International ads don Indian colours

May 23rd, 2008 - 6:35 pm ICT by admin  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
The brands are global, the commercials distinctly Indian. When fast food giant McDonald’s entered the Indian market, they not only diversified their product adding the McAloo Tikki Burger, a humble potato burger, and other variants for the fastidious vegetarian customer but tweaked their ads too. So, the latest ad features a look-alike of popular movie icon Dharmendra, his star son Sunny Deol and a hark back to the good old days when prices were low - as low as their McAloo Tikki Burger.

Very Indian, very local in its appeal - and an instant connect with the average Indian.

As multinationals target India’s booming middle class, estimated to be anything between 150-350 million, with its increasing spending power, they are also modifying their marketing strategy for maximum appeal.

The burger advertisements are classic examples of the current trend in Indian branding and advertising industry - “think globally, act locally”.

Industry watchers call it glocalisation - a saleable mix of the global and the local, which represents human capacity to bridge scales from the local to global and vice versa. The term was first used by social scientist, Manfred Lange, in 1989 on the eve of the Global Change Exhibition in Moscow,

Lange described the interplay of local-regional-global interactions as “glocal”.

Glocalisation, explained Zubin Driver, network creative director of the television channel CNBC’s TV18, is a product of globalisation and the local reaction to it.

“The praxis (applications) creates a working relationship between the two polarities. The imperatives of business, transactions and intermingling cultures create a new bandwidth,” Driver told IANS.

Glocalisation of the market and the media that is increasingly becoming fragmented to cater to niche audiences in Tier II cities and the semi-urban centres across the country have impacted advertising.

“Advertising agencies in our country are increasingly going in for international tie-ups. As a result, foreign brands are suddenly seeking local attention. The art of making an advertisement look local and endearing to Indians is the glocal spin-off in advertising,” said Vipin Dhayani, creative head of the Everest Brand Solutions.

“When we see a spoofy campaign for McDonald’s with look-alikes of the stars of yesteryears like Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar and Dharmendra making us laugh, it immediately connects us to our very own Bollywood in such a way that we forget that McDonald’s is an international brand,” the adman said.

Brands like Pizza Hut, Coke, Mentos, Alpenliebe, Lays and Pepsi are all showcasing hardcore Indian nuances in their communication, Dhayani said.

“I would say that the trend really took off in the last five years. Most global brands now have local execution. At the end of the day, the needs and the wants of the people are pretty similar. But if we use local idioms for a global brand, it makes sense to the local audience,” said Nirvik Singh, chairperson (Southeast and South Asia) of the Grey Global Group, an advertising and marketing agency.

Till just a few years ago, advertisements for global brands in India were mere translations of their campaigns in the west in local languages. Indians masses, especially consumers in the Tier II cities, could not connect to their alien content because they did not factor in traditional lifestyles.

But an emergent breed of homegrown creative whizkids grounded in Indian traditions has helped Indianise western influences in advertisements for global brands for local consumers.

The new India-specific campaigns may be local in flavour but they have created and been lauded worldwide, especially by their parent brands, for their originality and out-of-the-box thinking.

According to Prahlad Kakkar, CEO of Genesis Film Production, Indian advertising is finally taking into account local themes and translating them into advertisements.

There was a time when the industry simply dubbed foreign advertisements in the vernacular language, but this is the era of “transliteration”, said Kakkar. Indian advertising agencies have the license to take creative liberties.

As a result, distinctions between the national, local and international advertising agencies are gradually blurring as new challenges are emerging from abroad, especially in the developing markets.

“Take the example of the HSBC campaign. In banking, understanding a micro-cultural universe is as important as delivering a ‘global’ understanding of the market place,” Driver said.

The bank launched an India-specific campaign with the tagline “We understand your point of view” focussing on the burning socio-cultural and environment issues in the country. And followed it up with another campaign, “HSBC provides your solutions”.

Going by the fact that HSBC is a global financial entity, understanding India to position itself as a connected and empathetic brand must have been a challenge, say industry experts. It involved building cross-cultural bridges.

According to David Gallagher, CEO and partner of London-based Ketchum, a leading advertising agency, the opportunities of a glocal market will reward agencies that can most adroitly bring their specialist expertise to the fore.

The growth of Internet has given a vital push to the process of glocalisation. “The Internet has spawned the growth of user-generated content and has created a ‘bottom-up’ discourse in the consumption of media globally. Glocalisation is a celebration of this two-way street multiplied into billions of voices,” Driver said.

The trend is forcing admen and marketing people across the world to innovate all the time. New delivery mechanisms and the recipe for brand survival in the glocalised era are shaping how many touch points a new consumer has in this age of the global-local interplay

The trend, feels Dhayani, is here to stay. “In fact it is getting larger by the day. India is a powerhouse in terms of consumerism. With its sound economy and population, it is obvious that multinational companies will keep coming to India. And local advertisements for global brands will continue to grow.”

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