Friday, April 15, 2016

Confessions of an Advertising DAD

First 7 Days. First 4 weeks. First Year. First 1000 days. First 5 years. Junior School. Check Point. Senior School. Boards. Graduation. Masters. Doctorate.

Your child’s milestones will pass by as fast as you read the above line.

If capturing the first time they smiled, first word, first time they walked, first day at school, first time on stage, and so many firsts weren’t enough, we have started adding more to the list these days.

Confession: As a father I savour these moments.  As an advertiser, me and my colleagues in our profession salivate.

We have realised that there is an opportunity to sell enthusiastic parents- a product, a brand, a service, and create a marketing opportunity at each of these stages.

And as parents we gladly succumb.

We make you preserve the umbilical cord to protect your child (from 100 plus unheard of diseases with a promise that we are researching many more) 

The nutritional milk additive for the first 1000 days.(Because we convinced you that after 1000 days any nutrition is not as effective)

The multivitamin drink, for height, weight and wait a minute – Brain health! 

(And we proved it by showing you a TV commercial comparing two flashy schools. In reality while one school was a normal school, the other one was a rural school, where the kids didn’t even get two proper square meals, and suddenly were given food and the nutritional drink)

And the grand milestone of 5 years. 

(This one was the hare out of the hat, that tricked everyone). 

Because a not so credible (almost mythological) research says that a child can learn maximum until that age. 

Someone please tell me if they have 'actually read' that particular research paper that makes the claim, and prove it’s credibility.

Let me tell you what it says...

“Many children in developing countries are exposed to multiple risks for poor development including poverty and poor health and nutrition. The children will subsequently do poorly in school”

So what we basically did was took a study of children below the poverty line and showed it to people above that line by miles, and convinced you that YOU should be worried about your child’s growth and nutrition.

This all started with many traps.

Things like luxury automobile branded prams, then designer cots and so on. 

The market is now flooded with these products because of the sheer market potential. 

But that doesn’t concern me. I’m all for parents who want to pamper their child with the best products money can buy. There is nothing unethical in that.

What concerns me is when parents make their “children” the victim of these marketing stunts.

A 1 year old child attending a school before he has learn to walk or talk!

A 2 year old child attending, a school after play school with quarterly fees equivalent to the amount that funded my entire education!

A 3 year old child who just learnt to write alphabets –Now also attending creative writing camps!

A 4 year old child visiting personality workshops!

A 5 year old child grasping Vedic mathematics!

And that’s not all, some children attending more than 3 of them a day besides school!!!

I’m not against any of these classes also. It’s good to keep children occupied. I’m not judging any parents either (after all they are my Target audience on my professional front). 

Each one to themselves and I respect all kinds of parenting styles.

If I consider myself as an involved father, this is just a small peek into another passion of my life- Creative Advertising and Marketing.

In our profession as advertisers and marketers there are a few things one should know.

One of the main tricks is Gap Analysis.

Gap Analysis is basically studying what’s available in the market within a particular domain and then finding the missing piece and placing your product or service there.

Let’s take some brands you may have used.

We all buy washing powders. Market research found that some people found the smell of clothes after washing with detergents very clinical. So there is a gap for a product that makes clothes smell good. Enter the launch of a liquid you insert in the washing machine, after clothes are washed so you can have better smelling clothes. 

But the real trick is in Branding. 

So we brand this liquid- Fabric softener. 

Because research said that no one will pay a heavy price to just have clothes smell good in a wardrobe, so you add the softening angle and 

Blockbuster product.

Now, playschool, preschool, junior school. 
But what about school for kids between 6 months and 1.5 years? Is there a Gap?

Now we know that it’s difficult for a teacher to manage such small kids. 
The product would simply fail, if children were bawling in the class all the time. 
So let mothers come to school with them. 

Viola again – Mother-Toddler Classes. 

Oh! You joined it? Thank you. 

Moving on…

The magic wand called Advertising.

A shoe that shapes your butt. 

A low calorie sweetener. 

A tea-powder that’s healthy. 

An all natural fruit juice. 

Confession: Just like that, we convinced you to join a All round development in Play-School with two types for you to choose from Montessori vs Playway Method. So we diverted your mind from whether you should send you child to playschool at all to chosing between the two methods. 

Making parents who chose not to send any- Unconcerned and Callous!

Again I’m not against it. 

I sent my own daughter to one, and I think the teachers there do a great job, and really take efforts to make your child more social.

But if parents are expecting their children to excel in academics and creativity there. I think there is a problem as a father. 

But as an advertiser I just won another account.

Turn the page to another chapter in Marketing. 

Cross-selling and Up-selling.

Cross-selling is when you go to buy a bed, and the salesman sells you a mattress and bed linen too.

Up-selling is when you walk in gingerly to a gym for a 1 month membership, but land up signing up for a Annual Gold Membership with a personal trainer, to use all the facilities. 

So we trap you to buy more products, or more expensive than what you walked in to buy.

Just like you wanted your child to simply stay occupied for an hour in some story telling class. 

But because the teacher told you that your child has potential in the subject, you signed up for speech and drama too and added the music classes just to make sure you are not leaving any stone unturned in the making of the superstar child’s future.

You think that was a rare one-in-a-million case, we think of it as a common way to make our millions.

One more section in marketing – AIDA
Attention (or Attraction)

The mission of an advertisement is to attract a reader, to interest him, then to convince him, so he will believe it. 

Did you know that the ice-cream you see in commercials, is actually potatoes? 

Real ice-cream would melt under the harsh lights!

The soap that the model bathes in is actually acrylic. 

A real one would be all slimy!

Remember the impressive dance teacher you see in the advertisements or brochures. 

That’s all you are going to see of them.

Or the one you met, with a great personality and elocution, who spent all of 30 minutes orienting you to the syllabus of their “internationally acclaimed course”. 

Her job is to simply meet eager parents and get them to pay the fees, sometimes humiliating them if they don't succumb- and giving them the feeling like if you don't send your child for this class, its like you don't care.

Remember the line...Jo biwi se kare pyaar, woh Prestige se kaise kare inkaar!

Most classes, who have a celebrity face, are being run by their students. (Some very talented ones - I agree) 

So your child attends those kinds of classes? 

Thanks again. 

Ill approach those institutions for a expansion plan and a advertising campaign in a few days.

These are just few examples.  

And if you think that you are smart and make informed choices, remember we are much ahead of the curve and are already plotting our next move for you to fall in.

We love you enthusiastic parents. You are what we call Baby Boomers generation, who think you’ll are different, privileged and demand better services, better products and feel that the world is going to change with your and your child's existence.

My intention is not against any particular class, any franchise or any chain of schools. I am no one to say which one your child should go to, how many they should attend and why!

My point is clear and I want to say just one thing… 

Now that you, dear parent, have seen the big, bad world...If I could give you your childhood back, what would you do?  

Would you go hopping from one class to another to learn something you are being pushed into because you once said that you liked doing it? 

Or would you simply live to laugh again? 

Sleep an extra one hour?

Climb a tree one branch higher just to see what the view is from there?

Dive into a river and enjoy the cool water?

Take a walk on the beach?

Listen to another story from your parents about their life?

Attempt to break one more mango from the tree and relish it?

There will be many years for them to learn how to dance, act, solve a jigsaw puzzle, learn an abacus, draw, paint, pronounce words correctly, solve an educational game and life’s many other skills.

Taking a cue from the one of the most successful and wealthiest singers in India- Jagjit Singh...

Ye daulat bhi le lo ye shohrat bhi le lo
Bhale chhin mujhse meri jawani
Magar mujhko lota de bachpan ka sawan
Woh kagaz ki kashti wo barish ka pani

Take a moment and give your child a hug, sit amongst nature and tell your kids about how your day went. Not just promise but take them for a picnic to a local park. It doesn’t always have to be a international exotic vacation. 

Because one day they ‘will’ graduate with a doctorate, and you would like him to thank YOU - Not his music class teacher.

Listen now. Or regret later. 

(Damn! Even my signoff sounds like a headline for a sale)

I know that a lot of parents are going to be absolutely disgusted with this article, and some will downright disagree with my school of thought. Apologies in Advance. I didnt mean to hurt you in any way. My intentions are in the right place.

If my colleagues in advertising and marketing guys get pissed off - Yes I agree, we also do a lot of other good work where we actually bring positive change and I definitely acknowledge and applaud your efforts there. 

But this was just to highlight the reality, so that little innocent kids don’t get caught in our crossfire. 

Cheers to more sales, awards, clients, accounts and case studies where we develop great work for great brands.

I’m no genius in advertising or marketing and I’m not the best father in the world too. 

Neither do I feel that our style of parenting is the best. 

BUT if you really want a child to manage a large business conglomerate by the day, dance and play a guitar at the office party, paint a masterpiece in his spare time, write a blockbuster book when on a vacation, speak at an award function with his phonics in place, and take official leave to participate in the Olympics. Who am I to stop you? 

_______________ x ________________________

But even if one child gets an extra moment with his mom and dad, an extra hug, or is told one more bedtime story - because of this blog- then a few of my sins will be washed away.


  1. I totally agree with your views...

  2. Super aleem loved it .. I just hope we be one of these parents .. Written so well ..
    By the way this is Hetal .. Aahanas mom soon

  3. Superbly expressed..its quite true..

  4. Hi, aleem. So true. Very well written.