Why should Hindi written in English be the pan-India norm in advertising?

More updates, on this topic:

Please see the updates at the end of this post. This is more of an on-going thread to ‘showcase’ stellar examples of Hindi being used as pan-Indian communication language.

There is this interesting trend in print advertising when I connect last year’s Honda campaign (Teri Har Udaan, Hamari Shaan, the corporate campaign) and yesterday’s MxPlayer campaign.

In both campaigns, the brands have chosen to use a Hindi headline/caption, written in English, for the English newspapers.

At the same time, they have a regional language headline/caption, written in their respective languages, for the regional language newspapers.

Why is Hindi, that too written in English, treated as a pan-India norm?

Shouldn’t English (that is, a headline/caption conceived and written in English) be the pan-India unifier because it is region-agnostic, and considering the simple fact that it is being released in an English newspaper?

The other perspective is to use a regional language headline (which they already have!) in English, for each region. That lends consistency to the campaign too – for instance, a Telugu caption runs in Telugu script in Eenadu newspaper, and the same slogan runs in English in The Times of India, Hyderabad edition. Times Money had tried this last year.

This also appeals in another important way – many of the younger folks do not write/read their mother tongue. But, they speak their mother tongue because it is being spoken in the city, home, families etc. So, when you have a Tamil caption, written in English, in The Times of India’s Chennai edition, even locals who cannot read Tamil script, can read the slogan and understand the context in their mother tongue. This is inherently more appealing to them, particularly when compared to a Hindi headline written in English text.

The brands and agencies can save on costs by sending the same Hindi-written-in-English creatives to the English newspaper as a standard, but in the cost-saving process, they also waste money because the communication is merely functional, not emotional.

People in India, outside the Hindi speaking belts, know Hindi for practical reasons, not because they love the language. It helps them communicate – that’s it. Advertising is a process of convincing someone about a product or a service – to do that, brands need to appeal to them emotionally, beyond mere functional communication. One big way to reach Indian audiences emotionally is to speak their language.

Remember David Ogilvy’s quote from many, many years ago?

I don’t know the rules of grammar… If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.

David Ogilvy

It also fits another important criteria. Clients always ask agencies that their communication/creative work hard in convincing their audience. A Hindi caption, added amidst English text, released in a Chennai newspaper may work poorly in comparison to the same ad having a Tamil caption (written in Roman/English script). The ask from brands and agencies is simple – to be open to the possibilities, and not be lazy that one Hindi caption is good enough for a ‘national-level’ campaign.

UPDATE – February 25, 2019:

A showcase of Hindi slogans in just today’s newspapers, by brands and in politics.

UPDATE – March 21, 2019:

OLX’s new national campaign probably appeals specifically to Hindi-speaking readers of Chennai and Bengaluru!

UPDATE – March 24, 2019:

Even as Britannia PureMagic Chocolush goes zyaada overboard with a Hindi slogan written in English even for Chennai, Colours TV understands that you need to speak in a language your audience speaks, to appeal to their heart!

UPDATE – March 27, 2019:

Delightfully tone-deaf 🙂

UPDATE – April 1, 2019:

Dear Bank of Baroda, wouldn’t you want your communication (that you have clearly spent crores on) to work harder? So, if you are releasing this ad in the Hubbali-Dharwad region (besides all the editions of Deccan Herald that this ad has been featured in), in a very-Karnataka newspaper, wouldn’t a Kannada caption (with the same wit and rhyme you aimed with the Hindi ‘teen’ and ‘behtareen’) work better to appeal to readers in that region? To be sure, they all know Hindi, but functionally. It’s not their mother-tongue and they don’t necessarily love it. But imagine their surprise when they see an English ad, with a Kannada caption written in English that has Kannada wit, rhyme and cleverness. Wouldn’t they talk about it and remember it a bit more than the Hindi equivalent that they are more likely to see and largely ignore?

UPDATE – April 6, 2019:

Thank you, Shopper’s Stop, for going the extra mile and adding a line of wish in a regional language, across 4 editions of The Times of India, today. The effect of watching a line of mother tongue amidst a sea of English is like a person from one state (for instance, Tamil Nadu) being in another state (for example, New Delhi), and seeing a TN registered car number plate!

Thank you, Samsung – for adding a regional language wish, across 2 editions! The effort is small, but highly noticeable! You could have easily left is in English, but thank you for being considerate.

And you – Lloyd and Spencer’s – please do consider small ways to make your creatives work harder. Remember – Hindi is not the language of choice in the 2 states where you have released this advertisement. It’s merely the language of functional convenience.

UPDATE – May 6, 2019:

‘Britannia Khao, World Cup Jao. Exciting Prizes Jeetne Ka Mauka Pao’ screams the ad today across multiple editions of The Times of India.

Except TOI Chennai, where it says, ‘Britannia Saappidunga, World Cup Ponga. Get A Chance To Win Exciting Prizes’.

No Malayalam equivalent for Kochi edition.
No Kannada equivalent for Bengaluru edition.
No Bengali equivalent for Kolkata edition.
No Telugu equivalent for Hyderabad edition.

Why? Is it based on the assumption that people in Kochi, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Hyderabad will understand Hindi anyway, toh Hindi chalta hai? Should it be just about ‘comprehension’? Shouldn’t Britannia aim to go beyond mere comprehension? This is advertising, after all, where they try to persuade people to do something – take an action, remember the communication and so on. So, couldn’t they try to get the ad to work harder in the other 4 regional editions?

How expensive is it really, to get a simple headline translated to 4 more editions? They did it for one, after all! If it’s not about the cost, is it just the intent based on sweeping assumptions that TOI’s audience in Kochi, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Hyderabad don’t particularly care for their mother-tongues and are perfectly fine with Hindi being the pan-Indian substitute for their mother-tongue?

UPDATE – May 9, 2019:

Thank you, Britannia… for listening and making this change. (Ad in The Hindu, Bengaluru edition).

UPDATE – May 12, 2019:

I apologize for shouting, but here goes: THANK YOU, STAR TV INDIA FOR NOT SHOVING A HINDI SLOGAN ON ALL OF INDIA!

Thank you for being observant and considerate to let the slogan be in a regional language, as per each release in The Times of India today. Yes, I’d have LOVED to see the Telugu version in the Hyderabad edition, but this is a decent enough start to an evolution. 

Related: How Star Sports has taken the Indian Premier League deep into the hinterland. “With live broadcast and commentary in seven regional languages, IPL viewership for women, men and children grew over the last year by 15 percent, 13 percent and 29 percent respectively” [Story in Forbes India]

UPDATE – May 30, 2019:

Star TV is perhaps the one brand that has truly understood the need and value in localizing its communication when doing a ‘national’ campaign. Today’s multi-edition front-page ad in The Times of India has one small detail (that would be used heavily online) localized into 6 versions – Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam – the hashtag! 

To back this up, Star has been using each local hashtag with the social media posts too, that too written in the respective languages! Very, very well played!

UPDATE – August 20, 2019:

A little more thought please, Kinder Joy? Please?

UPDATE – August 21, 2019:

#FacePalmKiDukaan

UPDATE – August 26, 2019:

And… here we go again!

UPDATE – September 18, 2019:

Wishing you a belated happy Hindi divas!

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