Published in Business Standard on the 9th of December 2013
Published in Business Standard on the 9th of December 2013
Creativity governed by rules would lead to the death of entertainment. Daily soaps, movies and ads would be like power point presentations using excel sheets. Exaggeration and imagination are the cornerstones of creativity and story telling. Can you imagine a story without a metaphor, vivid demonstration, fantasy or a hyperbolic demonstration of human greed? Be it Axe or Avatar if the underlining moral were not be exaggerated, it would never sink in.
Having said the above now imagine a state without any legislature to govern, a society without any norms, a family with out any principles. We all can imagine the mayhem.
What is moral and what is legal is an eternal debate, in spite of a legal definition, because we all would like to be governed by morals rather than legislature if given a choice. Why should this be any different for the brands that are behaving as human as real as our siblings? Why do 99.999% of disputes is resolved without ever had to go to courts or lawyers?
As civilized beings we know when to cross the line and when not to. If we argue modern day brands are like humans who find a purposeful existence in people’s life than why don’t they behave themselves by not crossing the line? The state bestowed faith on the industry to conduct itself by allowing “Self governed code of conduct” and a body to monitor “Advertising Standard Council of India “ and all we do as a community is to find legal ways to beat the system. If the law says you need to have a support to your claim, we produce one from an unheard research institute, as insiders we all know what game we have been playing.
Time has come to take a hard look at the old approach not because laws have changed because people have changed, world has changed. Today 90% of the youth in the world are concerned about the survival of the planet, world peace, old parents and values. Never before transparency and honesty are valued as today. Leader are responding to this new order be it Obama or Anna Hazare or Nike or Apple. In fact I would go to an extent of saying leading brands have responded faster then the political leaders, to support my hypothesis let me barrow a research report which says 4 out of top 10 icons of the world are brands not people.
There is a selfish reason why brands must inculcate good values first and start to propagate them next. If the brands are governed by the principles of the values they abide by then there is very little chance of them crossing any ethical line to be punished by people or state.
Lets turn to the communicators or the creators. I believe they are two kinds of human beings in this world, those who care and those who don’t. Those who do care are the sensitive lot and are aware of sensitive issues like; gender, values, ethics, children, safety, religion and minority communities, they generally rely on honesty and integrity of the communication to connect with people. They avoid using hyperbolic gimmicks to attract the attention. These are the guys who guide a brand to success thru life insights on the other hand people who do not care for others sentiments, do create regressive communication by resorting to cheep humor, emotional black mailing or even cooked up miss-leading facts.
Brands today are like celebrities their behavior in public is been watched by live cameras 24X7, the moment Shahrukh lit a cigarette in an a stadium, hundreds of tweets went live and even some legal suits. In this transparent world you cannot close your eyes and think world is not watching you. If you show a little kid “Chotu”serving tea in a ad, no matter how light heartedly you portray the situation, people will decode you as an endorser of child labor.
Creative people and agencies also have to be sensitive towards the societal realities. No rulebook says you cannot use a “pug” in an ad. But one need to be sensitive to the fact that the desire the ad can create in people to own and love a “pug” would be enormous and the damage it can potentially create to the species would also be enormous. If only creators were to give a little thought before depicting two boys in a family ad and the influence it can have on people to aspire for boys. When we realize a little thought could have let a girl child live we would understand our purpose in life.
Creators have an enormous power to write stories, which can influence people and their-in lays the responsibility to use the power in the right way. If the marketers and communicators ignore the responsibility and cross the line they may well face the consequence of rulebooks, which may well be written by the NGO/Govt., legal eagles.
Censorship or self-discipline, choice is ours today.
How did this 74 year old caught the imagination of Indian youth and made them rally around a 60-year-old bill and a 5000-year-old issue?
Why did loads of tweet-support flood every nano-second of the agitation?
Why did the most powerful television channel go on a record 240 hours of non-stop coverage almost converting news as a reality channel?
Why did I change my Facebook profile picture?
Why did the opposition party go numb?
What made the seasoned politicians make such political blunders?
The answer is simple. “Anna found a purpose to his existence.”
It took years even for Mahatma Gandhi to find a purpose to his existence; lesser mortals like us may not even find one in our lifetime.
Anna discovery of his purpose and mission took the country by surprise, his timing was flawless, scams and toothless actions paved way for his massive and historic modern-day civilian movement in the world’s largest democracy.
People were angry to see the audacity of the corrupt politicians, businessmen, and religious leaders and shameless public display of money in building mansions. A trillion dollars locked in the locker rooms of Swiss banks and toilets of government quarters’, the economic progress stopped to start an economic exploitation.
Clearly someone crossed the line.
Anna’s purpose of “fighting against corruption” caught the imagination of a billion victims. And his stubborn Gandhian and his humble & honest ways attracted people like little iron fillings to a magnet. He was a mere catalyst to a huge chemical reaction destine to happen.
Now what can brands learn from this? Like great human beings find a purpose to their lives, even brands must find a human purpose to find a place in people’s lives as Anna’s life is governed by his purpose to serve the nation, even brands must be governed by its purpose. And finally must walk the talk.
As Mahatma Gandhi says “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”