​’Advertising’s art of persuasion — political ads will grow’: Prasoon Joshi

Author and advertising authority Prasoon Joshi headed the Titanium Lions jury at 2014’s Cannes International Advertising Festival, the first Asian to do so. Speaking with Srijana Mitra Das, Joshi discussed powerful themes driving global advertising, breakthrough ads — and how India sells consumerism
What steered your jury at Cannes?
Firstly, the responsibility to see the best work selected. I also wanted balanced sensitivity. Advertising awards are of two kinds — for public causes or pure selling and brand-building. I wanted no biases. Advertising is the art and craft of persuasion — and a firm can do a great job selling a car.
I also wanted to emphasize how old media still survives in many parts of the world. In Silicon Valley, of course you’ll say no one watches TV anymore, all their viewing is online — but in India, someone’s buying their first TV. Both these realities coexist. Some people are constantly connected. Others have no access to any media.
I wanted us to debate such a world — not just one part of it.
Who won the Titanium prize?
A Tokyo firm which recreated the last lap of Ayrton Senna, a 1980s FI racer. They used old races’ sounds so skilfully, you felt Senna speeding past you. They converted dry, boring data into something very emotional — a beautiful thing to do.
Was advertising’s growing role in political campaigns discussed?
Well, i was part of the Cannes jury three years ago which awarded the Barack Obama campaign. Recently, i worked on BJP’s campaign, helping the articulation of their brand. Political advertising’s a team effort. Its orchestration is particularly single-minded, different people’s strengths synchronized across diverse media. There’s huge creative coordination. Profession-ally managed political ad campaigns will definitely grow.
What were other standout trends in global advertising?
UK presented an ad of unabashed, unapologetic self-consumerism — we loved it. Notably, you have to be a very confident brand to sell yourself like that. Meanwhile, advertising for public good is only getting better. A winning ad featured a fake online identity of a girl, created to trap paedophiles via police tracking systems. An Indian ad showed how if people place a red sticker on untouched lunches, such food can be given via NGOs to the hungry.
Ads also discussed technology enriching lives. One featured 3D printing of prosthetic arms being taught to villagers. There was a journalistic approach too. Journalists unearth truths for society’s good — similarly, a company found US corporates investing employees’ pension funds into the gun trade. Their ad made people aware of this — and challenge it.
Where does Indian advertising stand?
It’s still a fresh phenomenon. India hasn’t been a consumeristic society. We have a 1,000-year-old civilization, focused on spiritualism, values, etc. While we’ve grown better at that, consumerism came later from the West to us. Consumerism’s tools — like advertising — are relatively new to us.
Also, we’re still not comfortable with unabashed consumerism. We still haven’t accepted absolute indulgence is right. I can’t sell luxury to an Indian housewife — I’ll have to sell her convenience or family good.
Indian advertising’s getting better but it’s a new phenomenon in a very complex society. For the meaning of life, the world looks at us — for the meaning of things and selling them, we still have to look at the world.

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