Amazon India's new "Aur Dikhao" (Show Me More) ad campaign has generated quite a lot of buzz, most of it quite positive. The jingle is catchy and the fast-moving frames display a range of situations that ostensibly capture the Indian consumer's craving for choice and variety - a contrite husband frantically tries to placate his wife with a range of expensive gifts, a couple of harried parents use their Amazon app to simultaneously calm their baby and teach him that he should never "settle for less", a child pulls out toy after toy from a box as his family slumps in front of the TV. In quick succession we see several other scenarios showing that Indians need choice wherever they may be, however old they may be and whatever it is that they may be doing including getting a haircut or buying a condom. There's even a nudge-nudge-wink-wink dig at Harsha Bhogle's changing hairstyles.
The ad is amusing enough and its purpose seems straightforward - highlight the variety of products available on Amazon India in a way that connects with the Indian psyche. But the more subtle message - if you can manage to tune out the jingle and urgent imagery - to the consumer is this: Buy. Buy Buy Buy. Without saying so overtly, the ad (which, incidentally, airs at the ridiculously expensive rate of Rs 4 lakhs per 10 seconds during the IPL) sells nothing but the very act of purchasing. Buying or the promise of buying is the only thing that can pacify a baby or please a spouse. I'm still trying to make sense of that, especially the "consumerisation" of an infant.
" On the face of it, the ad tips a hat at the Indian customer's discernment, but what it actually does is depict us as mindless."
According to Wikipedia, "advertising is a form of marketing communication used to persuade an audience to take or continue some action, usually with respect to a commercial offering, or political or ideological support". Simply put, the role of advertising is to nudge people towards choosing something, and they have done just that for a long time now. Yet, it is only since the advent of the internet that advertisements have taken on their current avatar - one where the focus is not so much on the product per se but on just buying, whether one needs the product or not.
I've bought books from Amazon in the past but the recent ad troubles me because of the assumptions it makes about the average Indian consumer. On the face of it, the ad tips a hat at the Indian customer's discernment, but what it actually does is depict us as mindless. It assumes that what everyone wants is just choice - of product, colour, pattern, shape and price among many other tangible attributes. Is that enough? Are we so focused on breadth that depth falls by the wayside?
We are a long way from responsible advertising that answers deeper questions: Where is a product being sourced from? Is fair trade being practised in those regions? Are people being paid minimum wage? Are the people who make the products getting their rightful due? Are they sure that children aren't being employed? You get the gist. Can there not be a space in the product description that addresses all or some of these questions, which could possibly change consumer behaviour?
Imagine having access to all possible information that could help you make a better, more informed choice - a choice that assimilates an understanding of the true cost of that drop in price, or the correlation between the reducing quality of products and regular version upgrades in the market.
Maybe then we will be able to think twice before we replace our perfectly functioning old phones for ever-slimmer versions or buy seven T-shirts instead of one just because they make them in so many colours. Maybe then, "not that expensive" and "so much choice" won't be good enough reasons to continue to buy at the rate at which we do.
Come sale time the next time around (which is every other week these days), maybe what we need to say is "aur batao" (tell me more) instead of "aur dikhao".