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Friday, January 28, 2011

Chp 335. Advertising and stereotypes - where do we draw the line?

These past few days, I’ve been watching a lot of TV. And every time the new Frito Lay’s cricket World Cup ad comes on TV, I cringe a bit. I find it quite irritating and always end up changing the channel whenever this ad comes on.

I know this is trivial. You can just consider this post a rant if you want. It may not even be racism, but it is offensive nonetheless. I can’t believe an agency like JWT would stoop this low to produce such cheap humor.

0:15 minute of the ad is what I find tasteless.

I mean… where’s the humor? That the guy who’s supposed to be a Nepali was so stupid that he didn’t even know Nepal’s not playing in the cricket World Cup?

Anyway, here is the gist of the campaign - Frito-Lay India Pvt. Ltd. has just launched their new commercial this month entitled “Kaun jeetega World Cup”. Six new flavours were launched - India, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Australia, England and South Africa.

Australia’s Herb ‘n’ Lime
South Africa’s Peri Peri Sauce
Sri Lanka’s Sweet Onion Sauce
England’s Grilled Cheese
West Indies’ Hot & Sweet Chilli
India’s Magic Masala

Pepsico launches six new Lay's flavours for the ICC World Cup

"We are the global snacks partner with the ICC World Cup in 2011. That's why we are building on this relationship. As a global snacks partner, we are leveraging the association to give consumer experiences and build our brand image," Pepsico Foods India Marketing Director Vidur Vyas told reporters.

The TVC script followed the usual routine without straying from the branding - Cast your brand ambassadors together, introduce the six new flavors, add elements of surprise, play the patriotic card, and so on and so forth. I have no issue with the ad, except for the one part mentioned above.

So everybody started shouting the names of different countries they support for the World Cup (which you realize later is actually the names of the flavors). And then one guy shouted Nepal, to which another person from the crowd slapped him and told him Nepal is not playing in the World Cup, in a very condescending tone.

I noticed it right then the dissimilarity in flow. The guy who shouted Nepal had mongoloid features, hence anybody would immediately assume he’s a Nepali. So I guess people of different nationalities were rooting for their respective countries. But the others who shouted England, etc do not look like people from such places at all. In fact they were all Indians.

In advertising, to make it easier and simple for people to understand, we usually feature stereotypes in our ads. This is definitely the part of my job I am not that proud of. When we do that, we are treading on very thin ice, especially when it comes to cultural identification in such a diverse country as India.

So many questions came up from the above incident alone. Why couldn’t it be somebody with an “Indian face” who shouted “Nepal”? Why did it have to be Nepal? Why couldn’t it be foreigners who were cheering for England etc?

And the most important question of all – why include that part in the first place? What did it achieve? It humiliated the guy and made him look stupid so that we could all laugh at him? The same way we always laugh at people with mongoloid features and call them watchmen, kanchha, momo? Humiliating people of Mongoloid origin is not something new even today.

And here’s one of the biggest misconceptions about Nepal. So many of them do not have mongoloid features at all. Nepal is a beautiful country, rich in culture and diversity. You will not be able to differentiate between many of them and “typical Indians” who are of the Aryan-Dravidian stock. But in many of the North Eastern states like Mizoram, Nagaland etc, the majority are of the Mongoloid stock. They are all Indians, but ironically, they’re the ones called Nepalis by others. If you’re from the NE, you would have definitely heard your fair share of crude “watchman jokes”.

See, I am not trying to stir up a worm’s nest or open a can of hornets here… whateva. I’m not going on a protest or hunger strike protesting this ad. I’m just trying to see it from a different perspective here, the way someone who is not from Nepal or the North East would see it. But if you’re from those places and you see this ad, those are the first thoughts that come flashing through your head. Not a very pleasant sight indeed.

Working in an ad agency, I know we have to do a lot of stuff we don’t particularly enjoy doing. For example, suppose you strongly believe that people should not be discriminated based on their skin color, and then comes along a cosmetic brand with pockets full of money. No matter which concept you give, the client will still want a concept that talks about how “being fair” is more beautiful than being dark-skinned.

Even if you refuse to touch the account due to your strong beliefs and principles, there will always be many others who are willing to take over and leave you behind in this dog-eat-dog world. One thing I have learnt from working in an agency – it is not for the meek at heart.

Don Draper from Mad Men puts this across beautifully. Season 4 Episode 9 – One of their main clients is Filmore Auto Parts. America at that time was still recovering from its dark history of discrimination. When Peggy and the others handling the account learnt that Filmore Auto Parts does not hire colored people, they approached their Creative Director Don Draper asking him why they are doing business with a racist company.

Don Draper replied, “Our job is to make men like Fillmore Auto, not Fillmore Auto like colored people.”


Likewise, maybe it’s not JWT’s fault that the ad came out like this. Maybe it was the client who insisted on using that person to ridicule. Maybe it was just an innocent mistake – that they wanted to ridicule somebody but unfortunately that person happened to be somebody who had already been ridiculed almost every day of his life.

As an agency, where exactly do we draw the line when it comes to stereotypes? Yesterday it was about people with darker complexion and Sardarjis. Today it is about people with small eyes. Tomorrow… who knows? Of course if you ask the people involved, it usually leads nowhere -

Ask the ad agency why they are using such stereotypes and they will probably reply, “Look boss, I too want to change the mindset of the people and move away from all this stereotype bull$hit, but it is the client who wants it like this and there’s nothing we can do. If we don’t do it, he doesn’t pay us. It’s as simple as that. I’m sorry.”

Ask the client why he insists on this, and he will probably say, “You know how that hurts me too. But from our marketing research, that’s what people want to see. How can I show something that does not appeal to the people. If they don’t like it, they don’t buy my product. It’s as simple as that. I’m sorry.”

Ask the people why they want to see that, and they will probably reply, “Hey don’t blame us for having such a biased perception about people. It’s because of all those damn advertising agencies that keep feeding us with such nonsense.”

Ah… see? It leads to a three-way “chicken or egg” rhetorical circle, with no one knowing who lit the first spark. I’m just wondering how much further we will go before all this blows over. Rather than play the blame game, maybe it’s high time we draw a line somewhere. I don’t know how, I don’t know where.

Anyway, racial discrimination or not, this ad still makes me pretty uncomfortable and it is my prerogative to change the channels whenever this ad comes on. This action seems to be the only solution for now.

I’m ending this post with two beautiful music videos I came across yesterday –

One is called North East Star. It’s like the North East India version of an “Incredible India” ad. Awesome it is.

The other is called “Silent National Anthem” by Mudra. This is freaking amazing! Kudos Mudra. (Plus it sure feels good as hell to know one of my friends was one of the main brains behind this idea!)

Have a great weekend.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chp 334. Football and sexism... again.

First of all, let me begin by saying I find women attractive, just like how most men do. Secondly, a personal fetish of mine – I find women in uniform to be extremely hot, especially if they are wearing football jerseys. If that is a crime, sue me.

Last Saturday, I’m sure many of you football fanatics were watching the Liverpool-Wolves match. I watched in great anticipation because Liverpool was on a L-W-L-D-D-L-W-L-L-D streak in their last 10 EPL games, and with the Arsenal-Wigan match right after this match, watching the Liverpool match was like a warm-up exercise.

Liverpool played brilliantly and eventually won 3-0, but the talk of the match was definitely the lineswoman female linesman – Sian Massey.

Yeah, everybody was talking about her on twitter and various football discussion forums as the match started. She performed really well and she definitely won my admiration. Man, she is so hot running around in that uniform and raising her flag when necessary.

Now comes the crux of this topic – sexism.

Ok fine, like most men I was fancying her and might even have objectified her. And like many men, I do make the occasional sexist joke or laugh to one, especially when I am with a bunch of guys.

But two renowned Sky Sports presenter Andy Gray and Richard Keys have taken it a bit far. Their unaired comment about Sian Massey was leaked to the press, and apparently, they said stuff like:

Richard Keys: Well, somebody better get down there and explain offside to her.

Andy Gray: Yeah, I know. Can you believe that? Female linesman. Forget what I said – they probably don't know the offside rule.

Richard Keys: Course they don't.

Andy Gray: Why is there a female linesman? Somebody's fucked up big.

Read about it here [] or you can download the audio file from here.

The Guardian too reported that they are in the firing line as criticism pours in.

Sky Sports was under pressure last night to discipline its top football presenting team, Richard Keys and Andy Gray, after they were recorded making sexist remarks about two female match officials and a leading female football executive.

And my favorite Arsenal blogger Arseblog too came down heavily on these two Sky Sports commentators, adding his trademark sarcastic criticism:

Morning all. And welcome to Arseblog now owned by Sky Sports. Gentlemen, you may proceed as normal to the blog. Ladies, please proceed single file to the classroom where you will be taught the offside rule, the difference between a ‘number 10′ and a ‘false 9′ as well as the difference between Djimi and Armand Traore, how to titter in agreement with the menz and, of course, when to make a cup of tea (with biscuits and/or cake).


It’s no real surprise to be honest, they’re a pair of smug, cocksure know-it-alls who think that they’re somehow important in the grand scheme of things. They’ve been doing Premier League football for a long time now, too long. They are outdated, half-witted dinosaurs with a bit of technology at their disposal. Their caveman attitudes are fairly typical and without wishing to go too far off point if this is the way they think about female officials (and the general understanding of the game by women).

In the football world, men making fun of women for not knowing the offside rule is probably one of the oldest and crudest jokes by men. Even I too may have written such kinda stuff many years ago –

But then as you progress, you become wiser. You stop generalizing. You start realizing what a douchbag you used to be. You discover more and more women who know a lot about football, sometimes even more than you do. And most of all, you realize sexist remarks are as bad as racist remarks.

Two of my favorite Arsenal bloggers are women: ladyarse and Sairax from ArsenalOffside. I follow them closely on twitter too. They too have written strongly against this incident.

At the end of the day, sure the number of women who know football as much as men do is still lesser, but times are a changing, and making fun of women especially about the offside rule is prehistoric and done to death.

Some men argue that their comments were just personal remarks made off the record and were not even aired. Hence they don’t deserve to be crucified for that, after all, many of us say a lot of stuff we don’t say in public or on our blogs. Well, I leave that judgment up to you. What do you think?

To make you understand my point better – picture this. The next match after this was between Arsenal and Wigan. We witnessed A LOTTTTT of wrong calls by the linesman. On many occasions where Arsenal could have scored, the stupid linesman raised his offside flag. TV replays clearly showed that Arsenal players were not offiside again and again. Even the commentators said the errors the linesman was making were too much.

Yes. $hit like this happens in football all the time. To err is human and linesmen make the wrong call frequently and we just abuse them. And then we move on. Now imagine the linesman in that Arsenal match was Sian Massey from the previous match. Would we still say “stupid linesman” or would we be using a different adjective and pronoun and stereotype? To err is woman?

Sometimes, a little introspection can reveal a lot of things we don’t know about ourselves.

Football – Say no to racism. Say no to sexism. Spread the love.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chp 333. Mizoram trip - in motion

I’ve been extremely engrossed in this new passion of mine the past one week – editing videos! This week, I’ve been going home every day after 2am because of this extra-curricular activity as I have to balance my workload too.

I always find editing movie files to be extremely fun and engaging. And by editing, I of course don’t mean the high-end professional editing with 3D graphics and Maya FX etc. I’m talking about the amateur time-pass editing

Some of you may know about the Zahminga Fanai “Angel” music video I remade around 5 years ago . Shot, directed, edited and produced by yours truly (I even starred in it, lolz). Unfortunately, the owner of the song (the guy who composed the song for Zahminga) didn’t allow the file to be uploaded on YouTube when Zahminga and I asked him for permission. So that was the end of it…

I was using a Sony Cybershot digicam then to record the music video, and Sony Vegas Pro 6.0 to edit it.

Right now I have a pretty damn good phone that records video in HD, and I got the latest Sony Vegas Movie HD Platinum 10.0 recently. So my passion has definitely been rekindled.

But it’s not an easy task. Platinum 10.0 is wayyyyy different from the Vegas Pro 6.0 I used to know. I mean, it’s like a complete new software. No similar tool, function, layer etc. I remember how long I took to learn some of the basic stuff on Vegas Pro 6.0, so I was a bit hesitant about venturing into this new version. And the people in my agency who do this kinda stuff all work on post-production tools like Combustion and Smoke. Nobody has worked on this tool before.

But then, thanks to the internet, I was able to find relevant tutorials on YouTube whenever I was stuck.

Hence I am uploading two videos I’ve been editing the past 2 days. They’re nothing great, no special effects jhing jhang bursting out from here or there or fancy flashing thingie falling from the sky etc. Just a normal video. But it has allowed me to do exactly what I wanted to do – label with names during the movie, and blur some faces as they don’t want to reveal their identity.


Christmas Feast.

In Mizoram, everybody comes together at their respective Church in their locality during Christmas for this giant HUMONGOUS feast [Ruaitheh]. The feast is prepared by the people themselves. Groups of volunteers [hnatlang] gather on the morning of the feast and are divided into different task-groups (usually based on age and sex).

Some construct the feast area, others fetch vegetables and livestock, others chop the vegetables or cook the meat etc etc. And by 4pm, the feast starts. We all sit together and eat together as one. Such bonhomie you will not find anywhere else. This is a short video of the Christmas feast held at my locality – Chaltlang South Presbyterian Church.


Meeting online friends.

Apart from spending time with my family and friends, I also got to meet my online friends during the holidays. These are the people I met online and it was really good to see who they really are in real life. We all knew each other pretty well from all our interactions online, so none of us felt like strangers.

Here is a video of some of my online friends.

So that is it for now. Back to the video editing software for me, and hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead.


UPDATE: Ok looks like YouTube might remove the audio of my second video upload due to some copyright violation bull$hit. Anyway I googled and found ways to bypass this – I can also avoid this by changing the frequency and tempo of the audio file so that their tool does not detect/recognize it… I’ll do this from my next upload onwards. As for this video, don’t be surprised if the audio is suddenly muted by YouTube.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chp 332. The Enigma of Role Playing.

I used to be an MMORPG addict. And believe me, that’s bad. For the uninitiated, Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game are games where people all over the world come together at the same platform and you fight them or become allies etc.

Even after I started working here, I was a slave to browser-based MMORPGs such as TribalWars, Travians, 3Kingdoms, Ikariam etc. You would have seen me dedicate many posts to such games here on my blog too.

Many of you play MafiaWars, Farmville etc. on Facebook. I have never joined the bandwagon because of one reason – I know I’m going to get sucked way deep inside if I ever join.

So I just watched my friends play the whole day, forgetting their work, life and wife. As for me, I promised never to touch the forbidden fruit again... until a few days ago.

Well, it was like this – having such a great phone as mine I told myself the other day, what the heck, lemme download one of the Storm8 games I always see whenever I visit the Android Market.

And the ball never stopped rolling since then.

To begin with, I think we all know what Zynga is - developer of popular social network games like MafiaWars, FarmVille, CityVille etc. Well, I don’t think it will be wrong to say what Zynga is to Facebook and MySpace, Storm8 is to iPhone and Android phones.

Most of Storm8 games are on the top 10 downloads of iPhone and Android app stores – Ninjas Live, iMobster, Pets Live, World War, Kingdom, Vampires, Zombies, Rock Battle and Racing Live.

Storm8 games

I eventually downloaded Ninjas Live. Within 2 days, I am now a level 15 assassin with 4 clan members and max defense. FTW! Ok stop grinning if you are a level 300 Ninja with 1500 clan members reading this post. I just started playing ok I love this game because I can play it right from my phone, wherever I am. The connectivity is amazing, whether I am using wifi (from office) or gprs (from home or while travelling) to play this game.

I am now equipped with all the top defensive points weapons, techniques and spells from my dojo that a level 15 Ninja can have, with 600+ Yakuza gang members as extra defense. Nobody can attack me because nobody in my level can penetrate my formidable defense. People with higher levels cannot attack me because I don’t appear on their attack list. The only way I can be attacked by a higher level person is if somebody puts a bounty on me, and nobody would do that because I am not attacking anybody to piss them off. Lolz

Had I been playing the other MMORPGs I usually play, I would have already been raped by other players had I taken any break to build up my resource instead of defense/offense. Sometimes I would stay up the entire night when we had one of those all out world wars between top tribes and clans, defending our kingdoms, sending reinforcements, counterattacking, sending fake nukes etc etc.

Though such games are way different in terms of game-play from games like MafiaWars and Ninjas Live, the main similarity between such games is – it is pointless. So you just keep expanding and expanding and expanding. And then what? Ah the proverbial question. So you have reached a level 250 mobster or you now reign over 200 Kingdoms with a billion Heavy Cavalry at your disposal. How does that exactly help you with your career or make this World a better place to live in? No answer.

And yet, we still play knowing that sooner or later it is going to become pointless. I guess that is the psychology of role playing. What attracts us to these games is the fact that we can be somebody we are not in real life. An IIM-A grad working at India's premiere Share Market & Financial News and Services Portal, is suddenly a level 300 mob boss. An HR manager working at a marketing firm is a fearless vampire warrior by night. A call centre executive who is extremely shy in real life with hardly any friends, is also known as the Dark Lord with over 1000 other warriors around the world under his command, each of them respecting him deeply and ready to go to war on his command.

Role playing makes us somebody we fantasize about so that we can be that person even if it’s not the real world. For me, it’s a ninja. Oh yeah! And the fact that we are interacting with real people around the world makes it even more exciting.

If you take a look at all Storm8 games, you will see that they are extremely similar in terms of game play. Take away the names and you will not know which game is which. But the fact that each game has an extremely high number of players means that there ARE people who love the respective characters. A vampire freak will play the Vampire game, a zombie fanatic will play the Zombie game, a person who loves reading about wars and weapons will play the World War game, a rock music fan will play Rock Battle Live and so on.

That my friend, is the power of role playing. And here you are, thinking role playing is just about sex. Games like these sometimes deliver more satisfaction than sex, some people say. Cheers!


Here are a few screenshots of Ninjas Live. If any of you play this game on your iPhone/Android, do lemme know (though I am not looking forward to expanding my clan right now as that would make me visible to players with bigger clans. lolz).

Ninjas Live

Ninjas Live

Ninjas Live

Ninjas Live

Ninjas Live

Friday, January 07, 2011

Chp 331. Happy New Year!

Back in Mumbai, welcomed by the sweet smell of hectic urban life and Raj Thackeray

Saying I’m going to miss Mizoram is futile, as it’s not going to change anything. This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made – continue working in Mumbai on a job I am good at and be overwhelmed with a sense of achievement, satisfaction and pride every night, or stay back in Mizoram looking after my folks while doing almost nothing else.

I guess this is one of the many crossroads many of you would have faced in your life too. And it gets harsher especially when there is guilt weighing you down as you journey across the road less taken.

But enough of this for now. Let’s look at the New Year ahead of us!

Unlike last year, this year sees a lot of National holidays that DO NOT fall on a freaking weekend! Wooohooo!!!!

And while I was at home, I realized one thing – 2011 is a carbon copy of 2005!

I bought this banner cum calendar right after the 2003-04 Invincibles era of the greatest football club on Earth – Arsenal. And now I can use this banner again for the year 2011. Sweet!

And hey, if you think using a recycled calendar is not awesome, then let me tell you that I have a 2011 Arsenal calendar too!

Yup, a surprise New Year gift – A calendar of the greatest team on earth, from the greatest person on this planet. Muaaah*

So here is to a great year ahead, and wishing you all the best in all your endeavours. Looking forward to another memorable and exciting journey of interesting blogs and comments. Cheers!