One Big Idea by Josy Paul: The idea of India – and how advertising makes it work

05 Mar,2013

By Josy Paul, Chairman & NCD, BBDO India


India pulls in different directions. Fragmented by religion, disintegrated by language. Nations within a nation. But within this enormous diversity, we seek unity. Our separation makes us want to connect even more. And so we search for platforms and opportunities that unify, ideas that give us identity, allow us to feel one.


Cricket is one such idea. In India cricket is not a sport, it’s our unification symbol. It’s our nationality. It gives us common language.


Bollywood is another big idea. It’s our mother tongue. We can all understand it. We love it because it binds us. Bollywood icons become larger than life not because they are born great, but because we thrust greatness upon them – in our desperate need to find gods that all of us can believe in.


The third idea that unifies the nation is advertising.


Advertising in India is more than about pushing brands, it plays a bigger role than that. It is the nation’s glue. ‘Hamara Bajaj’ was the surrogate national anthem when it broke new ground in the early nineties. It was our idea of India. It helped us forget our differences.


That’s the power of what we do. Advertising helps us confirm our Indianness, gives meaning to our identity and offers Indians common ground.


Which is why some campaigns spread faster than others. Tata Tea’s ‘Jaago Re’, or TOI’s ‘Lead India’, or Asian Paint’s ‘Har ghar kuch kehta hai’, or Alpenliebe’s ‘Lagey Raho’. Campaigns that give us speech. That help us find common phrases, popular lingo, jokes and gossip, and create common action. Like Gillette’s ‘Women Against Lazy Stubble’ and Aviva’s ‘Book Wall of Education’. Songs like ‘Har ek friend zaroori hota hai’ are played over and over again, because they reiterate our nationality. They bring us closer.
Advertising, like cricket and Bollywood, serves a larger purpose. Our national identity and unity depends on it.


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