Why do people react positively to certain ads? Why are some commercials able to get themselves heard through the noise? Why does advertising act in mysterious ways and just when the audience thinks they can resist it, it leaves an impact? Perhaps because advertising is not just about logic; as Stephen Leacock said, it is “the science of arresting human intelligence." Intelligence does not follow a linear path and is governed, among other things, by socio-cultural factors.
In the midst of imaginary worlds created by advertising, people look for a moment of truth; the moment that talks about cultural and national identities. In the globalized, interconnected world, consumers aspire to have globalized products, but they wish to stay embedded and rooted in their cultures. In such a scenario, narratives that are able to anchor national identities and local culture score over the rest.
An important fact of globalization is a growing trend towards acculturation, wherein people adjust themselves to foreign ways without ceasing to adhere to their cultural mores and practices. A visceral understanding of how that setting can be made to work for you and for your story thus becomes a prerequisite for churning out an effective ad.
A curious example of this is the American Tourister’s new brand campaign, “Survive the world,” created by Mumbai, India's Contract Advertising.
Keeping travel “in perspective,” the ad features a tourist in India who is caught in a traffic frenzy in the rugged-terrained, traditional city of Jodhpur. The smart tourist comes up with an innovative solution and with his swift and reliable American Tourister four-wheel spinner, zips through the meandering traffic of the city to reach the airport just in time.
As the tourist zooms through a number of zig–zag lanes in the city, the ad gives plenty of visual opportunities for the viewers to capture the essence of the place. Amid crowd and chaos, it presents India as an eclectic mix of visual art, dance, music, and more. The scenes in the ad flirt with dance and music and the audience is immediately drawn to the intimate sounds and movement of the lives in the city.
The ad, no doubt, is a bit exaggerated and lacks the brilliance of the 1970s iconic American Tourister guerilla campaign. Nevertheless, it is entertaining and effective in driving home the message that American Tourister is the “tough international luggage" that survives the challenges of every new place and is therefore ideal for holidays abroad. Its charm lies in establishing local identity while offering moments of unusual, exotic, unfamiliar sights to the tourists. It teases out the emotional and cultural nuances while exemplifying the extraordinary qualities of the product.
Advertising is an art that requires the use of skill and imagination to create a story well adapted to the specificities of the local environment. To stand out in the crowd, the business of advertising calls for a sincere attempt towards understanding the socio-cultural dynamics and offer “not only the intellectual but also an aesthetic experience.”(George Orwell). Judging by this standard, American Tourister’s “Survive the world” campaign is in a great measure successful in engaging the audience and deserves all praise.
Anamika Pande Ved is a blogger, content curator, and content writer with Global Washington, a non-profit in Seattle, Washington. She is fascinated by commercials, more so if they are used for "social good." She is an avid traveler, reader, and a singer. Find her on Twitter here.