Monday, March 7, 2011

Of Marriages and Profits

I love our Big Fat Indian weddings. The colourful mandaps and the phera-chori, the mehendi and the mithai, the glittering bridal nathni and the bridegroom’s sehra, the kanyadaan and the bidaai – all of these are exciting yet intimate moments shared between family and friends.

Does the rest of India also love it? Perhaps it does, both in real and reel life. The two-decade long obsession and popularity with the elaborate Indian wedding is easily apparent in Bollywood movies and satellite television, attracting audiences by the millions. The import of this is not lost on the image-makers branding Wedding as a luxury product to be consumed in vast proportions.

One often sees advertisements using the backdrop of the Indian Wedding against which to position their products. From sarees, jewellery, suit materials to bank insurances, from lifestyle accessories to food items – Indian weddings have them all.

Take the advertisement for Met Life Insurance against the backdrop of an Indian wedding. The bride-groom and his family members dance to a song about a life insurance that secures his family’s future. A plethora of advertising in India today, uses the Indian wedding as a metaphor of permanence and security. It is interesting that the Indian wedding that has brought home the language of banking and insurance! So life insurance has become kind of ‘cool conversation’ and a much needed vibrancy has entered its discourse. India after all is the least insured country in the whole world!

Let’s do a flashback scenario in a stereotypical context where a young couple is shown nodding to the formalities of the insurance policy. It is almost impossible to get anyone on a rational platform today, leave alone explain benefits! We live after all in an image driven society! Today, many related products with or without any matrimonial implication ride on the Indian wedding as a backdrop. The question is not whether these ads are successful or not, but how marriage as a sign helps connect people to products and brands.

Other products like the fairness cream – e.g Vicco turmeric or the Raymond suitings too have explored the wedding themes. For example the jingles of “banno teri ankhiyan” that were played in the oldest Vicco ads were an anthem in those days and all one could remember were around twenty women applying haldi to the bride. Also, the Titan ad showing a young girl playing the piano for her sister was designed along similar lines. More than the brands, the jingles, the context, the gaze, the expressions have not been forgotten.

A recent survey shows that there is an increase in the new age ‘live in’ relationships. Well, our advertising certainly seems to be replaying the good old stable institution of marriage. One wonders if marriage has become as much of a ‘product’ as are the brands themselves. Either way, the brands are laughing all the way to the bank! Marriage anyone?

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