One country, one language: Hindi zindabad!

Hero and Honda advertised last Sunday across multiple editions of The Times of India, for their 2-wheelers.

Here are the Honda ads, across 5 regional editions (click on the image to see it in full size).

And here are the Hero ads, across the same 5 regional editions.

The context was the upcoming festive season and the resultant offers for the season.

The ads had 2 other things in common.

One was that both had some Paytm-related offer.

The second one is my pet topic – both were Hindi-first in thought and approach.

Notice the top right corner in the Honda ad? That’s the Hindi caption, for the campaign, added as a common theme across all editions. This, despite the fact that all the ads are not the same. There are several differences among the different editions – the bikes showcased, the headline, the main blurb in the center and of course, the dealer’s list.

The dealer’s list is usually a footer that is easy to change. But the fact that the main creative is not the same across all editions and that somehow the Hindi caption remains steadily static across those editions says a lot about how Hindi-first the campaign thought is. It is as simple as a Hindi-speaking, Hindi-thinking team coming up with the overall thought and approach, and then tinkering it further for each edition. All this in an English language newspaper, at that!

Now, clearly, this is not wrong in any way. It is simply myopic. A brand that can customize specific local editions but cannot think of adding a locally contextual theme/caption only points to the intent behind the theme. It literally screams, “We are doing this in Mumbai, centrally. And we speak Hindi and we know only that language. We couldn’t care less, and we’ll take some evasively wishy-washy ways to customize it to specific regions”.

The Hero all-editions is even more direct. It is primarily a Hindi ad that was first released in the Hindustan, a Hindi newspaper. This makes perfect sense.

That ad has merely seen one single change – the Hindi headline has been written with English text. Rest of the ad is the same, barring the footer, filled with local dealers list. And this is in an English newspaper!

Once again, this is not wrong in any sense. It’s more about the missed opportunity if only these brands and agencies think beyond their narrow worldview of their language, their stateā€¦ to the broader India which vibrantly thrives with so much regionally local nuance. Language is a very, very emotional theme for each state in India, and this was evident when our Home Minister recently floated a test balloon of making Hindi the single national language before hastily pulling the balloon away, seeing all the chaos he had caused.

Hindi is a fantastic language (I know this first-hand given my early growing up experience in Bhopal) and serves a very good purpose in the states it is being spoken in. If it has enough utility value for other states that don’t speak it, those people would naturally gravitate towards it and learn it and love it too.

But proving its utility value doesn’t start with the people who speak it arrogantly assuming that it is the only language to unite India just because they speak it.

Just imagine this headline in the New Delhi edition of The Times of India.

Impossible, you say? Of course, it is impossible. Not just impossible, it is also silly for Hero to use this English-text Tamil headline in the Delhi edition of an English newspaper. Just as it is silly for the same brand to use the English-text Hindi headline in the Chennai edition of an English newspaper. More than silly, it may end up as a severe put-off for most people.

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

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