Television news anchor, Arnab Goswami is famous for many traits that set him apart from others in the business. One of them is to invite guests on his show and not let them talk by constantly interrupting them.
In Goafest 2015, the tables turned. One morning when Goswami came up on stage to address the gathering there was a person in the audience who wanted to ask Goswami just one question. That individual was a senior creative professional from Bangalore, Ranesh Keswani.
Keswani spoke to Campaign India with the standard disclaimer that his views presented in this article "are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer".
What was the question that Keswani wanted to shoot at Goswami? “Would the lyrics of Frank Zappa’s ‘I’m the slime’ apply to Arnab?” Especially the lines, “I'm the tool of the Government… And industry too… For I am destined to rule… And regulate you….”
Keswani had even got two friends with cameras to capture Goswami’s reaction. However, as Keswani readily admits now, things did not go according to plan. What started as a friendly banter from a member of the audience threatened to snowball into an ugly episode, that would have marred the early morning proceedings. Fortunately, sanity prevailed. But in the ensuing fracas Keswani did not get a chance to ask his question, as most queries had to pass the muster of a moderator.
After the session, Keswani says that many people walked up to him and mentioned that he gave Goswami a hard time. But Keswani would believe none of that. ““F-16s don't shoot at people with pea-shooters,” he says.
The background to why Keswani wanted to do a 'frankly speaking with Arnab' was an episode in which a Greenpeace activist, who had been offloaded from an international flight, was painted as an anti-national by Goswami through his prime time show, Keswani now reveals.
So is Keswani an activist at heart? No, he says without a second thought. He only says that he is an individual who feels strongly about certain causes.
One of the things that worries him is the self-serving nature of the advertising industry. “People are ready to latch on to anything to win awards,” he says.
While most advertising is moving from functional benefits to emotional benefits, nothing is sacred anymore, he says and adds, “The fact that a brand exploits an exalted symbol of our defence forces like INS Vikrant to sell motorcycles is insane to me. Some things should be off-limits,” says Keswani.
“Consumers are gullible. Sacred causes should not be touched to sell brand stories. That’s spread like an epidemic in advertising,” he says and points out to the recent ad by Vicks that features a transgender mother.
Here is Keswani’s take on the situation. Vicks is owned by Procter & Gamble. In the 2016, US election cycle, the Procter & Gamble Company Good Government Fund PAC contributed almost twice as much to Republicans as to Democrats. He says, “The same Republicans are fighting against transgender rights and want to take away the right to abortion from women. It would behoove us all to dig a little deeper before we start singing hosannas to manipulative feel-good advertising.”
He quickly adds, “A reality check is in order.”
This year, neither Goswami (who’s busy preparing for the launch of his new channel Republic TV), nor Keswani are likely to be in Goa. ““I found Goafest very shallow. The only reasons I attended in 2015 was because some of my work had been shortlisted, and I didn't know at the time that it would have so little substance,” says Keswani. And just for the record – in the year he took on Goswami, his agency went back home with a metal.