Campaign India Team
Jun 04, 2010

English + Indian language = Win

CNBC Awaaz launches Storyboard in Hindi, and we thought it was a good time to check with creative professionals on the role that Hindi (and other. Indian languages) play in advertising in India. We found that knowing at least one Indian language is a MUST!Piyush Pandey, Executive chairman and creative director, South Asia, Ogilvy Is it a distinct added advantage today for creatives to have a command over at least one Indian language?

English + Indian language = Win

CNBC Awaaz launches Storyboard in Hindi, and we thought it was a good time to check with creative professionals on the role that Hindi (and other. Indian languages) play in advertising in India. We found that knowing at least one Indian language is a MUST!

Piyush Pandey, Executive chairman and creative director, South Asia, Ogilvy
Is it a distinct added advantage today for creatives to have a command over at least one Indian language?
Knowing an Indian language is not an advantage today, it is a primary requirement. It gives you insights into the culture, by allowing you to think and feel in that language. While one may be capable of conversing in English, it will be the knowledge of that Indian language that allows one to be able to reach out to the Indian consumer.
Can you give us an example of how a non-English language has helped you? 
Almost all the work that I’ve done in my career has been possible because of my knowledge of a language other than English. How can you translate Chal meri Luna, or Dam lagake Haisha in Hindi? I still have not been able to translate Har Ghar kuch kehta hai in English. The same applies for Heere ko kya pata tumhari umar and Kuch Khas hai. One is able to tell richer stories by having knowledge of various Indian languages.
Can you give us an example of an ad/campaign that is completely and totally “Non- English” and that worked?
The Asian Paints Pongal spot in Tamil was one the best work that I’ve seen as an example of this. VIP’s Kal bhi, aaj bhi campaign, Coca Cola’s Thanda Matlab Coca Cola and Humara Bajaj were rooted in the Hindi speaking psyche, they were deeply Indian in their concept.
 


Agnello Dias, co-founder and chief creative officer, Taproot India
Is it a distinct added advantage today for creatives to have a command over at least one Indian language?
Is it an advantage in creative crafting and execution, yes it is because some thoughts are best expressed in some languages. Getting newer insights applies only if creatives first make the time to go out and meet consumers. 
Can you give us an example of how a non-English language has helped you?
Konkani helped me write the Nike jingle. Marathi language and culture helped me during The Times of India Pakya film.
Can you give us an example of an ad/campaign that is completely and totally “Non- English” and that worked?
Coke’s Thanda Matlab is a good example.
 



Prasoon Joshi,  exec. chairman and regional creative director – McCann Worldgroup India
Is it a distinct added advantage today for creatives to have a command over at least one Indian language?
There is a very hybrid culture emerging in India, into which a lot of languages are contributing. There are various influences in each region. In Mumbai itself, there is Hindi that is influenced by Marathi. In Delhi, Hindi is influenced by the local Haryanvi and Punjabi language. The same applies for the south. Increasingly, I hear people talking about how the new English that will emerge in the world, will come from India.
Languages which are static do not survive, they have to be ever changing, ever adapting.  When we talk about command over a language, the grammar and construct of a language is important in that. Does that knowledge suggest insight into that particular culture? Definitely. Language is a capsule of culture, which is nothing by itself. As a result, if someone knows a particular language, he has the advantage of extracting cultural nuances in that particular language.
Can you give us an example of how a non-English language has helped you?
The Thanda matlab Coca Cola Campaign. It had different nuances; Bengali, Punjabi, Hindi, Nepalese, Hyderabadi. I used all these dialects to connect with people in a unique way. It was completely a regional language driven campaign.
Can you give us an example of an ad/campaign that is completely and totally “Non- English” and that worked?
The Thanda matlab Coca Cola Campaign, all the Chlormint campaigns- Dobara mat poochna etc, these were all in Hindi. Even Tehelka’s recent ad. Besides these, the Cadbury Dairy Milk campaigns are also a good example, as were the Spice telecom campaigns from the south.
 


Amit Akali, national creative director, Grey India
Is it a distinct added advantage today for creatives to have a command over at least one Indian language?
Where Hindi is concerned, this is actually a non-issue. Gone are the days that creative people could survive not knowing Hindi or more importantly, not being able to think for the Hindi speaking public. A basic knowledge of Hindi, even if you can’t craft in Hindi or speak fluent Hindi, is a necessity today. At least where films are concerned, the language of advertising is Hinglish or Hindi. In fact if you see an ad film where people are mouthing dialogues in pure English with an English accent it sounds odd. Some DAVP public sector ads show Indian villagers speaking in perfect English and they’re as hilarious as seeing The Titanic in dubbed in Hindi.

Can you give us an example of how a non-English language has helped you?
As far as other Indian languages, it helps to have a basic knowledge of some. You never know when a character in an ad film may need it. Eg. Malu and me had done a film for the Canara Bank logo change which showed a 50 year old Tamil mother learning Punjabi. The dialogues for the film had to willynily be in Punjabi. Luckily, we knew enough to at least be able to present the film internally. After which we took the help of our Punjabi friends to craft the film. So if you don’t know a language, it at least helps to know friends who do.

Can you give us an example of an ad/campaign that is completely and totally “Non- English” and that worked?                                                 Recently, there was a film for a mustard oil being made only for the Bengali market. We briefed a Bengali copywriter who wasn’t working on the account. And he came up with a film that a non-Bengali could never have come up with. In Bengali language there are a lot of sounds that double up as words. Eg. Bak Bak in Hindi. So, this writer wrote a sound track made of these sounds and words, to hold the film together. Like I said, a non-Bengali could never have thought of that. 
For that matter, Thanda Matlab Coca Cola wouldn’t have been the same if translated in English.



Satbir Singh, national creative director, Euro RSCG India
Is it a distinct added advantage today for creatives to have a command over at least one Indian language?
A couple of years ago, Euro RSCG did a study called the Bunty Syndrome. It pointed out that most of the change that we’re witnessing in India is actually bubbling up from the thousands of smaller towns and not trickling down from the three or four self-important ‘metro’ cities.
That’s where the action is at. So you’re bloody well advised to know more than English (which, in any case, is an Indian language today).

Can you give us an example of how a non-English language has helped you?
Considering most talented art directors when I started working were Bengalis, fluency in Bengali helped me get my layouts extra attention.
I’ve copy-checked in Bengali, Hindi and Punjabi. 

Can you give us an example of an ad/campaign that is completely and totally “Non- English” and that worked?
My favourite non-English campaign has been for Red FM. Five years ago, when I presented ‘Bajaate Raho’ to Aroon Poorie, he felt it may be considered a tad “risqué.” Several celebs refused to mouth “You’re listening to Red FM, bajaate raho.” A bit of persistence and Abe Thomas’ unwavering support created perhaps the most successful campaign for radio in India. From an advertising idea it has evolved into Red’s identity, its soul.



Sumanto Chattopadhyay, executive creative director, O&M
Is it a distinct added advantage today for creatives to have a command over at least one Indian language?
Despite the diversity of India, there is a certain cultural essence at its core that many of us seem to share, no matter how disparate our specific roots are. It is through our mother tongue that we relate to and articulate our experience of this essence.

Can you give us an example of how a non-English language has helped you?
My language is Bengali. We have a word - obhimaan - which is so difficult to translate into English. It is a sort of pride. It is overlaid with a tremendous sense of the sentimental. I can say many more things in English to attempt to describe it -- but I would only be giving a rough approximation of its true meaning. If you are not from India, you might even grasp the meaning intellectually, but you would find it difficult to know the feeling of the word. Obhimaan is that thing in our movies, especially the old ones, that makes a protagonist walk away in
silence when misjudged or misinterpreted by his loved one -- without making an attempt to explain himself. It hurts him so much to walk away, yet it would hurt him more to defend himself when he knows he’s innocent. The protagonist must wait with his pride and his pain until the loved one realises she misjudged him.

Can you give us an example of an ad/campaign that is completely and totally “Non- English” and that worked?
The Asian Paints ‘Har ghar kuchh kehta hai’ ads are quintessentially Indian. The most recent of these ads talks about that special home (it could be that of one of your friends or relatives) where there was always an unlimited supply of food because ‘the gang’ liked to gather there and your friend’s mom or aunt was happy to feed as many mouths as they need to at a moment’s notice. The Hindi phrase used to describe this can be roughly translated as ‘the number of rotis to be made were never counted’. But as I say, it’s a rough English approximation. The sentiment behind the phrase is far more difficult to translate.



Vikram Gaikwad, partner and executive creative director, Creativeland Asia
Is it a distinct added advantage today for creatives to have a command over at least one Indian language?
In advertising, it’s always an advantage to know more. Be it a language, a subject, or just general knowledge. Command over an Indian language gives you that much more of an understanding over a culture, the people and their nuances. Ultimately, it’s important to realize that one is a consumer first, and an advertising professional next. Therefore, your own insights into your thinking helps you understand the world outside better. 

Can you give us an example of how a non-English language has helped you?
Every time something has to be done in Marathi, I have a point of view. It could be a thought for the campaign or a simple line. It could even be a Maharashtrian’s attire in a TVC. Because I understand things that  non-Maharashtrians could miss. Likewise, people from different states help us in understanding their cultures better.

Can you give us an example of an ad/campaign that is completely and totally “Non- English” and that worked?
Things have changed so much in the last decade, that most ads today are thought out in Hindi or other regional languages. Rarely do you see an ad with dialogues in English. If there’s an odd English ad, it’s either specifically made for a niche channel, or it’s an adaptation of a regional language ad.


Josy Paul, Chairman and CCO, BBDO/Proximity India
The language of action.
Today, we’re seeing rising regionalization. Local is the new national.  There’s increased confidence among the youth, and they love their local identity.  Brands that want to make greater inroads often work within the local idiom and cultural grammar. There are many talented writers and creative people who choose to live and work in their own regional street corner. They refuse to join the mainstream. Collaborating and working with them becomes a richer experience. You can’t dig deep into India with just one spade called Hindi. You need local roots!
As we go down the pyramid, we all know that language has the power to create greater connect and affinity. At BBDO India, we helped create the popular ‘7 Up Lemon Patallam’ for Tamil Nadu by working closely with our talented partners in the south.  Their live-in experience and local immersion is what gives us roots and wings!
At the same time there are other truths. Last year’s most popular campaign was neither in English nor Hindi. It was utter gibberish. Vodafone Zoo Zoos spoke in rolling gargles and melodious grunts! It proved that design and art can speak louder than words! Look at the year before Zoo Zoos. ‘Lead India’ showed us that you can still move people with a western language like English as long as you touched popular sentiment.
Localization is the reaction to urbanization. But the challenge for national brands will be to speak in every nook and corner with the same voice! The only way to do that is to create ideas that are language-neutral. Ideas that are more action-oriented. The language of action.  Ideas that create acts, not ads.


Ravi Deshpande, chairman and chief creative officer, Contract Advertising
Is it a distinct added advantage today for creatives to have a command over at least one Indian language?
In the advertising business, the more you know, the more equipped you are to solve advertising problems. That extends to one’s understanding of different cultures within the country, nuances etc. 
The more observant you are of the cultural diversity that exists, the better for you as a creative person to address the problem at hand. In my case, knowledge of Hindi and Marathi has helped me considerably in thinking and conversing in these languages and being able to offer insights into a particular problem.
In fact, I would like to emphasise that it’s not merely knowledge of languages that can offer insights; it is also the idea itself which is derived from one’s knowledge of cultural nuances that is important. One needs to have knowledge of the wide diversity that exists in the country.

Can you give us an example of how a non-English language has helped you?
If you look at the American Tourister campaign, there is hardly any word spoken in the entire commercial, except for the track that is running in the background and the final voiceover. But the premise that American Tourister is a hardy brand that can survive the local trains in Mumbai is delivered. That was rooted in the idea of Mumbai’s culture.

Can you give us an example of an ad/campaign that is completely and totally “Non- English” and that worked?
The Nakka Mukka campaign for The Times of India in Chennai was steeped in local insight and culture. Although I have no knowledge of Tamil, watching the commercial you know, without doubt, that it reflects the local language and culture very well.


KV Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett India
Is it a distinct added advantage today for creatives to have a command  over at least one Indian language?
Today you think twice before you hire an English writer. Almost all commercials today are conceived in Hindi or Tamil and all of them talk to pan Indian audiences which include SEC A , B and C therefore deeper understanding of SEC B and C is critical to pick insights which connect with them and does not alienate SEC A.

Can you give us an example of how a non-English language has helped you?
ThumsUp is a great example, Andhra is a very important market for the brand hence my understanding of Telugu language and local insights are critical.

Can you give us an example of an ad/campaign that is completely and totally “Non- English” and that worked?
There are many from Zakir Hussain’s original Wah Taj! To Chal meri Luna To HDFC Standard life Saar utha ke jiyo and the list can include every commercial created in the last 15 years.


V Sunil, executive creative director, W+K
Is it a distinct added advantage today for creatives to have a command over at least one Indian language?
Yes, it is a massive advantage. It helps you find insights, dialects and even local jokes can work much better sometimes. It can also misfire when you do that as an outsider to that culture. Like sometime you see very forced creative referencing certain cultures by creatives/marketing people who are not from that state.

Can you give us an example of how a non-English language has helped you?
Sometimes Malayalam helped me. Recent one is an IndiGo ad promoting Cochin Kolkotta flights. We have used an old Malayalam hit film name. “akkare akkare akkare”.

Can you give us an example of an ad/campaign that is completely and totally “Non- English” and that worked?
The Nokia global campaign for entry markets. We have used rural visual languages from across the world and mixed it with tech language and created our own look to talk to the entire region.


Senthil Kumar, VP and executive creative director, JWT
Is it a distinct added advantage today for creatives to have a command over at least one Indian language?
Absolutely. Lingo Lekhaks and Lingo Leelas are crucial to reach the distant corners of our incredible country, that’s loaded with so many languages and tongue twisting local dialects. And by understanding a language you learn about the people that speak in it, you pick up traits and dig deep for insights in that language. In fact, the more languages you can think in, the better for creatives in mass communication. Language is the bridge that we cross to tell a certain story in a familiar comprehensive manner to a specific target audience. The best writers out there can also think beyond the Queen’s Lingo in their own mother tongues and even better, when the expressions are in their regional accents. While most advertising writers are well versed in our National language - Hindi, there are many who are out there with the talent to think in Tamil, Kannada, Telegu, Malayalam, Marathi, Bengali and even Punjabi. Which is great because nothing should be lost in translation.

Can you give us an example of how a non-English language has helped you?
Real life is more interesting than advertising and that’s where we pick up the local lingo. Fortunately school in my hometown Bangalore has taught me three languages: Kannada, Hindi and English. My mother tongue is Tamil. My neighbours and many of my friends speak Malayalam with me. My hostel mates in Engineering abused each other in Telegu and I am in the process of learning some Bengali because I also look after ideas at the Kolkata office of JWT India. And each time you travel to all these different regions, you learn more from conversing with taxi drivers, local guides, friends and colleagues.
Talking of specific cases, here are a few Lingo Legends in my book.

a] Lingo Leela : 400 + radio spots in the local Kannada slanguage on Radio City in a 400 day JWT campaign for Spice Telecom in Bangalore. Over 400 Words that were not in the Kannada dictionary but oft used in the local lingo were discussed and brought alive in the voice of Lingo Leela : your friendly local slanguage teacher on Radio with a new Bombaat / Sakkath / Full Minchu / Yekamaka ward every day. The first 100 words / expressions we picked from our long lives at local addas and campus canteens. The remaining 300 were suggested by listeners who contributed their own lingo leela content, live on Radio.
UB Export is another brand, where the work happens entirely in Kannada. And the Kannada English expression “ Yaake Cool Drink “ attained cult status in local lingo.

b] UniverCell Launch campaign in Andhra Pradesh: Chaala Inka Kawala ? The campaign that swung the fortunes of Univercell to become Andhra’s biggest retail chain of mobile phone stores. The use of action hero Mahesh Babu’s mannerisms and his local delivery of Telegu punch lines was a huge hit with the Andhra audience and the brand has managed to build a strong bond with the local people. More because we dug deep into the local lingo to reach the right expression.

c) Mirinda Market : A satire on the Madras Baashai. The Chennai Local way of stretching the Tamil language into a unique street lingo and equally weird delivery that involves a lot of Tamil puns and double innuendos.
In Madras baashai, one thing always sounds like something else. So when the man asks ‘how are the spinach?’ it also means ‘how you doin?’ in slang. Similarly, ‘how are the potatoes’ means ‘how to roll’, to which the comic retort is ‘roll however you want, saar’.
And ‘katthiri’ which means eggplant, can also mean ‘please shout’, which results in a mirror-shattering response in the film. This local depth of reach in the campaign, developed originally in the Tamil language, contributed to making Mirinda the most popular soft drink in TN and of course, the film was the most recalled television ad in Tamil.

Can you give us an example of an ad/campaign that is completely and totally “Non- English” and that worked?
The successful launch of the world’s largest English Daily- The Times Of India in Chennai with communication that was designed entirely in Tamil. The entire campaign spoke to the largely Tamil audience in their mother tongue and helped raised a folk phrase from the underbelly of Chennai as a metaphor for it’s distinct duality with cinema and politics, superstar and minister, garlands and cowdung and every other double role in just two words: ‘Nakka Mukka’.

In fact, The Times Of India was launched on Tamil New Years Day. April 14th 2008. A move that was welcomed by the masses and the classes in Chennai, catapulting the rise of TOI readership to over a million readers within the first year itself. The film,of course, went on to cause waves in the state and win the hearts of not just the Tamilaudiences but win the Asia Pacific Adfest Grand Prix and India’s first and second Gold Lions at The Cannes Lions Festival, last year.

Lingo Logic For The Day:  In a country like ours with 25+ official languages, it pays to think in the Universal language of Music or communicate in the Supreme Visual language with minimal usage of words. A lesson from our South American friends who decided to master the visual language versus translating their work for global audiences in English and saving the idea from being lost in translation.

The top picks from adland

"I still haven't been able to translate 'Har ghar kuch kehta hai' in English," says Piyush Pandey.

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"Humara Bajaj was rooted in the Hindi speaking psyche," says Pandey.

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"The Thanda Matlab Coca Cola campaign had different nuances," says Prasoon Joshi. "Bengali, Punjabi, Nepali, Hyderabadi. I used all these dialects to connect with people in a unique way."

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"Cadbury Dairy Milk campaigns are also a good example of non-English advertising," says Prasoon Joshi.

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The Payday campaign for Cadbury: Pehli Tareekh

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"Konkani helped me writes the Nike jingle," says Agnello Dias.

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Chloromint was one of Prasoon Joshi's made in Hindi campaigns.

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"Lead India showed that you can still move people with a Western language like English," says Josy Paul.

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HDFC Standard Life is a non-English campaign that works, says KV Sridhar.

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The Times of India launch campaign in Chennai was designed entirely in Tamil, says Senthil Kumar.

Source:
Campaign India

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