Advertisers’ Devices

Large black space never fails to catch the eye or large white space. Typographical tricks stimulate reader interest too. A gimmick that’s reappearing is the ad message placed at right angles to the reader’s normal vision, much like the spine of a book.

Its advantage is plain to see. The unorthodox angling tickles the eye and induces the beholder to tilt the publication so as to read the copy. In doing so, he has been made by the visualizer into committing himself physically to perceive the ad.

He has also been trapped into spending a few more seconds with the advertiser than he might normally have done. That’s on the positive side. On the minus, skewed typography is only read first time around. Subsequent insertions are ignored and their glance value nil. Naturelle cosmetics have been running an up-ended color page in magazines.

After the initial novelty, repeat insertions are in danger of being skipped as an expensive novelty. In days long gone, leading newspapers would bar such unorthodoxy, unless a portion of the ad was conventionally aligned. One now notices that ‘Times of India’ has relaxed its ban, allowing Kelvinator to give me a crick in the neck.

What are the primal concerns of mortal man? Sex, health, family. These themes are now attempted to be explored by the new fortnightly ‘Care’. Its novel formal spilts into two halves one on health topics and the other beauty. The arrival of this newcomer was marked more by its publicity than the impact of its first issue. Bombay was festooned with a flurry of street banners.

Almost every road seemed to be adorned with fluttering slogans about India’s first ‘2-in-1’ magazine. Certainly this book is a welcome departure from the swollen mainstream of film and gossip. One merely hopes that its editorial content will be fresh and not a dull rephrasing of old ideas on diabetes, dysentery and dieting.

On the matter of street banners, this medium is certainly an attractive proposition in these times of high media costs. Appela successfully demonstrated its effectiveness in a new product launch. Relatively inexpensive, an 8’ X 3’ banner costs Rs. 75 to fabricate and rope into place. But the Bombay Muncipality extracts its pound of flesh with an added license fee of Rs. 60.

In return the advertiser gets little change from the city fathers, let alone a merciful guarantee that the banners will survive 24 hours. Overnight, these cloth strips are known to vanish, perhaps to cover the backs of street destitutes. Competing banners are allowed to obscure those already in place making the whole thing a bit of a charade. If banner activities could be better policed, this could be an ideal high-focus medium. It is also a clean device and leaves none of the disfiguring traces that posters bequeath on city walls.

Cochin is one city where banners are used most unimaginatively (as they are in Hong Kong too). Intriguing shapes, colours and designs are allowed to be stretched across streets. And blessedly, they do not become immediate targets of petty larceny.

Some years ago sky-writing had made a brief appearance in Bombay. A light-plane would fly over the city weaving a trail of smoke that scripted a brand name. Hamam Soap, if memory serves, was the first to avail of this novelty. After Independence, sky-writing dropped out of sight. Perhaps pilots at the Bombay Flying Club got cold feet about their spelling.

Now sky advertising takes off again. A Delhi based company is offering aerial advertising over each of the 15 venues of the IX Asian Games. A huge banner will be towed behind aircraft encircling the stadia 100 feet above. The price per flight will vary between Rs. 45,000 and Rs. 60,000. It is not yet clear how long the joy-ride will be. The height of each giant letter will average 5 feet and a maximum of 30 characters can be accommodated. Trademarks and logos can come aboard.

The idea is innovative and dramatic. It is ideal for news advertising – a new product, a star event or a special promotion. For ongoing reminder advertising the price tag may generally be considered a little too steep. About 8 years ago, this writer chartered a twin-engine plane in which to film a commercial while in flight. The cost was only about Rs. 5,000 an hour. On another occasion about that time, my colleagues at the office got the brainwave of flying a press conference from Bombay to Goa and back with drinks and an audiovisual presentation on board. Air India agreed to charter a small Boeing for around Rs.85000. Alas, the plan didn’t eventually come off.