On any normal day, I’d not even dream of reading an interview with Katrina Kaif. That too, one that is placed as a paid spot in India Today, as part of a 2 page spread with large doses of advertising next to it.

But, for the first time in my life, I read an interview like that…thanks to a series of harried tweets from Delhi-based photographer Naina Redhu.

If you go by Naina’s tweets, the entire interview is a figment of someone’s imagination. Meaning…it never took place or happened. Naina did not pose these questions to Katrina and Katrina did not respond in this manner. And Naina is not a ‘self-confessed beauty addict’.

To refresh your memory, I had blogged twice last year about Pantene and one of them also had a passionate argument by Naina, for Pantene!

The televisionization of social media (July 31, 2010)

A seemingly more constructive take on the Pantene issue (August 2, 2010)

Now, this! (Click on thumbnails for larger version)

Here are Naina’s tweets.

The Pantene campaign was nice while it lasted – the media it generated, the new lenses I bought… but this… #wtf (Link)

The entire “interview” has been cooked up. I haven’t said / asked / interviewed Kaif & I’m NOT a “beauty-addict”. (Link)

Someone from their social media team wrote to me asking for image usage – nothing about the interview. #pantene (Link)

I’ve met Kaif just once – when the competition happened. The ZNMD movie release recently. How could I have asked her? (Link)

Not one of those sentences is mine. They didn’t even inform me. Just saw it myself. (Link)

those are dumb-blonde questions. If I had to interview Kaif, I’d ask about her life, not her fucking hair. (Link)

It should be illegal to do this. The person who would have asked those questions would be 12 years old. Not me. (Link)

they’ve made me sound like a bimbo 🙁 My friends can’t stop laughing. This is a disaster. I wish it was a joke. (Link)

no document signed. They sent me a Facebook message asking for image use, which I permitted. Not this! (Link)

The images are real & I did win the contest last year. But no such interview anywhere / anytime. It’s embarrassing 🙁 (Link)

there was something I signed on day one but it had nothing about fabricating interviews. (Link)

the social media agency for Pantene just called 10 min ago to apologize. The brand seems to be in the clear. (Link)

a lot of people are also thinking, “what’s the bitch complaining about? A full page ad for crying out loud!” Not the point. (Link)

Sigh!

Having worked with large MNC brands in my career, I know for a fact that most (or all) of them are super careful before taking anything to print. The attention to detail is usually very, very high given the cost of managing a crisis when things go wrong. So, this cooked interview seems like a complete shocker!

They had a brand loyalist who could go online and argue for the brand and its campaign. Naina is the one who had gladly and happily jotted down her Mystery Shampoo experience and added a lot of great looking pics to go with it. And they do this to such a person? Why would any brand do anything like this?

To be sure, this is an advertisement, so India Today may not have been involved in this mess. Is it Pantene’s ad. agency? If so, where did they get the content from? Who created it and who verified its authenticity? If you go by Naina’s tweets, it seems like Pantene’s social media agency may have created (cooked!) this content and forgot an important step before taking it to print – get the darn approval of the person who’s quoted in the interview. No, not Katrina Kaif…but Naina Redhu. But if the social media agency goofed up on the approval, what was Pantene doing before this ad. went to print? Did they ‘trust’ the social media agency so much that they assumed that all necessary approvals are clear? Or, did Pantene have a big, legalese signed by Naina at the beginning of the campaign that entitles them to do whatever with her participation, including cooking up interviews and saying things about her, on her behalf?

Errr, I know that ads are generally not expected to be authentic, they’re just meant to look and sound great and if the brand and agency twist facts towards it, then it’s business as usual in the advertising world. And to think they’ve been calling PR the ‘spin industry’ for ages!!

I’ve ranted more than adequately about authenticity in advertising (or the lack of it), but this ad. takes the cake! Did they really expect Naina to enjoy the ad. since it gives her national publicity in a widely read weekly magazine?

Sorry, that may not be the way things work when people (common people) have a way to let their views go public – via social media. This social media may be fragmented and seem small and insignificant when seen in comparison to mainstream media, but it has something that mainstream media can only dream about – the voices of the people. It does not have the voices of those who have been paid to do so (not yet!), whether they believe it or not. It is full of less than perfect looking people trudging along with their everyday lives full of minor and massive problems.And their small, medium and large sized friends/connections network!

If Pantene assumed that they can bridge both…by getting someone who is a genuine and a normal person (unlike Katrina Kaif) to bring authenticity to their claims…then it is a good idea, in principle. It is what we call ‘earned media’, meaning, the brand had earned it, the hard way, by impressing someone, enough to talk about it. But the way Pantene has gone about it seems horribly and shockingly misguided.

Now that the ad. is out and cannot be retracted, what will Pantene do? Will they add an addendum in the next issue of India Today that the contents of the interview were completely fabricated? That seems to be the only way to live up to their slogan, ‘total damage care’, if you go by the damage to Naina’s reputation and to Pantene’s own brand image!

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