A Guest Article by Google India's Chaitanya Chunduri.
Handwriting just doesn't matter.
Or does it?
But over a century, the focus on cursive handwriting in schools actually ended up achieving the opposite. Mastering it was dull, repetitive work, intended to make every student's handwriting match a predefined standard.
In fact in 19th century America, students were, reportedly, taught to become "writing machines", holding their arms and shoulders in awkward poses for hours to get into shape for writing drills.
Or take this Lego ad from 1981. See anything unusual here?
This approach celebrated a child's creativity, regardless of what she has created. As the ad copy goes on to say..
"...how proud it's made her. It's a look you'll see whenever children build something all by themselves. No matter what they've created"
Sadly, this approach didn't sell a lot of Lego blocks presumably because it required too much risk on the part of parents and kids - the risk of making something that wasn't perfect or expected.
So what did Lego do?
They switched from these all purpose "Universal Building Sets" to a lineup that included more of predefined kits - models that must be assembled precisely one way, or they're wrong.
These discourses on cursive handwriting or Lego are metaphors of what's happening with schools around.
By the turn of the 19th century, the biggest challenges of our newly minted industrial economy were two fold:
1. Finding enough compliant workers and
2. Finding enough eager customers
The school system - that most of us would have been brought up under - evidently solved both problems.
But the world around has changed into a culture that celebrates ideals like ingenuity, connection, ideas, courage and risk, versus one that only promoted values like conformity, obedience and risk aversion.
Sadly, our schooling system has changed little from that originally envisaged for a completely different era.
So a scene with a class full of students repeating ad nauseam after their teacher, rhymes or lessons, that only serve the purpose of further perpetuating outdated or worse still outlandish values against today's realities, is certain to provoke anger and perhaps even instigate an active change in our world view.
Two brands have recently used this very scene, to demonstrate how deeply we have tried to graft our misplaced conceptions of ideas around individualism and beauty in our children.
Earlier this month, Nike Japan launched a new campaign with a spot that redefines the phrase 'Minohodoshirazu', which translates to "Don't know your place." While the term is typically used as an insult towards the overly ambitious, the anthem ad tells viewers that not knowing your place can instead be a mindset for athletes to strive for.
Created by W+K Tokyo and directed by Omri Cohen, the ad manages to contrast the values being embedded in children with shots of athletic achievements that run counter to these messages of compliance and obedience.
Dove's Is That You?
The famous nursery rhyme 'Chubby Cheeks, Rosy Lips...' is used as the background score for this video created by Culture Machine (and subsequently pitched to Dove).
The rhyme and the contrasting visuals make you wonder if this is how we have sought to institutionalise a misguided set of beauty ideals in generation after generation of young girls, every single year.
It is always interesting to see different brands, different agencies from different parts of the world, adopt a similar executional approach to land their respective ideas.
(The author is principal account manager, FMCG vertical, Google India. He blogs at brandednoise.com)