The split between two Indias stared advertising in its face, as Hindi film industry legend Amitabh Bachchan and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living Foundation took stage at the inaugural sessions of the IAA World Congress that got off to a flying start in Kochi this morning.
While Bachchan kickstarted his keynote address on how the theme of the Congress, Brand Dharma was misplaced. He said it should be called Dharm, an Indian word, instead of the anglicised word Dharma, before launching into a monologue on how we often anglicised Indian words that would lose their essence.
However, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who followed later said that the word Dharm or Dharma were both equally relevant in India, as it was indeed referred to as Dharma in South India or Dharm in the Northern part of the country.
While Amitabh Bachchan was speaking about the positive force of social media that took the communication beyond one to many and made it many to one, Sr Sri Ravi Shankar spoke about the dangers of the virtual world that had resulted in personality disorders in young children.
Excerpts from the address of Amitabh Bachchan:
"Words can make or even break a brand. We need to be conscious of the intrinsic value of the words," said Bachchan before launching into a description of what he considers Dharm.
"Dharm has a larger canvas than Dharma. Brand ka dharm is the belief system of the brand," he said before divulging that he had endorsed more than 24 products from scooters and medicines to hair oil among many others, but not alcohol and tobacco. "That's my dharm," he stated.
He was also quick to add that he was probably not well equipped to speak to this large community of advertising and marketing professionals. "If I am missing the mark, I seek forgiveness. I cannot even sell bottle of water to a thirsty person on my own without your ingenious scripts," he said.
He said that if it meant translating the value of face and voice of himself, it was like crediting the rooster for sunrise.
However, there were exceptions to the rule when the rooster had indeed played a role in helping the sun shine brighter. He said that when Cadbury's employed him as an ambassador to battle the worm in chocolate crisis, or when the polio eradication results were high and India became polio free, it was the designing of the image that did the trick.
"Competition decides the dharm of a brand. Brand becomes better or worse with the celebrity," he said.
"Is a celebrity who is the voice and face also liable for damages when the brand fails its Dharm," he wondered aloud and added that the Dharm is an assurance that the product will deliver what is on the label. Otherwise it fails the Dharm.
"Dharm is an engine and the brand is a wagon. Dharm is not a strategy but best standards at best price...," he added to underscore his point on the topic.
He gave a huge mission to brands to be true to their sales pitch by saying that exaggerated bluff is a shame not for the brand, but also the nation. Brands should be all about fairness and dignity, he said. "Otherwise it is only a profit machine. Never betray the nation it belongs."
"Be scrupulous while choosing a brand or scripting a story about the brand," he said to bring closure to the inaugural address at the IAA World Congress.
(The 44th edition of the IAA World Congress is being held from Feb 20-22.)