Naming No Names: We don’t need no ad breaks

21 Dec,2011

By Gouri Dange


Is there a name for some of us viewers-listeners-readers who simply cannot be bludgeoned into buying products by the advertising industry? While we do go out and buy stuff, and in that sense are consumers, we have grown an internal lock-out mechanism which makes us utterly impervious to advertising of any sort- inyourface repetitive ads, subliminal ones, funny-clever ones, oh-so-Indian mange more kind of stuff, manipulative tear-jerking advertising… none of it seems to stick to us. It’s as if we are Teflon-coated, and all attempts to grab our eyeballs and sing into our ears and play our hearts and seduce our souls simply slide away unregistered in our psyches.


It’s probably genetic, and then again it is probably a defence mechanism that we developed in response to the relentless persuasion that we have been subjected to over the last some years. Ads in newspapers and magazines that come to us with the cover page in the form of some fussy pull-out, fold-in, pop-up flappy strips and straps? They don’t stand a chance. We simply tear off that part, so that we can read without the hindrance of this piece of persuasion.


As for ads on TV, some of us have channel-switching or snack-fixing or loo-going or quick phone-calling down to a fine art. This way, we don’t have to watch the ad world pretending to be oh-so-concerned for our skins, our hearts, our safety, our kids’ education, our old age security and yadayadayada while reaching out to pick our pockets.


Of course, the crafty fellows now have synchronized ad breaks, so if you switch channels, you can avoid being told what oil to buy, but you will have to watch happy families choosing wall paints. And on a bad day, the same ad will be playing simultaneously on three channels, so the message is ominously clear – you can run, but you can’t hide. Well then we always have the option to sprint into the kitchen, fix ourselves a drinky, make bhurji (no, not 1.59 minute noodles) and be back in our seats just as the movie or programme is back on air. I love it.


My least favourite ads are the ones in which children are recruited to sell stuff; for some of us, this borders on child-labour/porn in frilly clothing. And when those come on, I mute the TV and exit the room for that loo break and can abandon a programme or a movie if it all gets too much.


Making ourselves ad-proof has become such a way of life, that sometimes I can be sitting right there, right through a serious attack of advertisements on my TV, and will not be able to recall what product an ad was for, 10 seconds later. Absolutely not a clue, if we’re asked. Zilch, nada, negative, illay, nahi. And if we’re asked what brand of soap-oil-rice-sauce-atta-insurance we use, a researcher would again draw a blank. Nothing. Yes we do eat that stuff, but we simply buy stuff in rotation, and are more likely to buy things that don’t shout ‘pick me, take me, buy me, use me’ or make seductive sounds from the store shelves. So giving us the come-hither doesn’t work too well for a product.


And if we’re sold something that we liked for the first time, but was less than good the second time, we’ll dump it without a second thought or a backward glance. We don’t know the concept of fidelity, faith and loyalty when it comes to stuff that has to be bought and used. We buy what works for us, and will stop buying it when it doesn’t.


Nostalgia doesn’t work on us either when it comes to advertising, so anything that tries to evoke some decade we’re supposed to be all gooey-eyed about, we will simply yawn and go to the loo.


How do we make consumer choices when it comes to buying larger things like cars and computers and such-like? I call my friend Bonnie (everyone should have a Bonnie). Because he knows about these things. And he knows what works for me; he puts himself in my shoes, and gives me advice. He is himself ad-proof! He too only ever buys things that have shown that they work, rather than things that strut on television and preen in print. He ruthlessly throws out goods and services that don’t deliver on promises and rarely gives them a second chance.


And no, this is not an advertisement for Bonnie. Go find your own Bonnie.


Naming no Names is the mid-week column where novelist, columnist and counsellor Gouri Dange presents her tongue-in-cheek view of our world.

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3 responses to “Naming No Names: We don’t need no ad breaks”

  1. Sanjeev_dange says:

    Good observation Gou. India is following the path of the western world when it comes to marketing/selling/consumerism etc. Yes and there are effective tools to measure the efficacy of these adds. Two other pieces of information – In the US now there is a motion to reduce the audio volume of TV ads – normally the volume is much louder than the regular TV program. The other thing is that the NFL which is the most watched show will be broadcasted over the internet – meaning available for watching on PCs, Laptops, Mobile devices like tablets and smart phones as well. So the ads will be availabale there too. when it is on the internet, two way communication is very easy – meaning people will be able to vote (which they still can do with regular TVs connected to a digital set top box) and generate more coorelations, statistics, and indirectly more advertising.

    • Gouri Dange says:

      oh that desperate SHOUTING OUT OF ADS BECAUSE WE KNOW YOU’VE GONE INTO THE OTHER ROOM thing is awful! imagine, that they have to actually legally control it!

  2. I am FREE! (RIght?) says:

    I, too, would like to think I’m impervious to being influenced by advertising. But I suspect we all must be — or this mega-crore industry wouldn’t be flourishing. Unlike the early days of India’s consumer economy, advertising must’ve become more sophisticated, more subtle, in its approaches to manipulating our minds. Hope your readers from the advertising world will weigh in. There may be studies, and the use of statistics, to establish the effectiveness of ads.

    In the meanwhile, wanna pass me Bonnie’s phone number? I’m fresh in the market to replace my old Maruti, and the choices are harrowing! 😉