MG Parameswaran's eighth book is out. We spoke to him about 'Nawabs, Nudes, Noodles'.
'Nawabs, Nudes, Noodles - India through 50 years of Advertising'. A rather sensational title, that. Psst: It was going to be 'Jo biwi se kare pyaar', inspired by the famous catchphrase hatched by pressure cooker brand Prestige, back in the day. But the current one is far more catchy. Besides, alliterations thrill the author.
And shape, it does. "Surf's 'Lalitaji' ad preceded the serial Rajani on Doordarshan... it wasn't the other way around, as many seem to think," author MG Parameswaran, who goes by Ambi, reminds us, referencing actor Priya Tendulkar's character by the same name, in the popular 1980s serial, that resembles Surf's penny wise housewife.
As for mirroring - why do you think so many ads today are about harbouring a strong sense of individualism and being oneself, no matter the cost? It's the tenet Gen-Y - every second brand's core TG - lives by.
Ambi, former CEO and executive director (and subsequently, advisor), FCB Ulka, has over 35 years of industry experience. Today, he spends his time consulting with brands and teaching at IIM Calcutta. His clients hail from the healthcare, food retail and consumer products space; he also mentors several start-ups, run by 20-somethings looking for professional guidance. They respectfully call him "Uncle."
From leading a mainstream advertising agency to being a consultant and chronicler of Indian advertising, how much has life changed for Ambi? "After moving out of Ulka, I could have easily put my shoes up and relaxed. But I wanted to use my knowledge and talent in a meaningful way," he says, nevertheless admitting that today he has "no head ache of meeting bottom line targets, client pressures, billing and collection reviews, tension of deadlines... I love reading, writing and teaching and that's what I'm doing now..."
This is Ambi's eighth book; previous titles include 'For God's Sake' (most recent), 'Strategic Brand Management' (with Kevin Lane Keller and Isaac Jacob), 'DraftFCB + Ulka: Brand Building Advertising - Case Book II' (with Kinjal Medh), 'Ride the Change: A perspective on the Changing Indian Consumer, Market and Marketing', 'Building Brand Value: Five Steps to Building Powerful Brands', 'Understanding Consumers: Building Powerful Brands Using Consumer Research' and 'FCB-Ulka - Brand Building Advertising: Concepts and Cases'.
Would he call 'Nawabs, Nudes, Noodles' his most 'massy' attempt yet? The book, he says, is a balance between what the experienced adman/adwoman would like to read and what the young expect from a book of this kind.
In the book, he has referenced several old ads (see images) and discussed how they reflect the psychology of the consumer of their respective eras. "Some ads become part of the cultural context of a nation, some just do their job of selling the product and disappear," Ambi smiles.
So 'equality marketing', as some experts dub it, could easily be a passing phase, feels Ambi. Does being part of social conversation lead to brand salience and trial? That's the question brands ought to ask themselves before riding any temporary wave, goes his advice. "When Tanishq spoke about re-marriage, it did so not in an esoteric manner... wedding jewellery is part of its core offering," he asserts.
Which segments, in Ambi's view, are best suited to capture the changes transpiring in society today - 'new age' categories like mobile wallets, app-based services and dot coms or brands that belong to 'traditional' categories like soap, tea and apparel?
He adds, on a tangent, "In India, consumer culture matured very rapidly. In other countries it look 60-70 years but we saw a rapid change in a very short span - 20-25 years. I'm not sure whether that pace will continue in the days ahead."
Brand guru Santosh Desai, MD and CEO, Futurebrands India, will discuss the book with Ambi, at a conference, at Mumbai's Godrej India Culture Lab, at 5 pm, today.