In recent times, one of the most talked about advertisements on Indian television is the new Kerala tourism ad. The reasons may not be all that the tourism board officials or the agencies involved envisaged but a buzz it has definitely created.
Love it or hate it, one thing's for sure, you can hardly ignore it (which I might add is also the reason for this post. I couldn't ignore it either)
Most Indians viewing it on their television channels in India seem to have gone ballistic about the ad being mis-representative of the state. Kerala, one of the most attractive & well-visited by tourists, both domestic and international evokes images of swaying coconut palms, cool back waters, lashing rains, boat races and resplendent elephants at temple festivals. Imagery, which by the way, has only been reinforced by advertisements (view here) from the tourism board themselves. It has to be one of the most advertised states in the country, a job the tourism guys are doing very well, I must say.
The director, Prakash Varma, of Nirvana Films (makers of the now omnipresent Zoo Zoos for Vodaphone in India) claims that all the locations & traditions featured are very much a part and parcel of the real Kerala (ref TOI Crest edition Oct 2-8, 2010). And being a Malayalee he ought to know (I should think) what the redeeming features of his native state are.
So what exactly is the problem? Is it that Indians are so influenced by stereotypes of Kerala that they cannot keep an open mind and view it differently? Is it that the visuals are just so stark and haunting that it just doesn't invite? Was it even meant for Indian viewers, given that it was launched in London as a promotional to attract foriegn tourists (who incidentally love the ad) ?
Did Kerala tourism then make a mistake by airing it in India and opening it up to unnecessary criticism? Yes, I would think they did make a hash of the media plan and subsequent PR in India. If the advertisement was created as a invitation to foriegn audiences who are vastly different from Indians in their outlook, why air it on Indian channels and that too in such a piecemeal fashion? Guess, Kerala tourism's marketing people are the only ones who probably know the answer to that question.
Is the creative in question a true representation of the state? To that, I can only say, "to each his own", every creative person has the license to express her/his creativity freely. The creative has the feel of an art film rather than a commercial that sells a product to viewers. In the case of the ad, the client and the advetising agency collaborated with the production house in the making of the film, so shouldn't the brick-bats as well as the bouquets be for all?
The bigger question though - is the creative an original or heavily "inspired" by another nation's tourism advt? I believe it to be as good as plagiarised from what I have seen of Mexico's tourism advts. Though don't take my word for it... see for youself:
And some more in the series of advts at http://www.youtube.com/user/bicentenariotelevisa
Infact, this blatant 'copy' bothered me more than the bad idea of releasing the advt in India or the so-called mis-representation of Kerala. An ad that showcases Kerala and therefore, a slice of India to the international audience is going to be seen as a rip-off. More surprising is that a reputed production house like Nirvana (creators of the Zoo Zoos - very original) is associated with copied content. Why?
Some other relevant links: