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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Nawabs Nudes Noodles – A book on Indian Advertising (Review)

Advertising is perhaps the time tested persuasion technique used by sellers in the modern world. In India, use of advertising dates back to at least a century. It’s always interesting to look back and learn how advertising has changes – be its form, theme, message or picturization. Nawabs, Nudes and Noodles by Ambi Parameswaran is a book that does this historical review of how advertising has evolved in the Indian sub continent over the last fifty years.

About Ambi Parameswaran

Ambi is one of the illustrated personalities in the Indian advertising industry, the brain child behind many of the successful brands like Santoor, Digene, Brufene and corporate brands like TCS. He has more than three decades of experience in brand management, doctoral degree, IIM Calcutta alumnus and presently spearheading a consultancy Brand-Building. This book draws lots of examples from his real life clients as well as the agency FCB Ulka with which he was associated most of his career.

Part I How characterization in ads has evolved? (People)

The book is organized into four parts based on the themes used in advertisements across these years. First part focuses on people and deals with how human aspirations were the center theme in commercials. The actual account of advertisement starts with the literature on how masculinity used to be utilized in advertisements of Lifebouy and Colgate. For someone how has seen these ads during the 80s, this is a great journey back to old memories (like the Lifebouy tag line). The book continues with its set of examples of how aspirations and status were used during this period. It’s also interesting how brands change the aspirations among its audience. For example, the move of Raymond from ‘Guide to well dressed man’ to ‘Suiting for the complete man’. The author has taken the approach of giving an account of various examples of how the messaging in advertisements have changed followed by a set of learning on character sketch in commercials. In the ‘People’ section, Ambi has discussed about how the character portray of men, women, kids, teens, old age, relationships etc.
The book also gives interesting accounts of how the advertising industry has adapted itself according to the changing cultures and aspirations; for example regulating policies around what and how to advertise to kids. The book also give insights into some of the everyday chores of media planners, lobbying by the industry, repositioning of products, how changing demographics are studied by practioners and more.

Part II How products has evolved with cultural shifts

The second part of the book focuses on how products, be it staple ones to sophisticated ones has changed and evolved during these years. In this sections brands and products ranging from Amul and cooking oils to Bajaj and bikes are discussed. A great explanation on how various brands used the shifts in culture is also discussed in detail. It is very interesting to read some of the historical events that has played important roles in everyday life. For example, how a product like dalda came into existence; back in late 1930s HUL bought the right to make vanaspati ghee in India, as a cheap substitute to ghee from a Dutch company called Dada. They set up a company called Hindustan Vanaspati Manufacturing Corporation in 1931. Later the name of the product was renamed to Dalda by adding an ‘l’ to become what we all know the product today. Like the previous section, this one also gives ample examples and stories of admen behind successful campaigns.

Part III Advertising services

This section talks about how campaigns have changed over the years while advertising services and experiences. It starts with the example of wedding as a theme and how products ranging from pan parag to suitcases have used it. Later the section discusses about TV reality shows, tourism and job portals. To be honest, it became too wordy and boring with so many examples and narratives once a reader reaches the end of this section; One could also argue that the author has given a plethora of examples.

Part IV On effective ad narratives

This part of the book takes a different angle and discusses how various components of and ad have evolved. Starting from music tracks, audio techniques and more; Ambi discuss about how celebrity endorsements have changed. There is a chapter on how dubbing, lip synching etc are used in the industry.
Later the book discusses about topics like how the notion of obscenity, shooting animals etc have changed; and the evolution of regulatory policies around these. Author closes the book with his thoughts on what could come up in future when advertising industry is concerned. Among the ten thoughts he has discussed, the one that resonated with me the most is that advertising themes are taking more a societal message approach clubbing with a brand’s CSR projects. This enable the brand to capture a place in it audience’ hearts.


I think the biggest drawback of this book is literally its lack of pictures (only few ad campaigns are given as inserts in the middle of the book). It’s very hard for a reader not familiar with the examples discussed to relate with. It would have been a great asset for even those readers who had seen these ads to quickly remember, relate and appreciate the thoughts shared by the author.
The book gives many side boxes that gives an insight into various techniques used in shooting commercials; wish more details and examples were provided. Another challenge I felt is that often the author has drifted between years; it would have been better if he had kept the chronological order in all case studies. Finally, I doubt whether the book has captured all fifty years in its complete sense especially the early years.
Overall a good book for anyone trying to get a better understanding on how Indian advertising and brands have evolved of the last few years.


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