Hey, Big Spender

Advertorials and the promotion of status-climbing

ByMadhu Trehan
Hey, Big Spender
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Anchor in a black clubbing dress – halter, length…no what’s the opposite word? Shortness, creeping up, crossed legs to avoid any Yana Gupta-Sharon Stone winky peeps, and she is on: “Here is a part of the aesthete high life, here is another part of premium home décor and furniture that would please even the hostess with the mostest.” Hostess with the mostest? Run…run miles away!

Then we see visuals of over-the-top assembly line furniture shown with dentist-waiting-room music and you are in WestWood Lifestyle. Voice over says Western Wood Life style. She goes on: “Each design complements your personality. Well, it may sound like a dream or maybe not.” I think not. Sounds like a nightmare.

You get a programme-long commercial for the furniture and lifestyle company. Interviews with the owner boasting ‘foreign’. He says: “A very specific European craftsmanship that they use in manufacturing, that is why these products are a little different than the market. These are very artistically designed, mechanically produced in Europe so they have a very personal touch to it.”

In another episode, Kanika Bhattachary, in a yellow gota-covered Ludhiana type ‘suit’, with an NRI American accent, introduces the programme with “Your weekly tips to live it larrrrge.” Then ‘coverage’ (read commercial) of fashion statement luggage sold by Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Bottega Veneta.

On April 8, 2012, we saw on Big Spenders an anchor showcasing Radiomir watches, which she endearingly pronounced Punjabi-style “Ruddhimeer” repeatedly. Footage clearly taken from the company displaying all the fine watch features set to lounge music.

And the list goes on: Anand B Nachani tells us how his company has customised luxury Magniflex mattresses to the Indian bed and we are treated to another company promotion film. Lalique and Daum are featured as the essentials in luxury for ‘any’ home. And on and on.

Okay, so a simple question. NDTV Profit is a business channel. When these products are featured on Big Spenders, are they paid for by the companies whose products are promoted? Besides the question of journalistic ethics, where perhaps a disclaimer such as, ‘Advertorial’ would be essential, it yet again burns a wound in those who don’t make in ten years what one watch or bag is bought for. In today’s India, it pushes us into a world of meaningless status climbing and any means to reach there.

Can one ignore the propaganda of liberalisation being pushed out on us? Traditionally, propaganda is responsible for creating values and loyalty to concepts such as patriotism. In this case too, it creates values and loyalty to commerce, products and a particular lifestyle. Are these the values and loyalties we want to create in our citizens? But more important, this programme masquerades as stories on lifestyles when clearly they are promotions. There is no critique or balance in the story. If the print media includes a hint, such as, ‘advertorial’ or ‘impact feature’ or ‘promotion’, why should television get away with stories appearing to be factual reports when they are not? Just not ethical. And why, please tell me why, do the Big Spenders anchors have to speak in Ludhiana/NRI fake sounding accents and actually mispronounce simple words? Hey, hold on. The anchors are perfect for this. They exemplify the programme with a sincere, sad, social climbing ethos. Okay, kill me for being a snob: BTMUC (Behenji Turned Mod in Utter Confusion).

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Complaining about the media is easy and often justified. But hey, it’s the model that’s flawed.

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