Sunil Gupta

Telecom services are supposed to be the big spenders on marcomm in India so it's only apposite they are the (bad?) apples of my eye.

But before I launch into my tirade (Lord knows I have just cause, so help me God), a bit of sweetness in the desert first.

Ranbir Kapoor. I didn't recognize him as the surly old geezer in the Docomo commercials, and that's the hallelujah thing. No matter how much AB dresses up as a pandit or a bumpkin, it is only AB you see, worse luck.

But the lad's brilliant: his makeup, his dress, his mannerisms, all in sync and his acting superb. Just what everyone who pays big bucks to hire Bollywood actors to peddle their stuff should be striving for.

But I've shot my sweetness bolt now... bit of a strain being so nice, and time to revert to type.

Just hope Docomo is living up to all those grandiose promises... because as sure as God made cellular towers, the telecom services which promise that they're with us whenever, wherever and all that stuff are reneging on their promises like politicians on their pre-poll promises.

Let's take old doggy-do as a living, breathing (or perhaps 'breathy' is more appropriate) example (only because I've been picking up the doggy-do for over a decade now).

What really nice TVCs (and all the Lolita naysayers can go to doggy hell), what sweet children, what nice premises, and what pretty pictures of a telecom Valhalla they paint... no dropped calls, talk forever, no break in coverage, no... you get the point.

Sadly, so not happening. I'm currently in Bangalore (not a hick town despite the fact that the king isn't fishing here anymore), and my mobile service has reeled from SOS, No Service, GSM, edge and EDGE at least a hundred times in the past few hours, like a drunken sailor lurching from bar to bar on shore leave.

What recourse do I have? What redress? Can I at least tap the doggie on the nose and say 'bad boy'?

It's really a case of doggy-don't... don't promise the earth and don't expect puppy love (!) to overshadow the real problems you don't give a damn about.

It's like the Reliance Netconnect ads...guy doing a Houdini while a speeding train's approaching by logging on to the net and getting tips on how to undo knots; I mean, come on! Isn't there a more creative way to show speed than a speeding train or a rampaging elephant?

What if I try it and the train's Netconnect works faster... I won't be there to tell the tale, will I, so all's tickerty-poo for the advertiser, natch?!

Promises, promises, as the girl said to the fire-eater.

Which brings me to that question that rivals the 64000 dollar one: why change something that works? Take Lay's: their earlier tagline and communication ("You can't eat just one") was so, so good. It had all the attributes of a solid brand promise, rooted as it was in the ethos of eating chips: you really can't stop at one, and for most part the ads backed that premise up.

So it befuddles me when I see their latest offering (something about "pal ko kar de magical"), and communication that says that by eating Lay's you can be transported to Leh (what a pun, I say, well done Agency!) and other such yawn-exotic spots. While I guess it has something going for it in that it'll cut out a bit of your carbon footprint if you stay at home and shovel in the chips (though eat too many of those and you'll be a good candidate for cashing in your own chips), does it make sense? Is one really transported to some other place when one eats chips? Oh, come on! Why, oh why, do these brands still think we're living in the 1970's when escapism was the mantra?

Perhaps they'd be better served if they interpreted 'pal' not as 'moment' but as 'friend'. Though even then it'd be a Hindi movie script, I suspect.

And my final grouse for the day: the Vaseline Whitening ad in which a budding tennis player is told that she won't be able to participate in an upcoming tournament because she's too dark. I am seething on many counts... forget the fact that Venus and Serena would smash this one into the deep forehand corner for a winner, it is the apotheosis of the entire gross and demeaning whitening products oeuvre put together because it, of all situations, is so teeth-gratingly condescending and patently false. Perhaps a girl can't get married because she's too dark (sad but true in our lovely India called Bhindia) but not to be able to play a tennis match?

And this from Unilever! Supposedly the most ethical company since the creation of the Church. Bosh, I say. Harish, I want to see you tell your daughter that.

And finally surely the most unfortunate name ever thought up by someone who should stay very nameless: "SQUEASY" for a brand of tomato ketchup. Or actually, how apposite!