Anytime is ad time

Companies rely on advertising to convince people to buy things they don't need. They also use advertising to salve their easily hurt egos. Four days after CSE went public with its report on pesticide residues in bottled water, a huge ad appeared in the February 8 edition of The Times of India. It was about Aquaguard, a domestic water purification gizmo sold by Eureka Forbes. Transforming the hullabaloo over pesticide-ridden 'unclean' water into a selling opportunity. The next day, the Times of India carried an ad of a very different kind. A small one, avoiding colour. Using long-winded syntax, the earnest ad is about how clean "Drinking packaged Kinley water" is

 
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

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Companies rely on advertising to convince people to buy things they don't need. They also use advertising to salve their easily hurt egos. And any event, or moment, is grist to this doubly strategic mill.

Four days after the New Delhi based Centre for Science and Environment went public with its report on pesticide residues in bottled water, a huge ad appeared in the Saturday (February 8, weekend) edition of The Times of India (a Delhi daily). It was about Aquaguard, a domestic water purification gizmo sold by Eureka Forbes. Transforming the hullabaloo over pesticide-ridden 'unclean' water into a selling opportunity, the ad celebrates Aquaguard's abilities to do a great clean-up. It foregrounds the fact that the gadget uses a technique called e-boiling (electronic boiling), quite the thing to do in the e-age (electronic age). e-boiling water is far better than just boiling water; why get into heating pots and pans when this little machine can do it? e-boiling not only kills bacteria and viruses and cleans up organic impurities and suspended particles, but also makes water "free of chemical impurities". Out, bottled water; the real thing is here. Of course, there's no mention of the 'p-word', the poisonous things the report found in bottled water.

The next day, a Sunday, the Times of India carried an ad of a very different kind. This ad is a small one. It avoids colour, thus underplaying its presence. It is text-heavy, resembling the kind of advertorials one usually associates with non-governmental organisations (ngos, those earnest people who don't know what advertising is really about). Using long-winded ngo syntax, the earnest ad is about how clean "Drinking packaged Kinley water" is.

The ad uses two registers: hard information and soft sentiment. Kinley's cards are honestly laid out on the adver-table. Readers are informed about a 7-step purification process use to produce Kinley water. Then, the ad begins to simper. It makes a "statement of total belief", appealing to the reader's tear-glands. We use so much heavy-duty technology; how could our water be unclean? All Coca-cola employees "proudly consume" Kinley water (why have you stopped buying bottles of it?). The final justification/tear-jerker the ad uses is a clich that even The Economist magazine has now abandoned: corporate social responsibility.

Without contesting the report, which talks about damningly high amounts of pesticide residues in Kinley water, the ad ends with a sentimental slogan. It uses the vernacular to show readers that Coca-Cola India is as Indian as they are. Translated, the punchline reads: Belief in each drop.

Please ignore, dear reader, this piece of reactive advertising. Drop your stunned disbelief. The Coca-Cola India cash register needs you, again.

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