible or credible product, service or person, a brand can be created, by carefully planting stories around it, in the minds of the attentive audience. As I had learnt in my brand management classs, James Bond is one such brand. So is a Spiderman or a Superman. For a brand called James Bond, there need not be a real James Bond. But, still, it can influence a lot of people and their aspirations.

Bollywood, in collusion with media, is excellent at creating such imaginary brands from nobody and from thin air. If you observe carefully, no movie, regardless of who the hero or heroine is, succeeds if the storyline sucks. So, other than the story, everything and everyone else is just incidental. Still, media creates superstars out of the actors. Now, any superstar, with all efforts at wooing the audience doesn’t succeed, if the target audience is not happy with the product, the story, the film. That is why we see a lot box-office failures of almost all superstars periodically.

But, media treats them as Gods. Why?

Because media needs beautiful people to fill its colorful pages. Images of ordinary people on Page 3 and reports about their birthday parties doesn’t attract readers. Instead, even the reports of a star’s dog’s birthday party attracts attention, if it has stars’ and superstars’ images.

Another reason the media needs the stars is to hold and grace its various awards function. Every TV channel or newspaper has some awards as part of its marketing gimmicks. Who will anchor and dance at these functions, you and me? And if we dare to do, who would watch it?

Third use of Bollywood brands is for product endorsements. If a star is visible, then only s(he) can be summoned to sell Clothes, Phones, Shoes, Jewellery, Soft drinks, Maggie, Coffee, Tea, Water, Water-purifier, Shampoo, Soap and Hair-oil,   Suits and Suitcases etc. etc.  Advertisements and commercials are bread, butter, cheese of the media. So, you have to create stars to fill up your advertising space and to star in TV commercials.

Welcome to the mutual back-scratchers’s club.

Bollowood branding is nothing but serving the mutual needs of the actors, media and advertising world. It is the fine art of creating brand icons out of NObodies. The longevity of these brands is as temporary as the artificial film-sets created for shooting. Hence, we see a lot of Bollywood brands fading away as rapidly as they emerged on the horizons. The stars are nothing but the imagination of the creative media.

The whole circus of Bollywood brands is the best example of media creativity.

Just like James Bond. It exists only in the minds.

How many districts are there in Kutch?

India is a country of snake charmers. It is a land of jungles and Yogis. All the Indians are primitives and barbaric. This was the belief the world had about India, until a few decades ago. Until the information about a throbbing, developing, culturally diverse and rich country became available, India was grossly misunderstood by the world. Thankfully, the scene is changing, and we, the Indians, are now seen in a better light.

But, still, a lot about India remains shrouded in mystery for Indians also. That is because, India is not only a country. it is in fact many smaller countries within a bigger country. Each region of the country has its own culture, language, rituals, beliefs and way of life.

One similar veil of such mystery surrounds around Kutch, a region in Western state of Gujarat. Just like people in the world had misconceptions about India, people within India had similar misconceptions about Kutch. They thought that entire Kutch is a desert and people there live in miserable conditions with a hostile nature to battle one’s daily life against.

All this is away from the truth. Kutch is a district. It is a beautiful land with ample greenery, beaches, historical and religious places. It is as developed as any other part of India, if not more. In last one decade, Kutch has got a lot of new industrial and infrastructure projects. Perhaps, within state of Gujarati, Kutch is growing the fastest.

It has its own rich share of culture, language, craft, beliefs, festivals and history. Many communities of different religious faiths live happily together in this calm and peaceful place. Life in Kutch is beautiful, just like life in any other part of our beautiful India.

Kutchis, as the inhabitants of Kutch are called, are very amiable and loving people. They are famous for their hard work, honesty,  friendliness and simplicity. They are an enterprising community. They have spread themselves across the globe. In fact, one will find Kutchis in every country of the world and in every state of India.

Kutch and Kutchis are misunderstood because of the myopic vision of the English media. Angrez mass media in India, which is accessed by hardly 5% the nation’s populations, lives in an ivory tower, away from the realities of a multi-cultural India. Indian English media assumes more clout than it actually possesses. They do not realize that they don’t reach the 95% of the Indian population but still they dream to shape the opinions of those who are not listening, watching or reading them. They create and destroy their own castles built in the air. How in the world will this remote controlled opinion building be possible?

They also do not realize that they are also ignorant of most of the realities of India’s diverse regional varieties. Its journalists assume a power which is as hollow as the fake accent they spit out. Through their well-drafted but poorly researched reports, they take the liberty of maligning and ridiculing all those whom they don’t understand. Kutch and Kutchis are sometimes made victims of this zealous lot of articulate, sophisticated but dumb and ignorant journalists.

Such ignorance is obvious in questions like above. Kutch does not have districts within it. It itself is a district in Gujarat. It is a simple geographic fact. But, to understand Kutch and Kutchis, one needs to get to the ground. Same is true for every region of India and its locals.  From ivory towers, we may be able to see the world, but not understand it. We need to get in touch with the reality to understand it.

India lives and grows on its own terms irrespective of what some cynical intellectuals in metro cities may perceive. It is not because of them that India shines, it is in spite of them.