Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dream catcher - Prahlad Kakkar

Ad guru Prahlad Kakkar, who was in the city for an FTII seminar, spoke to a rivetted audience about the scope and possibilities of advertising. Sandhya Iyer reports

"Advertising in India is the only field in entertainment that is as good as a anything in the world. Our ads can compete anywhere," said ad guru Prahlad Kakkar while talking to students at a highly charged session at FTII. The seminar was on 'New Trends in Television Programming and Broadcasting'. He expressed how some of the most edgy, creative and wonderful work gets done in the sphere of advertisement. "As a training and breeding ground for talent, it is simply unparalleled. It is this little cousin of films in the entertainment industry, but it is superior in terms of all that it can explore in 30 seconds. The biggest plus is that you can experiment with form, technique and content, using someone else's money!," he said, smiling, tongue in cheek.

He also pointed out how filmmakers and advertising guys are all essentially dreamers. "I remember always being distracted in class and being punished for it. All over, the greatest advertising guys are drop-outs from some institution or the other. Dreams are always about a world we aspire for. We never dream about being at the same place, we want something better. Advertising is all about representing this aspirational world of the common man on screen - that is what lies at its heart. The key to good communication is to tap into this collective dream," he said. He also pointed out how it would be an excellent idea if FTII could introduce a weekly session called 'Dream Catcher' where students can come up and exchange dreams. "What a great fund of knowledge, fun and creativity that will be! And all these will be original ideas! It will be electric," he exclaimed.

Kakkar also showed the audience present some of the best ads made in recent times. Some of them included Times of India, Nike, Century Ply, among some others. There was applause after every commercial. "You will notice that these are not your average, hard-sell ads. The story-telling is layered, complex and that is what crafting is all about. You visualise an idea to its last detail. Everything is pre-thought, deliberated. Nothing is an accident when you create something so special," he says.

However, Kakkar also believes that there is need for ad-content to be monitored. "It is not about what is said, but what an ad suggests. That is the power of the subliminals. The Nazis used nursery rhymes to forward their propaganda among children! Currently, it's not happening in India, because the government is not that sophisticated in its propaganda machinery, and their ads are so literal that people can see through it. But once that changes, it will have an impact on minds. We need a body of psychologists, sociologists and advertising professionals, who can take a call on ad content," he viewed.

Some present in the audiences pointed at how the advertising world is ruled by commerce and they don't seem to take on social responsibilities. The example of contamination in soft drinks was taken up, to which Kakkar replied, "Pepsi and Coke are aware that they are political soft targets, and hence they take several intense measures to purify water. You can imagine how much contamination there is in the regular water and milk that you get. I would rather trust myself with soft drinks! The Pepsi and Coke issue is only the tip of the ice berg. The ad world can't concern itself with social issues all that much. It has to be a public-motivated movement," he noted. So can advertising play a proactive role in society at all? "They can, but they don't do it. I can only think of Tata Tea, which took out money from its mainstream ad budget to make 'Jago Re'. Like everyone else, advertisers also chase the eyeballs," he viewed.

As for the future, the ad guru believes ads will become more and more sophisticated in content and technique. "I see ads becoming more interactive like video games. The only thing we need to watch out for is the
subliminals - the message that we give out," he said.


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