Sep 28, 2016

Can Snapdeal and Amazon stop pretending that happiness comes out of a box?

BYShrabonti Bagchi

I long for the days when advertising was advertising, not a pressing need to change the world or wax poetic about abstract concepts like joy, happiness, childhood, motherhood, memories etc etc — by selling more of your own inventory.
Give me the direct honesty of a Lalitaji telling us Surf is the best washing powder, or a fake doctor mom cheerily proclaiming that having Complan will make your kids grow stronger and sharper. I am even beginning to grow a fondness for those boring ads where a supposedly real UK-based dentist extols the virtues of a toothpaste for dental sensitivity in a droning monotone.
Yes, I kind of prefer that over the shmaltzy, emotionally manipulative, and ultimately dishonest advertising by the likes of Google, Amazon and Snapdeal (which finally brought on this rant, after several months of mental grumbling, because of its series of ads featuring a genre of writing I call Motivational Poster Poetry).
Because, let’s be honest here, what these brands are basically interested in doing — despite their high-minded messaging — is trying to sell their own products. With their recent bunch of ads that show life-transforming moments brought about by the act of opening a package from Amazon or Snapdeal (a young mother starts playing badminton, an older mother starts skating, a young couple announces pregnancy by sending a box of wool to the grandmother), they are extolling the virtues of unbridled and impulsive consumerism. They are saying happiness, fulfilment and creativity come out of a nicely packaged red box.

Image: YouTube screengrab

I have no problems with unbridled consumerism, but please don’t pretend you are doing anyone a favour here.
(Another minor quibble is they pretend as if you can *only* do this via their site. Nothing could be more ridiculous because you could get these exact same things by walking into the nearest supermarket; the products themselves are not special or exclusively online in any sense).
But even more annoying is the fact that these ads seem to be based on the idea that happiness and fulfilment can come out of ordering a box on an e-commerce site — and this is a pretty shallow idea, no matter how many montages of uplifting slices-of-life you pepper your ads with. You think you’re being all subtle and cunning, dear ad creatives, but you’re not fooling everyone.
Look, here’s a list of your favourite categories of images:
Kids Being Kids – featuring bicycles, kites, mud-wrestling, cricket, football.
Women Finding their Passion – featuring women being encouraged to take up badminton, skating or Bharatnatyam.
Couples Bonding – featuring big-screen television, diamond jewellery, cooking utensils, imminent parenthood.
The Lone Traveller – featuring shoes, bikes, steaming mugs of tea/coffee, a sunset.
And this is how they make me feel:
Cuteness overload

Although this trend of sending out “socially relevant” and “meaningful” messages through advertising started off nicely with on-point ads like this one, it’s kind of gone too far now with EVERY SINGLE BRAND trying to outdo each other by showing off how attuned it is with social issues and causes. This is not just restricted to e-commerce brands — take a look at Uber’s recent advertising or Tanishq’s ridiculously good-looking “strong, passionate, driven, ambitious working women of India — the women who not only bring their #BestAtWorkbut look their best while doing so.”
Can we please just have some ads that say ‘look how amazing and beautiful and convenient our product is, come buy it coz you know you want it, you greedy little consumer’?
But no. We get ads that are not only prone to an excess of empathy, they are too long, too slow, and devoid of humour and whimsy (remembering Lalitaji). Also, they set out to break cliches but have become as cliched and predictable as Ghari Detergent ads (which actually seem wonderfully quirky now).

Can we please just have some ads that say ‘look how amazing and beautiful and convenient our product is, come buy it coz you know you want it, you greedy little consumer’?

Ok, maybe as a cynical, media-savvy consumer I am not moved by these ads as much as, say, a 17-year-old boy in a small town who dreams of becoming a cricketer, and nobody can deny that advertising holds the power to change perceptions and change the world (at least, no one who’s watched every season of Mad Men).
But we are taking this Don Draper-ish sincere-fakery too far.
And come on brands, can you really deny that this is essentially a cynical exercise in getting likes and shares and retweets? Some of us can tell, you know.

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Shrabonti Bagchi is a writer of FactorDaily.