Monday, September 22, 2008
FLOGGING THE FLOGOS?
Summer of 2001 is finely etched in my memory as one of the finest. I was selected for a cultural-ambassadorial fellowship to the US of A by the Rotary Foundation under the aegis of Rotary International. This meant that I, along with four others were sent to Washington DC and the State of Maryland on a red carpet for a really VIP trip. The agenda was to familiarise the decision makers and opinion leaders of these two geographical locations with the culture, the heritage as well as the charm of contemporary India. As a quid pro quo, we were allowed to be keen and close observers of the quintessential American culture and lifestyle. This was a five week programme, but I decided to extend it to a four month stay travelling from the east to the west coast and spending sizeable time in places like Florida, LA, San Francisco and New York in addition to the two mentioned above. With invaluable help from my boss at the time and the one more recently so, I managed to turn it into a busman's holiday as I not only experienced the American way of life at close hand but also got to meet important hoteliers and stay at some of the nicest hotels......... Ritz Carlton, Pasadena; The Campton Place and Fairmont, San Francisco and The Pierre, New York.
But back to the American culture. It was in Frisco that I was hugely entertained and amused. For something to click, it is always about being in the right place at the right time. And I happened to be in this lively city at the time of the Gay Pride Parade. Having heard enough about it and not wanting to miss it for the world, I coaxed my husband's cousin on the said morning and off we trotted to the area where all the action was to happen. Once there, my Asian sensibilities were teased by the occidental forthrightness. I saw handsome men baring their well rounded bottoms, revealed cannily in strategically snipped leather pants. The toned bottoms were then used to talk about the gay-issue-of-the-day. A few steps on to the Union Square, and I was greeted by the frontal view of a lesbian beauty in the nude (covered tantalisingly with the bare minimum of faux fur), who had used her bountifulness for yet another bold, in-the-face, in-the-eye message on the strong take on her personal preferences.I was quite taken in by America's ingenuity in this exercise of branding & marketing.
On another trip, this time a pure vacation, my husband and I found ourselves slaking our thirst at the famous and naughty Hooter's Bar in Interlaaken. The sprightly, gym-toned waitresses are known, not only to satiate the thirst and hunger of the guests, but also titillate their other senses as they go about flitting in body hugging cropped tees and hot pants. Their well-endowed bosoms are used to full effect to advertise the famous Hooter's Bar logo, thereby leaving an indelible impression on the consumer. Playboy bunnies have been better known to use their twin assets to advertise the company they represent.
Come World Soccer time and we see the choicely shaved heads becoming billboards for advertising the various teams as passionate fans campaign for their faves. The act is so sacred that die-hard fans cut, colour and create mind-boggling hair styles as they sacrifice their hair at the altar of idol worship.
Even in the subcontinent, just as in every other part of the world, the female fans too trade their much-coveted make-up routine for face art as they go about getting their country flags painted on this very visible medium.
So that's back, front, face, head of the human anatomy ingenuously used by the advertising and marketing world.
Very recently I read reports of the latest bastion conquered by advertising. It is called Pitvertising and it uses the arm pit as the possible backdrop for advertising for deodorants. Simply brilliant and mind blowing, I think.
Man's reach in advertising has known no bounds - under water, giant air balloons set soaring in the sky, food packaging, kiosks, bill boards, airwaves, the tele medium, camouflaged as news, insides of public toilets, poly wraps that magazines get couriered in, air ticket jackets, birthday coupons, landscaping done creatively to convey a message, steps to or the wall by a holy shrine, tea stall shed, back of a car, front of a cart, train sides, plane sides, cycle carriers, scooter stepneys (spare tyre at the back), pouches of new products stuck messily inside popular magazines, book jackets publicising other books, patches of pitch on sporting grounds sacrificed to the might and the moolah of advertising............
The accent and onslaught of advertising is everywhere. Everywhere where the eye can see, the ear can hear, the nose can smell, the hand can touch, the mind can feel, the tongue can taste..............
The deluge is devastating. Eating into the mind scape, relentlessly. You laud some efforts and then you loathe some, but you cannot remain impervious to any.
Most you have come to terms with and accepted as a way of life, as it were.
But you need to raise an alarm when some things sacrosanct enough begin to get threatened. Like the sky above that has come to mean so many different things to us at different times of our life - sun-kissed sky, a cloudy sky, a rain-soaked sky, a clear blue sky etc. etc. A muse for poets and writers, a source of inspiration for others, a sign of faith for the believer and just a matter of fact for the agnostic.
But now, we have flogos coming up. Short for floating clouds, flogos are meant to be logos of companies shot out like clouds in the sky for everybody to see and hence to maximise the eyeball capture. "Flogos are a revolutionary new way to market your event or business," proudly state companies who deal in this line of business.
"Its not a bird. Its not a plane. Its Flogos," state some others. Brainchild of designers behind companies characteristically named as Snow Masters and Foam Masters, FLOGOS, according to me are a bright idea gone bad. A spot of brilliance turned devious in this big bad world of commercial success.
Companies are bound to lap it up, given their incredible reach. But it touches a raw nerve. It hits on to a space that has been held sacred by all, almost universally. With children getting robbed of their innocence in today's texted, short messaging world, here's another pitfall that takes away from traditional lore and the romanticism of the bygone era.
When we were young, we went to play in the outdoors, picnics were a fun activity, we had real time friends, we wrote letters, we went to the parks and museums, we had excursions as part of our botany classes, chasing butterflies in the daffodils or mustard fields was playful activity with cousins during vacations, zoos were places for a Sunday visit with parents, we squealed at the sight of the rainbow across the sky and shot up a silent wish.
Now we send SMSes, we have play stations, Second Lives, virtual friends, Facebook / MySpace / Orkut relationships, virtual pet Societies. We give Endangered Hugs virtually, develop our own and friends' green patches on our personal computers without having to pick up a shovel and get our hands dirty.
Given the disassociation and dispassion of the new world, it is a miracle that we still can talk of a sunny day, a rain-soaked morning spent indoors, a clear sky with wisps of white cotton wool clouds or a cloudy one garbed by the dark nimbus.
But not for long. With flogos looming large over the heretofore pristine sky, we can all look forward to telling our kids what the real clouds looked like when their sight was unmitigated by the ugliness of these fake ones that assume the shape of companies that pay for their genesis.
Let the debate begin. Clear sky vs the one fed with flogos? Let the good man win, in this tussle between the ethics and everything-goes.
Lets flog the flogos before they fester or else be flooded by this fascinatingly fiendish new medium.