Here are a few commercials that must have tickled your funny bone during 2010
One route most advertisers like to use is humour in ads. Nothing like leaving a smile on the viewer's face. Yup, the concept of 'hansi toh phansi!' works in the ad world too. But it's not easy. Most ads try very hard to be witty, but the smiles don't happen. Here are a few chosen ones from last year that did work to some extent.
Cadbury Dairy Milk: Shubh, fun aarambh!
This commercial targets the elderly citizens, while being pretty young in its approach. It's set in a middleclass household. An aged couple is preparing to visit their relatives. Ma'am is decked up in a pair of jeans, and appears paranoid of being seen in that attire. Especially by her saas. The hubby, who perhaps knows his missus will be demolished, reassures her by offering her a bite from his Cadbury Dairy Milk. So that they can make a 'Shubh Aarambh' for this 'precarious' journey. Later, inside the building society compound, a young chap admires the aunty for her jeans. And all's well. A plump-ish elderly Indian lady worrying about being spotted in a pair of jeans is a totally charming idea.
Kurkure: Raw humour
Kurkure's biggest strength is that they are very clear about their target audiences. And these are the 'Hum Aapke Hain Kaun…' folks. Last year, they launched the 'Desi Beats' flavour.
The commercial is set on a lake. In one boat is a photographer. He spots another boat on which is sailing a hot babe. He rows in her direction, hoping to score.
She's munching on her Desi Beats. And seems quite receptive to the chaser. Then the idiot makes a fatal mistake. He playfully splashes water on her. The maiden goes livid with rage.
She pummels the fellow with her oars, like a scene straight from a horror film. Perfect! Thevariation in the snack brought out uproariously. And also the mood swings and unpredictable reactions women are prone to.
Havells Geysers: Exaggeration works
Havells usually uses the exaggeration route well. And the trick continued for their 'energy-saving' geysers. In one commercial, a man is seen rapidly switching TV channels through his remote control, as he mimics various stations. We later discover the television set is actually switched off, and the poor bugger wants to save on his electricity bill and yet keep himself entertained. So that he can use the saved power to fire his geyser. In another commercial, a dude is seen loading his microwave with popcorn seeds, but instead of turning the machine on, makes the sounds of crackling popcorn to please himself. Again, he is saving on money so that he can have a warm shower via his geyser. Point made. And funny too!
IDEA: Cool one, Sirji
IDEA released a commercial which dealt with the problem of mass migration of youngsters across cities and towns and their inevitable struggles with the local lingo. And how IDEA helps solve their problems. Using their cell phones, the youngsters connect with each other and guide one another on the local dialect. I particularly loved the one where a Northie arrives at the CST station and has his skin saved by his Marathi-speaking pal. Because the MNS goons were waiting at the station to 'welcome' him, haha. Good idea. And a very timely one for these migratory times.
Britannia Tiger: Good question!
Britannia Tiger took the social route and it worked. The ad features a typical politician. He's arrived at a school to drill in some desh seva into the minds of the kids at an assembly. And he grandly announces that the future of India is to be the 'Tiger of the world'.
Naturally, the kids feel bored and sleepy. One cool kid has a Britannia Tiger pack in his pocket, and is itching to eat some. But the teacher spots him in the act, and before some bad corporal punishment happens, the kid asks: "Khaali pet se India tiger kaise banega?"
Fantastic question. That's the question all of us adults should be asking of our bada netas, but we don't. Good use of humour.
Pepsi MAX: Fun & Fizz
'Maximum Kick, No Sugar', is the positioning. The commercial features an interview setting. As a long line of prospective candidates await their turn outside the room, one chap is called in. And he behaves atrociously right through the 'interview'. Pretending to be tormented by the interviewer. He makes noises, bangs against walls, rips apart his clothes, etc, all to indicate serious torture. And as expected, all the candidates waiting outside flee the place.
Except one, who naturally gets selected by default. We later discover it was his own buddy who had created all the ruckus so that the candidate could get selected minus any competition. Good fun.
Maruti Suzuki: Deti hai kya?
There's something pretty erotic about Maruti Suzuki's punch line.
"Kitna deti hai?" is the sort of language usually heard outside brothels. That said, I liked the single-mindedness of the 'fuel efficiency' campaign, it works quite nicely.
In a commercial, an army general is in a meeting evaluating a war tank. Some firangi army men are trying to impress him with complicated features. Our officer has just one question to ask. "Kitna deti hai?"
In the second one, a biz tycoon is being explained the cool features of a super-luxury yacht. And he has the same question to ask. And so on. Good, fun advertising. And a terrific consumer insight: however loaded we desis might be, at heart we are, and shall always be, kanjoos makhi-choos.
Asking the government not to restrict its probe only to the tax evasion aspect, the apex court told the government to go after the sources of black money.
New Delhi: Expressing concern that the black money stashed in banks abroad might have originated from arms deals, drug trafficking and smuggling, the Supreme Court today asked the government as to what action it had taken against individuals and firms having foreign accounts, reports PTI.
A bench headed by Justice B Sudarshan Reddy directed the government to file its response by Thursday next.
The court also sought replies from the government, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) on a petition seeking direction to the government to ratify the United Nations convention on corruption, which would facilitate it in bringing back black money from foreign banks.
Asking the government not to restrict its probe only to the tax evasion aspect, the bench told the government to go after the sources of black money.
"We want to know what steps you have taken against the people who have accumulated so much money in foreign banks. What are the sources of the money," the bench asked.
"These are people in the country who are amenable to the law. What action have you taken against them when you came to know that they have stashed money in foreign banks?
"What are the sources of the money? Where has the money come from? It might be because of arms deals, smuggling, narcotics, drug trafficking or something else. These are more serious issues, when you know the name, what action you have taken?," the bench asked.
Senior Advocate Anil Divan, appearing for petitioner and former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani, accused the government of not being serious on the issue, saying that Pune-based businessman Hasan Ali, facing a probe for stashing money to the tune of Rs36,000 crore in UBS Bank in Swiss bank, has fled the country.
The court, after hearing Mr Divan, asked the government to find out whether Ali is present in the country or has left it.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Mr Jethmalani seeking direction to the government to bring back black money stashed in foreign banks, which, according to him, amounted to around one trillion US dollars.
Besides Mr Jethmalani, five others, including former Punjab Director General of Police KPS Gill and former Secretary General of Lok Sabha Subhash Kashyap who are petitioners, have alleged that the government was not taking action to bring the back black money stashed in foreign banks. Non-governmental organization People's Political Front and former top cop Julio F Riberio are also among the petitioners.
Countering the allegation of the petitioners, the government submitted that it is holding discussions with various countries so that information regarding black money could be easily accessed.
"We are aware that black money is a problem for the country and we are dealing with it. We have a DTAA (Double Taxation Avoidance Act) with 79 countries and we have finalised a revised agreement with other countries including Switzerland," the solicitor general said adding that the government has been able to check the flow of around Rs34,000 crore out of the country.
A former Income Tax Commissioner KVM Pai also approached the court seeking to assist it in dealing with black money.
The apex court had on 19th January, while hearing the matter, expressed displeasure over the government's reluctance in coming forward with full information on the black money issue, saying keeping national wealth abroad amounted to "plunder" of the country.
"It is a pure and simple theft of the national money. We are talking about mind-boggling crime. We are not on the niceties of various treaties," the court had remarked.
The remark by the bench had been made when the solicitor general was explaining various steps taken by the government under the DTAA.
The court had expressed unhappiness that the government had filed an affidavit restricting information relating to the money deposited by 26 persons in LGT Bank in Liechtenstein.
How long will the ‘common’ citizen wait for the system to cleanse itself? Good clean unadulterated fuel is your right. The time to act is now!
Fuel adulteration is a subject that your humble correspondent has been very familiar with over the last few decades, in his many roles-as a seafarer working on oil tankers carrying clean and dirty petroleum products, as a shipbroker working for Transchart-the Government of India's chartering division which used to and still hires ships, as a cross-country rally-driver always on the lookout for good clean fuels, as an employee of a multimodal shipping company which handled thousands of containers in India by road and rail, as a freight forwarder who for a very short while owned and operated a modest fleet of mini-trucks, as a close relative of people who own and operate filling stations in India, as a close friend of somebody whose family made their fortunes and was part of the largest oil distribution network in remote parts of J&K...
And finally, as a motoring media-person often on the roads who kept his eyes and ears open and refused to get co-opted by the various strong lobbies at play in this amazingly wide business.
So here are a few simple truths, which need to be brought out again, in the wake of the Sonawane murder off Manmad, Maharashtra, a few days ago. Incidentally, such acts of violence against people who try to expose crimes are becoming increasingly commonplace in Maharashtra lately, it would seem-and nowhere in this does it appear as though "immigrants" are to blame.
Here are a few noteworthy points:
1) There is nothing new about fuel adulteration in and around the Mumbai-Pune-Nashik spheres of influence, within which Manmad certainly falls. As an important rail and road junction, and also as an important staging point for a variety of Armed Forces movements, one would have imagined that the powers of the State, whether Central, State or local, would have prevailed to an extent where such rampant and flagrant crimes could be controlled. Far from it-as any small auto or jeep-taxi operator will gladly let you know-the complete area is beholden to the smuggled as well as adulterated fuel rackets.
2) What is "smuggled" fuel? Apart from small ocean tankers or "bunker barges" creeping into the Konkan coast inlets and discharging into smaller country craft for delivery upcountry, "smuggled" fuel also refers to fuel that is pilfered from the many Armed Forces formations in that area. The height of "smuggling" was reached a few years ago, when it was discovered that the extremely high quality aviation fuel used for the IAF's Sukhoi Mk-II aircraft based out of Pune had also been adulterated. Nothing much is known about what happened to that investigation, though it was reported in the media at that time, too.
3) The side-roads of Maharashtra, and there are many, especially in the areas where rail transport has not made a dent, are dotted with signboards proclaiming "diesel/petrol available here", even at locations where genuine filling stations are not exactly rare. A quick pit-stop here will reveal that most of this fuel is certainly not genuine-a strip of blotting paper is enough to double-check this 'petrol'. And they will always be flying flags proclaiming theirpolitical affiliations.
4) But the real games are played in and around the larger cities. The numbers are phenomenal, the middle-class is not likely to have the time or energy to protest-and the risks are non-existent-because the complete system has been co-opted. Certainly, it happens all over the country-but the open defiance with which it happens in Pune, a city where the octroi games add to the complete experience of adulterated everything, is unmatched elsewhere. With the exception, maybe, of Mumbai and Nashik.
Here is one such personal experience, dating back to the winter of 2005, when I was a resident of Pune. And operating as well as driving my own car there, a reasonably decent diesel car, but one that I knew every breath and pulse beat of.
If you live in any city for any length of time, you get to learn very soon which are the "good" filling stations, and which are suspect. By and large, the "CoCo", or "Company Owned Company Operated" pumps are reliable, and the long lines of motor vehicles waiting outside would bear testament. And then, there are those which are totally unreliable, which even the locals avoid.
One such filling station, operated by HPCL, was located inside the largely residential area of Aundh. Living in nearby Baner myself, I had been warned not to take diesel from there, by others in the same area. Despite this, one fine day when I was away, the office staff decided to top up the car-and took fuel from there.
I got into Pune, and as soon as I started driving the car, felt the difference in performance. So I went to the filling station in question, and asked to see the owner, the manager and the complaint book. The answer I got from the attendants was, in all three cases, that the owner was a senior Congress politician, Mr Datta Gaikwad, in those days loyal to Mr Suresh Kalmadi, who was also a leading HPCL distributor as well as kingpin in the automobile and fuel business in and around Pune and for that matter all over the Maharashtra and Goa belt, and that I could lump it but nothing and nobody was available.
In addition, I was given the usual spiel by the hangers-on about how non-Maharashtrians were damaging the fabric of the city, which was even then becoming the standard ploy.
So, in the next phase, I decided to escalate the issue to HPCL. One Mr Ingle was listed as the HPCL Area Manager, and his mobile phone number provided. I called Mr Ingle, who gave me, in turn, the royal run-around, and directed me to visit his office, offer a written complaint, provide him with samples, and do many more things, in triplicate and in three bottles full. Interestingly, within one hour of that phone call by yours truly, I started receiving calls from the dealer as well as his 'friends' who wished to meet me, to advise me. In Pune, people know what this "advice" means.
A lesser man would have given up at this juncture-but by then I was in full flow, so I escalated the issue by email and written letters to everybody there was at HPCL. Interim, of course, I made sure I avoided Aundh-because by then HPCL and their cohorts, one Mr GSV Prasad Gottipati, Chief Regional Manager, presiding, had started laying on the heat. Open threats, followed by tapping of telephone bills and data therein, as well as insinuations which were followed by a major campaign by no less than the Chief Manager, PR & Corp Communication, Laxman Motwani, to force me into withdrawing my complaint.
The matter then reached another level when the Maharashtra Herald, an independent newspaper in those days, organised a methodical survey of over 60 filling stations in the Pune-Pimpri-Chinchwad area, for fuel quantity and quality. The report was carried on its front page and was very illuminating. The MH was sold to the Pawars subsequently and the rest is media history.
Eventually, of course, somebody from assorted Directors and Chairman's offices offered apologies. Another bunch promised action. Some people got transferred around. And Life went on. Till Life stopped for Mr Sonawane. On a side road off Manmad. While his driver and assistant were threatened or simply ran for their lives, knowing the fuel mafia-who wants to tangle with big politicians or their henchmen, then?
Point here is this-the oil companies, state owned ones especially, have more clout with every segment of society than many other entities.
Fuel adulteration, from the shipping and refinery stage onwards, can not be carried out without their direct complicity. Efforts to find out more about tank-cleaning using the Right to Information (RTI) Act, for example, are met with stonewalling. There is no cogent response on what exactly is better with the so-called "premium" fuels. So, when the rot flows top-down, why are we surprised about the effect it has at the bottom of the pyramid, the last mile from tank farm to retailer-it is actually nothing more than a final cover-up and blame point for a racket that starts at the refineries in far-away Persian Gulf countries or closer home in India.
So, the unfortunate and fiery end that Mr Sonawane met off Manmad does not surprise me, though it certainly saddens me. It has made it to the media because he was a Government official, a senior one at that, and the open arrogance had reached a point where the perpetuators were simply not scared of anybody. They knew, and probably still know, that the system of fuel purchase and distribution in India will continue to protect them.
In a day and age when even pizza delivery companies can and do track their delivery staff by a variety of methods, when the quality and quantity of orange juice in tetra-packs can and is maintained flawlessly, when milk distributed loose using Mother Dairy tankers is of a quality that has become a benchmark internationally-we are to believe that the oil companies and the Ministry in charge cannot assure us unadulterated fuel?
The rot in the retail fuel business does not start and end at a small dhaba off Manmad. It certainly starts in the lofty towers of the Chairmen's office of the state-owned oil companies-and if anything needs to be fixed, it starts from there. Let us not just let it end with a hartal by Government officials in Maharashtra-as co-sufferers, we need to get a message across that Mr Sonawane did not die in vain-get out of your cars and bikes, and demand that you be given the complaint books, and write what you think and feel in them-today.
Today. Good clean unadulterated fuel is your right, Time to stand up and demand it.