Opinion: An aag-baboola in a teacup…

Narayan Devanathan

With an influx of IPL-centric advertisements all over social media followed by a hoard of discussions, Narayan Devanathan, dentsu Solutions writes about the overall sentiments around creating effective campaigns referring to that CRED ad.

Earlier this month, there have been expert takes and expert takes on expert takes around one of the most insignificant things in the world (at all times, but especially in the current Covid-19 maelstrom the world finds itself in these days). I’m talking of course of the prophetic warnings that Rahul Gandhi has periodically dispensed to the current dispensation and then promptly been dispensed with by the…umm…spokespersons of the said dispensation.

Just kidding.

What Rahul Gandhi says and what is said about what he says actually matter—both to the country, and clearly to the government. If not he would just be ignored completely.

I’m talking of course about the other Rahul who’s been in the news, thanks to the Cred ad featuring him in an avatar the world is not used to seeing him in.

And of all the hot takes that have dissipated like so much hot air usually tends to dissipate in the month of April across India, most have long disappeared from the public consciousness.

There’s one particular phrasing of the question though that I want to bring up. This is from a YouTube channel that has 17.7 million subscribers (so, nothing to sneeze at), and whose takes are consumed by millions across the country, primarily also because they are not in the English language.

Lallantop’s question was this: What caused Rahul Dravid to become an aag-baboola? What a delicious phrase. Aag-baboola! I would have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear if someone had merely said Rahul Dravid got angry. But after Albert Pinto (look it up, you millennials and Gen Zers!), merely asking why someone got angry won’t cut it. I mean, hello, have you been to Twitter, Land of the Irrational, Home of the Mad?

But tell me someone has become a fire-whirlwind, especially someone usually considered unflappable, like Rahul Dravid with stiff bat wings, and you’ve got my attention.

Like Cred did.

Even though I still haven’t been able to decipher what their tagline means. Great for the good. Ok, bro. Whatever floats your boat.

Even though the analogy used in the ad is illogical. Dravid getting angry is ridiculous, I get. But earning Cred coins and using them to claim cashback and rewards is … ridiculous? Ok then.

Also Read: Opinion: Moving towards a predictive creative mindset

Look, advertising is supposed to make you, as a horse, come to the water. So, yeah, at 4.7 million views just on the official YouTube video of the ad, I’d say enough horses came to the water. But expecting the ad to make all the horses drink the Kool-Aid is like expecting fish to gallop like horses (reverse-migrating salmon being the exception).

What really made the aag-baboola stand out was that it was not the only ad in the IPL slate of ads to use one of the oldest techniques in advertising: exaggerated metaphors. It was not even the only ad to try outlandish gimmicks to get people’s attention. I mean, the King of Gimmickry, Ranveer Singh, seems to have bought the rights to appear in 89.9% of all ads airing this IPL (according to my own scientific survey).

I’d go so far as to so it’s been inspirational in many ways. It inspired MagicPin to spoof it. Without that ad, MagicPin wouldn’t have had a chance in hell to get noticed. It’s like the hare in a bowler hat dancing on top of the unicorn. It takes your attention away from the fact that there’s a unicorn in the picture, but without that unicorn in the first place, that would have been one hare-brained idea.

I daresay it’s made creative directors in many an ad agency dream of pulling off similar successes with other start-ups with bloated valuations who are flush with VC funds, without a care for profitable growth or meaningful progress in the foreseeable future. (I’m not a creative director, but it certainly made me look at how to get to those money bags.)

It’s made us forget temporarily that 2021 is making 2020 look like Baby Godzilla, not so dangerous in comparison to a grown-up, world-devouring adult monster Godzilla. And it’s still only April.

After all, as Heath Ledger most famously asked us while wearing one of the most unforgettable and grisliest of smiles in cinematic history, why so serious?

It’s just advertising.

There’s other stuff in the world that serve the purpose of making us all serious.

The C-word, for example.

I don’t mean the Indian word possibly most apt for politicians of the day.

I mean the other one.

At the end of the day, if all of this mutation doesn’t leave us with a new generation of X-Men, I’m going to be most disappointed in the Coronavirus. Dude, what’s so novel about you anyway?

Give me an aag-baboola instead any day.

The piece has been authored by Narayan Devanathan, CEO, dentsu Solutions. Views expressed are his own, not necessarily that of the organization he works with, not necessarily coherent either.