Friday, October 21, 2005

The Aspiration Disease!

The Aspiration Disease!

A dangerous disease is sweeping Indian mass media. I won’t call it greed but it is something all advertisers use – aspiration.

Have you lately watched how many shows there is on television that just dangle money in front of people and make them do crazy things, yes, even eat worms? Yesterday I saw a show where a movie star brandished a check for Rs five hundred thousand and the crowd went wild.

Bachhan does the same in Kaun Bangega Crorepati – the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The check is prominently displayed with the figures on it and the crowd goes, “Oh, if only I was there to get it.” This in advertising parlance is called “aspiration.” Because if people aspire to become something, say, fairer, or, beautiful, or sexier, they will go and buy the products advertised.

I think the advertising industry – if I can call it one – and the online media is taking this aspiration thing a bit far. So imagine all those people who have never in their life held a check for Rs three hundred thousand in their hands drooling, “Oh, if it only was me. I want to be the one.”

I saw another serial in which the compere gives away cash, yes, you heard right, CASH, to people who answer questions such as, “Which finger do you wear your wedding ring?” Confession, there was a time when I wanted to be on the show till I saw one in which everyone in the audience was dressed in their wedding finery.

But why wedding finery? Seem the show organizers wanted to bring some color and asked the audience to wear wedding clothes. So there were paunchy, aged men and women awkwardly dressed in shining sherwanis and elaborate turbans and from the looks on their faces the air-conditioning wasn’t working and, they were sweating to glory.

People would do anything to bring them closer to their aspirations. The media company and the producers know that. Right now they are after television rating points.

But isn’t this aspiration bit going too far? I know, everybody likes to have a lot of money but to flaunt it so shamelessly before the deprived masses in public? For all I know most of them may be below the poverty level gazing at a small television inside a cramped hovel. Why torture them?

To see so many garishly dressed men and women winning so much money to answer stupid questions as, “What color is Bachhan’s beard?” would send the wrong impression wouldn’t it? I mean, isn’t there something like the US Federal Communication Commission to take up such issues?

Can I complain to the Press Council? I guess, with the problems they are facing, I would rather not. As for the Advertising Standards Council, well, I headed it for some time so I know What Lies Beneath.

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