No, this post is not intended to berate the advertising fraternity.

Lakshmipathy Bhat’s post on the latest Rin Vs. Tide advertising war is bang on target. The issue is quite similar to what Horlicks and Complan indulged in, sometime back. While Bhat explains the advertising part of it brilliantly, I wonder if Rin did this only because they were using a one-way communication medium like television.

In PR, we pitch stories and there is at least a journalist/ editor who takes a call on overt client interest Vs. what is appropriate for readers. In advertising, they do it first and ASCI may need to come down after the damage is done.

So, on television and print, Rin can get away with anything, and whatever is done about it will be after the ad is aired – perhaps ASCI will pull them up and ask them to pay punitive damages. And, as an extreme, may be an apology ad too – if the matter is that serious. But hasn’t the damage been done already?

Would Rin folks have dared to do this in a participatory medium like social media? More so when there is no basis for comparison to proclaim that one is better than the other?

On TV, we consume messages passively and perhaps come back to twitter to comment on it, impulsively. And blog about it, if the ads really affect us. Online, we participate more actively and instantly. The ads are still working against Rin given how many people are talking about it on Twitter and blog posts like Bhat’s. But the movement from TV to social media is slow – as against if it had been an online property. Even within online properties, if this was a one-way broadcast (banner ads, microsites), Rin could again get away with whatever they want to, but given the online presence, it becomes far easier to quote the campaign and comment on it in other conversational media, like social networking sites or blog comments. On Rin’s own community online this claim would have been contested and debated many times over.

Strangely, it is on Tide’s own community that people are pouring their views – take a look at these 2 threads… thread 1 and thread 2.

But again, social media in India is not that big yet to make a serious dent – in other words, we do not have participatory media that rivals the reach of television or print. While I understand that, how long will functions using one-way communication escape accountability? Accountability could also mean interference into something that requires inherent creative freedom, but then, how does one stop such meaningless comparative ads?

Or even idiotic ads like the Bikini girl in JK Cement? Someone has even put up a complaint on Consumer Complaints against this ad, for whatever it’s worth!

If one communication function like PR is being repeatedly nudged to become more ‘authentic’, why is another communication function like advertising allowed to go scot free? Just because it is paid media? So, you pay and get away with almost anything?

No, this post is not intended to berate the advertising fraternity (repeating that for better impact!). I’m just wondering aloud on why paid media that doesn’t indulge in conversations is allowed so much leeway.

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