Guest Article: Chaitanya Chunduri: 'TGFA' - Thank God For Advertising

By Chaitanya Chunduri , Google, New Delhi | In Digital | December 29, 2015
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Some communities resort to fascinatingly extreme means to preserve and propagate their culture. Fortunately, for the rest of us there is advertising.

On the outskirts of Pretoria, South Africa, is an extremely closed community called Kleinfontei.

It is home to a small group of 1,200 Christian Afrikaners who embrace traditional Afrikaner culture and exclude all others from their settlement.

Chaitanya Chunduri

They are so excluded from the larger population that at the entrance of the settlement is a gate monitored by security guards 24 hours a day who let in visitors only if they have an invitation.

No wonder then, when Erica Canepa, a freelance Italian photographer, started researching the community, she couldn't find even a single photo of the place. Thus began her quest to get into the community that culminated in a brilliant NatGeo piece.

The big insight drawn from her NatGeo picture story is that the Kleinfontein's way of life is more about preserving its unique cultural identity than simply keeping others out.

Pic Erica Canepa, source: Nat Geo

"I found it's not about the race; everything is about the culture, and racism became a consequence of their desire to protect themselves and their culture."

After all, isn't their need to preserve our collective DNA (a.k.a culture) universally applicable?

Ask the ultra-orthodox Rabbis if you are still in doubt...

Recently, as part of their long struggle to keep the modern media from corrupting their ultra-orthodox Rabbi community also called the Haredi, their council gathered earlier this year to discuss a "great spiritual danger" a.k.a WhatsApp.

Why? Because it turns out, it has become a popular method for their followers to form groups for exchanging gossip and even "immodest" images and video clips.

Consequently, as The Economist reports: The ultra-Orthodox community's purchasing power is such that Israeli mobile-phone providers agreed to market special "kosher connection" smartphones, without the offending apps and allowing only carefully regulated information services. To make sure the faithful use them, these devices have their own group of phone numbers and a distinctive ringtone.

A Haredi man with a mobile phone

Apparently, what do the younger Haredim that want to ignore the edict do?

Interestingly, as the report says, they buy two mobile devices: one for calls within the community, while tucked away in another pocket is a smart phone to keep up with the outside world.

The extent to which these younger Rabbis go to get what they want while still ostensibly trying to appear "kosher compliant" speaks (ironically) about their commitment to be part of the larger community moment to preserve and propagate their core cultural ideals and ideas.

Meanwhile elsewhere...

Did you know of this ongoing plot to liberate North Korea with smuggled episodes of Friends?

Not just Friends. In fact, by the estimates of the group that has been meticulously executing this cross border "culture smuggling", over 3,000 USB drives filled with foreign movies, music, and e-books land into the North Korean territory annually.

Kang Chol-hwan, the founder of this group likens the USB sticks to the red pill from The Matrix: a mind-altering treatment that has the power to shatter a world of illusions.

Photo of Kang Chol-hwan and the thumb drive guerrilla invasion. Source:

Now that's some real transformative power of cultural propagation.

Fortunately for the rest of us there's advertising to lend a helping hand.

See any festive ad now - anything that you can think of.

And, arguably, it would be about this one single thing -preserving and propagating our culture, within communities and across generations.

Tanishq's 2015 Diwali TVC that celebrates Indian culture

This festive season, amidst all the fun and frolic, among family and friends as you exchange your warmest gifts and greetings why not reflect for a moment and ask yourself..

Would this festive occasion still hold the same special meaning to us with all its finer nuances and rich textures without this thing called 'advertising'?

Festive Greetings and Thank God For Advertising!

(The author is principal account manager, FMCG vertical, Google India. He blogs at

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