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Use of meltdown as USP appalling

By A G Krishnamurthy
November 21, 2008 10:06 IST
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What I didn't like: Vulgar display of callousness

I have always reserved this column for ads that I have liked over the past fortnight. But this fortnight will be an exception because there are a couple of ads on air right now that have compelled me to write this column on What I most definitely did not like.

There is an unspoken agreement amongst all advertisers and marketers that when crises or calamities take place, we refrain from using that to sell our product. For example during the 7/11 crisis, not a single advertiser used the tragedy for personal gain -- no selling of insurance products, no real estate peddling... not anything at all. There is no hard and fast rule about it, it's just plain ethics.

I don't think there is any one who uses a product or service in our country who is unaware of the great financial sword hanging over all our heads. It is not just a world issue, the problem has seeped down to into our homes and our lives. As the head of my family, I wake up every morning with dread hoping my investments are still safe.

As a father, every second is a concern hoping that my children's jobs are still safe. So here we are, an entire nation and even the world, literally walking on a razor's edge, when we have some marketers of insurance and banking products using this crisis as a plank or a fear factor to sell? I was appalled to watch it being used as a USP, wondering just how thoughtless they can get.

Don't they ever get on to the other side of the television set and wonder how their sales pitch is being received? What if their jobs were on the line even as the ad is airing? What if their bank/ company had to collapse? How can they take such a universal calamity and hope to profit from it? Such callousness is truly beyond my comprehension and I can only hope that they never have to learn this lesson the hard way.

What I've learned: Business first

It's been about six weeks since I dropped in to Ahmedabad last. Apart from reading about the 'euphoria' in Gujarat about the arrival of the Nano, I had had no actual exposure to the elation in the state. So I was in for a very pleasant surprise while driving in to the city.

The roads were overflowing with banners and it looked like almost anyone who could get space, had a banner up welcoming the Nano to Gujarat! This buzz of positivity was tangible in casual conversation too. My driver was the first to enlighten me on how everyone was going to benefit and how the rents and land prices were going up! Farmers were celebrating and distributing sweets -- polar opposites from the reactions elsewhere I thought, where it was anguish and pain and misunderstanding all around.

So how is it I wondered, that the very same event can cause so much pain in one part of the country and such elation in another? Well, the answer lies in another observation of mine. I go for an evening walk in both the cities that I live in -- Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. After the walk, I invariably rest on a park bench and chat with sundry strangers. In Hyderabad, the conversation centres around politics, the latest scandals and nitpicking party groups. In Ahmedabad, it's all about business, even amongst senior citizens.

Which stock is doing well and which is not. Politics is farthest on their mind. Which is why, even during these rough times, when I am sure almost every single Amdavadi must be losing money in the stock market, it is party time in the state because of the arrival of the Nano. It's their tendency to focus on their livelihood and their business instinct that keeps their spirit and hopes up, rather than getting trapped in the quicksand of political vagaries.

Our livelihood is definitely a far more productive preoccupation to focus our spare time on, rather than anguish over the petty offenses of transitory political issues -- an activity that does not contribute in any way towards enriching our lives or bank balances! Little wonder then, if I had to choose between the two, I would choose the mindset that knows how to look at the positives rather than the one where the negatives of people are popular consumption.

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A G Krishnamurthy
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