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Srinath Sridharan

Independent markets commentator. Media columnist. Board member. Corporate & Startup Advisor / Mentor. CEO coach. Strategic counsel for 25 years, with leading corporates across diverse sectors including automobile, e-commerce, advertising, consumer and financial services. Works with leaders in enabling transformation of organisations which have complexities of rapid-scale-up, talent-culture conflict, generational-change of promoters / key leadership, M&A cultural issues, issues of business scale & size. Understands & ideates on intersection of BFSI, digital, ‘contextual-finance’, consumer, mobility, GEMZ (Gig Economy, Millennials, gen Z), ESG. Well-versed with contours of governance, board-level strategic expectations, regulations & nuances across BFSI & associated stakeholder value-chain, challenges of organisational redesign and related business, culture & communication imperatives.

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Jest In Chime. Or Is It Meme?

Sad, it’s an ad. My bad, I can’t understand a thing !

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It stuck me when a friend commented that in the just-concluded India-Pakistan T20 cricket match, the telecast mostly had ads for digitally-led products including crypto, game of skills (if they so insist in the court of law), etc.; and that he, as any non-digital-native, did not understand any of those ads or the relevance of the so-called need for most of those products advertised. Except probably the one which boasts to the viewers that they can simply outsource their kids education to them ! And that life will be happy ever-after. Or just about to that effect.

Another friend, equally non-digital-native, but one who is fairly versed with digital products commented that some of these digital platform ads remind him of the frenzied print ads and street-side PoPs that state lotteries used to have few years ago. That makes me wonder if the opposite of digital-native could well be ‘digital-naive’ ?!

Almost all those ads ‘told’ the viewers how to spend money on them (if you really insist, will replace the word ‘spend’ with ‘invest’, subject to regulators clearing that word #invest ). None of them seemed to explain what they were about, and almost everyone gave the impression that the Indian (domestic market) viewers were flush with funds and more importantly their knowledge about digital products and services; and as if they are all set to just spend and spend. It was a feeling of ‘consumption economy has consumed us’ !

The media planners, well to their credit, would have burned up sufficient computer processing power and their time and few swigs of energy-drinks, to arrive at the media plans for some of these slick or few sick ads. As long as the client can pay up those burns, sorry ad spends, on time. And if possible, get some awards for wonderful advertising or superbly executed campaign. After all, it’s good to have clients who are “best marketeers” or “India’s top 100 CMO”, or even “Lifetime achievement award”. Boosting clients ego or vanity always helps , even for digitally-native clients.

It is remarkable that some of these ads are emotionally so tugging, that one forgets that it’s selling a dream, and not the cream as they understood. Anyways many of these ads also simply scream; scream celebrities with the assumption that the ad would work. Are the Indian viewers so gullible ?


Ads have to be one or many of these attributes : enjoyable, relateable, informative, trigger call-to-action. That’s for every type of consumer, despite age or any classification that’s drilled into the minds of marketing and advertising trainees. Over the last decade, thanks to the digital advertising, we have added plethora of terminologies to the advertising lexicon (the word cannot be split as lexi - con ). Phrases like “sponsored message”, “trusted recommendation”, “promotion”, “word of mouth” (in a digital or print ad, really ?), “endorsed information”. And more will get added.

While the deep consumer research that also understand social signals are done continuously by serious marketeers, many of the ads seem to meander all around, fuelled happily by the private investors venture funding. Mostly with the focused intent to change consumer behaviour. Even if some call it brain washing or scaring them into making the purchase decision. It’s a scientific process of understanding the (potential) customer and consumer, and signaling a ‘need’ and to drive them up the wall. No, drive them to click or swipe, to buy.

All effective ads need not be memorable ! In the digital advertising business, they say that “If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.” Until I am convinced by these ads that I should buy myself, let me jest enjoy the ads and do them jestice; I meant just & justice ! Should I ? Or should I not ?

If even a minor part of the Indian TV ads do their job, then it might be worth handing over key responsibilities of any literacy-initiative that the government wants to do. I mean literately. Oops, sorry literally ! Now which brand was that on TV that can help me get my vocalberries right ? Or is it vocabulary ? Damn, who is going to now pay for my enrollment ?

Srinath Sridharan, Corporate Advisor & Independent markets commentator