Subhas Warrier
Guest Article

Subhas Warrier on a series on 'new normals'...

... and how it all ties back to advertising.

Before a storm there is always a calm but in our mind there is a storm, always simmering. And it is simmering hot and cold all the time. Never before have we witnessed debates on almost every subject under the sky being drawn out in the open. Social norms, historical contradictions, political correctness, nationalism; we also have newer words in this context called 'sickulars' and more.

Subhas Warrier on a series on 'new normals'...

Subhas WarrierAs a result, what will be the whole new world order that is rapidly changing? What are we leaving behind for our children and the generations to come? I would like to believe that everybody is searching for his or her 'new normal' in harmony with nature but mostly, it ends up in disharmony.

A movement called 'AAP' which I was convinced was an idea for which the time had come, found a new norm in the political discourse of the country but fell short of being the movement we were expecting.

Quitting professional careers, turning into entrepreneurs, 'starting up', becoming more risk-willing, are some of the other trending stories. The immediate yearning is to do what your heart has been murmuring to you all the while. It is 'your calling', they say.

Subhas Warrier on a series on 'new normals'...

Someone I know quit his job, sold everything he had and left one fine morning on his Royal Enfield Thunderbird to solo travel and see the world. He travelled through 40 countries in five continents over a period of one year and found his new norm: keep going for the rest of your life. He now needs to earn and save for his next trip but he has made travel his self-sustaining means to an end.

So there are two new norms: one in harmony with nature and the other in disharmony with everything else, for which I could borrow a synonym called 'disruption'.

Although my friend's solo trip in my view is in harmony with nature - it's in our nature to untie and live like a free bird - there is an inherent disruption he has created amongst his peer group, his family circle and for the normal society at large, especially in our relatively conservative up-bringing. This is what I called the Alpha Normal: he is within the bounds of nature's call, springing up to the next realm where he will make travel his second nature and break the ceiling to unravel the hidden mysteries of and lessons from places and cultures far away.

In music, arts and cinema there are experiments galore. It took America this long to have an all-women team for the successful making of the movie 'Wonder Woman'. Did we ever imagine that animated movies of bedtime stories would have such a huge impact on an adult audience?

One reason for this is that cinema-going behaviour itself has changed to a major family outing, an 'event'. Then came the whole new experience of multiplexes and 3D production and a heightened source of escapism which saw the whole movie industry find its new norm. In India, we have travelled a whole 360 degrees; we are challenged on new censorship rulings but I believe it is all a result of our society jostling between the conservative and the contemporary. Movies will continue to break new imaginary grounds but the censorship board needs to be put on a beta test. Whilst the liberals may cry foul, they need to understand that the new norm that is being created is due to a whole lot of factors.

In politics, Narendra Modi broke new grounds and found a new normal by unveiling a highly polarised electorate that was simmering emotionally under the surface. The opposition party failed to read the public mood. There was a pattern that emerged subsequently in Brexit, the Trump Effect and finally settling back to a known normal in the most recently concluded elections in France.

But the world is yet to settle down to a new normal, with the two largest democracies of the world showing hyper counter-intuitive trends. It could be argued that the largest number of free thinkers might be residing here, given the sheer size of the population. But the real numbers that make headlines are disproportionately one-sided and that is why the narrative has taken some ugly turns. This is what I call the 'Lowest' Norm or the Alpha (Minus) Norm.

It is good that the whole country is debating every subject threadbare (a healthy sign of a mature democracy) through the smallest of spaces - a 140 character text box - to a whole episodic inundation of the media, be it sold, paid, fake or defined by whatever other definition one finds appropriate. The media has also found a new norm which is the worst of the lot, so I call it the Alpha - - (Minus Minus).

In this context, advertising stands out like a beacon of light. It is finding a new norm in a very positive manner: longer format, storytelling and innovations in the social media. A lot of significant social messages, women empowerment, reunions, social harmony, old age support (the latest winner at the Cannes) have all made our business a great equaliser in the daily humdrum of endless debates. This is what I call the Beta ++ Norm.

I pray there is a calm after the storm.

(The author is founder-director of RubixKube Communications, an advertising and media consultancy Company.)