Deadly creativity

What is the obsession with death in advertisements?

Death seems to be the ‘in’ theme in advertising these days. In the last one year, many companies have embraced the motif with gusto. The idea is to be funny or poignant—but is not always successful.

The latest to jump into the bandwagon is ‘Stop Not Golz’. A soldier eats a snack in a trench during a war, and inexplicably, the packet gets shot (!) and its spirit leaves for heaven. Unable to stay away from it, the soldier jumps out of the trench, roars maniacally and gets shot at. Soon after, his spirit ascends, gets hold of the snacks—spirit (?) and an ideal stalker-like ditty by Kishore-Kumar starts playing, ‘Tera piccha na chhodunga’(I won’t give up chasing you).

This advertisement can be summed up in two words: misplaced and boring. To make fun of death is something only experts can pull off, but to trivialise something as gruesome as war with a packet of snacks (or its spirit) is bad taste. What makes it more bizarre is the soldier’s attraction to the ghost of a packet of chips and not the object itself. It makes no sense. Now, if the soldier had made a go for a packet located at the middle of the war zone, or even in the hands of the enemy, it could have lent it a shade of plausibility. And at the end of the long drawn out scenario, the ending leaves you cold and irritated.

As bizarre Stop Not is, it has tough competition from GreenLam Laminates from Greenply. An old man is walking through monochrome streets when he spots a coloured coffin made of GreenLam. He commissions it for himself, goes home, gets converted to Christianity and dies promptly. He smiles as his prized peach-tinted coffin is lowered to the ground. Catchphrase—‘Dil to karega hi’ (after all, the heart would want it.

Greenply commercials are generally surprising and funny and their thrust has always been on the durability of the product. But with this coffin commercial, they went for a change, with unpardonable consequences. No matter which way you try to look at it, at the end, you tell yourself, “It is just a piece of wood. Why should I die for it?”

That, precisely, is something advertisers fail to realise. To show that something is worth dying for, you have to aim pretty high in terms of execution. When the products in question are everyday objects like potato chips or plywood, it is enough if you can convince the buyer that these are worth the customer’s money. You can’t convince anyone that his life is worth less than something that can be bought.

Some advertisements take a different approach towards death. The most visible ad, in this respect, comes from Snapdeal, which shows that you can even bargain with Yamraj if you go with the brand. So when Yamraaj appears in front of a skydiver, he is handed over some Snapdeal coupons and he leaves the bloke. Yamraaj then paints the town red, gets a facial, tries out gourmet cuisine and shops till he drops.

Snapdeal, it seems like, can give you discounts only on spas, salons, restaurants, and other personal grooming products which may not be that indispensable for life. In the other Snapdeal advertisements, Yamraaj is back—making the most of discounts while on his job; and reminding you ‘You only live once’. You get the idea, and the Yamraaj is adorable, but apart from the first advertisement, there is no connect between the brand and death. After all, if you are hungry at work, you can get Snapdeal (or any other deal) on your food even if there is no Yamraaj to tell you.

Life insurance is a sector, where you have to talk about death. While most advertisements advocate the need for insurance showing how it will benefit your family after you are gone, Future Generali shows how it is profitable to you—even after death.

It is okay to remind the customer that he ought to secure the future of his family, but to see insurance as a way of salvation is something that doesn’t go down without a hiccup. It makes the family look more like a burden than a responsibility. And to claim that one can act completely carefree about his relatives simply by buying a policy looks far fetched.

There are others who go completely bonkers with the concept. The classic example was Tata AIG General Insurance, which launched a mind-boggling campaign for ‘Shanti’, which had Naseeruddin Shah promising to provide up to Rs1 crore as personal accident cover… if the policy holder died on a national holiday. Not only was the advertisement misleading about a lower premium, but with its out-right offensive proposition, it put off everyone. Following a slew of brickbats from all directions, the product had to be withdrawn.

It is difficult to make fun of death, but there are advertisers, who have managed to pull it off—thanks to good timing and restraint. What works for these commercials is that they don’t pretend that their product is something worth dying for. Steering clear of pomposity, such commercials show how their product can give you a new lease of life, and make a strong connection. 

In most cases, the humour comes when life triumphs over death due to some ingenious placements. In Europe and USA, the grim reaper is a frequent character in advertisements; who either gets cheated, or forgets his job because he can’t resist a break.

Indian advertisers, too, have given us good ads with similar storyline. Probably the best known is of Camlin permanent markers—which brings back a dead husband. ‘Really permanent!’ says that tag. Rooted in Indian ethos, the commercial is clever and without saying a single word, it conveys the message.

It is tougher to elicit laughter at the cost of life. Only a master can pull it off; making fun of something as grim as death. In order to achieve it, advertisers must understand the concept of irony. So let us end with an outrageously funny commercial; set forth by the consistently brilliant Fevicol with their MSeal ad.

Old father is on his death bed, and the whole family has gathered around, waiting for it to happen. His son forces him to sign a will, which says that the old man bequeaths a crore to his offspring. As soon as the deed is done, the man breathes his last. The son is about to rejoice, when a drop of water falls from the leaking ceiling and washes out the ‘1’ of the Rs100,00,000.

Moral of the story? Use MSeal on leaking fixtures if you want to avoid such a situation. And, stay away from far fetched ideas if you want to sell something.



Nagesh Kini FCA

5 years ago

Doesn't depicting Yamraj or Satan not hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus and Christians?
Making a mockery of death amounts to gross mis-selling, despicable to say the least.Be it insurance, wills or even travel.

It is a customer’s choice in telecom, or is it?

Telecom users confronted operators, regulator on issues like mobile number portability, automatic subscription to VAS and pesky marketing calls at a consumer awareness seminar organised by the Bombay Telephone Users’ Association

The recently held consumer awareness programme on telecom organised by the Bombay Telephone Users’ Association (BTUA) turned into a platform for confrontation between service providers and aggrieved subscribers. All the stakeholders—service providers, regulator, and consumers—present at the seminar discussed and argued issues concerning to subscribers such as mobile number portability (MNP), automatic subscription of value-added services (VAS) and pesky marketing calls, among others.

The issue of pesky marketing calls was discussed in length. Mobile users complain that as soon as a new SIM card is registered, such calls start pouring in. They demanded that operators should not allow such calls. In response to a question, Vikram Tiwathia, associate director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), said, “It’s an issue of customer choice and can’t be done on a uniform basis.”  

However Jehangir Gai, a consumer activist pointed out, “Why presume that customers require such calls in first place? Let the subscriber get it in ‘fully-blocked’ mode and then he can choose which service he wants.”

Recently the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) announced host of consumer-friendly measures such directing all operators to set up a complaint centre in the next 45 days. However, consumers complain that till date many such measures have remained only on paper.  

Replying to a similar query, JS Sharma, chairman, TRAI, said, “One of the biggest issue TRAI faces that it does not have penalising power. But we are enforcing a similar system. TRAI had penalising power earlier. Currently the government is contemplating to give such powers.”

Participants present at the discussion said that despite many complaints on MNP, the panellists had nothing new to offer apart from the typical --“we are looking into it”—type answer.

Another issue of using to the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number to stop stolen/lost mobile phones was also discussed. Several subscribers and activists alleged that TRAI, the regulator, has been delaying implementation of IMEI number  blocking facility even as many countries are already using it. Given the huge size of ‘grey’ market (where you can easily buy/sell used mobile handsets), it is pertinent in India to follow this practice without any further delay.

N Parameswaran, principal advisor, TRAI says that, “There is a pre-consultation on this issue. There are some technologies involved in it. But soon we would have this facility in place.”

Subscribers have been, for a long time, complaining about wrong deduction and billing, automatic start of value-added service such as caller tunes, by the service providers but most of the times such complaints are left unheard.  “This is the issue that we have been examining. There are some market challenges which need to overcome. For instance, people, who want to port out, demand special packages, same as the rival operator from existing operator,” said Mr Tiwathia.

Explaining the recent move by TRAI of standardising pre-paid vouchers and categorising each of them—plan, top-up, and special voucher in a different colour, Robert Ravi, advisor, TRAI said, “No plan should be added by the service provider without the explicit consent of the subscriber.”

Panellists representing the telecom industry however remained silent on the contentious of health hazards due to radiation from cell phone towers. Replying to consumer query, Mr Ravi said, “There is no concrete evidence to prove the ill-effects of radiation emitting out of mobile towers. However the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) has asked operators for self certification of the radiation levels from their towers and this is strictly monitored. Also from April this year all the service providers are mandated to reduce the radiation level by 1/10th.”

However the activist disputed claims of no ill-effects demanded further reduction. “This is a misrepresentation of facts that there are no ill-effects. Can you show me the studies showing there are no ill-effects? All the standards are merely on paper. Has there been any action taken on the operators for emitting excessive radiation?” asked Mr Gai.

Explaining various studies on radiation, Achintya Mukherjee, secretary, BTUA, said that, “The level should actually brought down to 1/1000th level.”

Other topics such as spectrum in telecommunications and future trends of broadband in India were also discussed at the workshop.




5 years ago



5 years ago



5 years ago

I am going nuts with vodaphone calling me 5 times a day to promote their own services.

At the same time, the telco company has also breech the law of client confidentiality in my personal opinion of selling the numbers to subscribers to spam their phones with stupid messages

In addition the telco here is like robbing the poor for the rich. If a country like korea or singapore or malaysia which is much smaller than the market of india for telco can offer unlimited data plan of by the way is supposed to be of no cost to the telco. why is there then a data charges on mobile on unlimited basis?

also the data plans are so bad that most of the time is not able to connect so why should the subscriber be penalised

Indian telco are the worst robbers in my opinion in the world

Adani Group to sport a new-look soon

"We'll soon have a new corporate identity and tagline,” Adani Power chief executive Ravi Sharma said

Gautam Adani-promoted Adani Group has decided to don a new corporate identity soon and has roped in England-based brand consultancy Wolff Olins to do the job.   The Adani Group is into ports, power, coal mining, and agri business apart from an SEZ and a shipping-line, called Adani Shipping, with six vessels.

“We’ll soon have a new corporate identity and tagline. The Dubai office of the England-based creative agency Wolff Olins has been mandated to work on this image makeover,” Adani Power chief executive Ravi Sharma said.

However, he refused to give a time-frame for the brand makeover and the investment details. He also refused to share whether the company will have a new name after the makeover.

A part of the Omnicom Group since 2001, Wolff Olins was set up in 1965 and is a brand consultancy and creative agency with offices in London, New York and Dubai and employs 150 designers, strategists and account managers.

Meanwhile, the group’s flagship Mundra Port and SEZ has renamed itself as Adani Ports & Special Economic Zone after an extra-ordinary general body meeting of its shareholders accepted the proposal on 31 December 2011.

The group operates ports at Mundra, Dahej, Hazira (all in Gujarat), coal berths in Goa and Visakhapatnam and a coal terminal in Abbot Point in Australia. But its bids for the port projects in Chennai and Vizhinjam were recently rejected.

Despite these reversals, group chairman Gautam Adani has drawn up an ambitious growth plan for 2020, which has the group targeting to mine as much as 200 MT coal, achieve a cargo handling capacity of 200 MT, produce 20,000 MW electricity and acquire 20 large ships, all by 2020.

“We have decided to go slow with our three power projects —Chhindwara in MP and Dahej and Bhadreshwar in Gujarat—for want of coal linkages, which together have a capacity of 6,500 MW,” Adani Power chief executive Ravi Sharma had said.

Adani Power, which is the largest coal-based private utility in the country, has an installed capacity of 3,300 MW in Mundra in Gujarat and plans to add another 6,000 MW by March, 2012 and 10,000 MW by 2013, Mr Sharma had said. The company has set a target of having a capacity of 20,000 MW by 2020.

Last year, the group had acquired stakes in Australia's Galilee coal mines for $2.7 billion and Abbot Point Coal Terminal for $2 billion, thus joining a growing number of domestic companies acquiring overseas mining assets. Last week, the company had commissioned a 40-MW solar power project in Gujarat and has plans to expand the solar capacity to 100 MW.

In the late afternoon, Adani Power was trading at around Rs65.60 per share on the Bombay Stock Exchange, 1.31% up from the previous close. Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone was trading at Rs130.15 on the Bombay Stock Exchange, 1.8% up from the previous close.


We are listening!

Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.

To continue

Sign Up or Sign In


To continue

Sign Up or Sign In



The Scam
24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
Moneylife Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Magazine and Lion Stockletter)