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A reflection on India’s ever-evolving advertisement journey


There are many mirrors in which we can see India’s evolution over 75 years. Out of them, the most particular and interesting is – advertisement. 

Advertisements in India have always mirrored our lives and stood as an indicator of how far we have come as a society. 

While many used mascots to gain popularity, many bordered along the risque. But, those who created a strong memorability were the ones who carved a strong place in our hearts. 

So, let us reflect on India’s advertisement journey from the 70s to 90s to today – holding a mirror where change was the only constant. 

What did advertisements look like in the early 70s? 

The 60s and 70s were a time when cinema and public television were still in the evolving phase. Consumption was very limited to a small group of people who could afford a television. 

So, quite obviously – there existed a massive gap between two sections of society basis on what and how much they consume. 

I know; how can we miss ads like Lyril or four square cigarettes that glamourized living life “King Size”! 

Yes! No doubt they were enticing but did they portray reality? 

Well! Very rarely. 

When big brands like Lyril and Nescafe showed impossibly beautiful people taking a bath in a waterfall or sipping a coffee, it all made little sense to most of society. Still, people enjoyed them as it was all so glamorous. 

I know it may seem a little out of place for us – Genz, who looks for relatability and logic in everything.

So, what did the transition look like? 

For that, let us delve into the, 

The advertisement journey of the ’80s

If I were to describe the advertisements of the 80s in one word – it would be liberalization. Liberalization of a kind where the ideas of the middle class crystallized and they got a voice.  

It created a more rational and tangible idea of consuming class and put together diverse groups under one label. 

So, even if you are 90’s born, I bet you can’t forget the ad for VIP Suitcase that subtly connected us to the past through a beautiful slogan – “Kal Bhi aur Aaj Bhi.”  

Or the famous “Mile sur mera tumhara” campaign without any specific product advertisement was another market that wrapped a sense of shared goodwill. 

All these ads didn’t leave any stone unturned in promoting a feeling of unity and helped us achieve a common purpose through diversity as a strength. 

To further this journey came, 

The 90’s and early 2000 – advertisements that nudged a change! 

Now the mid-90s and 2000 saw a full force of liberalization hit us in many ways. Society was transforming – debunking many ideas that existed as abiding before. 

A spade of reforms gave women the right they had always deserved, and many elitist perceptions that held the domination before also started shedding their importance. 

This could well be reflected in the ads of these times that, more than glamour and entertainment, had a powerful message to deliver.  

Airtel’s share the load campaign attempted to correct the load of gender imbalance, and brands like Tanishq stood strong in challenging the societal taboos by depicting a woman with a child getting married again. 

All these changes were not only limited to a strong social message or campaigns but aimed at keeping pace or transforming society through subtlest details. 

Have you watched that Dairy Milk ad? 

Oh yes, the one that portrayed a girl in the most expressive form – enjoying a piece of chocolate echoing a sentiment without caring about the opinions of people passing by. 

Or, how can we then miss the “I love you Rasna” campaign that offered the middle class a sense of shared experience? 

All these ads reflected societal development while also taking responsibility for nudging a positive change.   

All in all, ads indeed have been a roller coaster ride capturing all our lives in a subtle yet powerful manner. 

So, from documenting all the changes women have gone through to establishing new archetypes to propel society forward, advertisements in India have indeed come a long way! 

So, how far the internet world is sustaining those changes? 

I know this question would pop into your mind. So let us discuss, 

How is the advertising landscape changing in today’s times? 

As we adapted to a more rapidly evolving digital space, ads also kept up with the pace. With more marketing tools than we ever had, ads became a one-click game. 

It has led to more personalization and customization. So much so that we only get to see the ads we want to see! 

Yeah, the algorithm game is on point! 

So let us understand one by one what all has changed in the digital space. 

1. Personalization – So this is a game changer in the area of advertisement. It is not like a shotgun approach of unfocused advertisement. Here, with the help of user data, companies get to gauge customers’ likes, dislikes, and needs. 

So, customers are more likely to buy from the brand when the message is focused at the right time through appropriate channels.  

2. Digital Marketing – Well! Who doesn’t know about this buzzword dominating the marketing world? 

A strategy promoting online products now has a large pool of social media platforms as solid support. 

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram have been active in advertising revenue worth billions. 

3. Video content – Gone are the days when ad creation was limited to a few people with a huge budget. Today almost everyone, regardless of how small or huge their product is, can go on and create a perfect promotional video that best describes their product to the right audience. 

Easy isn’t it? 

Oh yes, it is. 

But you must have been thinking, 

Do the ads of this era relate to the nostalgic ads of the 90s? 

It wouldn’t be a straight no as ads are still coming up with hues that reflect life. 

Adidas’s “end plastic waste” or Amazon’s Alexa body humor sale are a few of them. 

But yes, we may not feel a shared sense of belongingness through ads the way we did in the 80s or 90s as it has become more customized. 

The audience and consumers are willing to see only filtered content as per their inclinations. So in the process of building a super personal touch, we tend to miss out on collective relatability. 

Way Forward

The internet, along with other easy-to-pick marketing tools, has undoubtedly made advertisements easy and accessible to all – creators and consumers.

But the more overcrowded anything gets, the more we have seen it getting out of the restrictive ambits. The same holds for advertisements. 

Carrying a huge impact and influence, it must be ensured that these ads respect certain boundaries and operate with ethics. 

Since it has become near impossible to control the pace at which data is being shared on the internet, the first step towards healthy marketing must include privacy. 

That is when the whole buzz around ethical marketing makes sense. 

As ads have always united, uplifted, and empowered society, any such breach when they exploit our weaknesses may put us back again at the point from where we all started! 

She is a National level Debater with many accolades and as an aspiring journalist, she aims to present and document content in a well rounded and constructive manner.

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  • Source: https://timesnext.com/a-reflection-on-indias-ever-evolving-advertisement-journey/

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