The Short Skirt, Long Jacket Girl
- Sivaram Srikandath
Story Dated: Monday, June 18, 2012 17:21 hrs IST
Couch potatoes know how it is with television commercials. Whenever a new campaign is launched, the ad agency goes in for what could be called in military terms as saturation bombing for the next few weeks. Depending upon the target group in the audience (TG), one or several channels are chosen for an advertising blitzkrieg. The number crunchers in the agency go into a huddle with their spreadsheets and the latest TRP charts as they decide on how best to optimize frequency and spread in order to maximize reach. The media planner's task is to deliver a high Opportunity To See (OTS) for his / her ad. OTS is the critical factor, since consumer may not see the commercial the first time it is aired. Thus, the onus is on the media planner to provide more opportunities for the consumer to see the commercial. And therefore the term OTS.
Conventional wisdom has it that an OTS of around five is required to create a reasonable viewing impact. Hence the resort to saturation bombing when the campaign breaks. A rule of thumb metric has it that you need at least 30 airings of a TVC to achieve an OTS of five. And when you factor in the different channels that fall within the viewing patterns of the TG, it translates into a large number of transmissions of the ad, and a heavy TV viewer could literally feel bombarded by a single television commercial.
One such ad that is currently ruling the airwaves is the one for Fastrack summer bags. The TVC, which is targeted at youth in the age group of 18-24 shows a waif-like girl with elfin features waking up in a boy's hostel room, and rushing out like a whirlwind, just wrapped in a bed sheet. On her way out, she pulls out various items of clothing from her large tote bag, and dresses up to the background score of the high energy song Short Skirt Long Jacket by American alternative rock band Cake. The ad ends with the girl pulling on an impossibly short pair of ragged denim cut offs and looking back saucily at the camera, as she struts away, her pert bottom swaying provocatively at the viewer while the tag line "Blame Fastrack" locks onto the screen.
Certainly, the ad is well made, and credit should go the creative team and the folks at the production house, Flying Pigs. The girl looks dangerously young, a gamine Lolita, really; and displays an insouciant air of almost forbidden innocence as she sets about sneaking back into her dorm from the men's hostel. She bumps into strangers along the way, and shies away from them with a doe-eyed look of confusion that coyly hints at her fidelity while the intentional and mischievous peeks at her pink bra strap suggest that she is returning to her room after a night of wanton fun and frolic with her boyfriend/lover.
Already there is a tremendous buzz around the ad and it has succeeded admirably in raising the summer temperature a few notches up. If nothing else, the hoopla around the ad suggests that sex sells, every time. The ad pushes all the right buttons and works very well in catching one's attention by cleverly making innuendoes of sexual promiscuity amongst today's youth. It is well shot and superbly edited and there is just enough titillation and show of flesh to engage the voyeuristic instincts of the viewer.
Personally,I did not care much for the ad. There is but a thin line separating decency from bad taste, and I think the campaign has gone way over the line. Now, I am no prude, and am aware of the fact that sexual mores have changed a lot in the post-globalized India. But even if sleeping around has become passe among today's youth, do you need to flaunt it so openly? Do you need to display it so brazenly? And other than the shock factor, is the ad doing anything for the product? Is it doing its job of promoting summer bags, or in saying anything special about these bags? Is the commercial creating a product connect, and more importantly, a positive brand affect?
Frankly, I would think not ! And jeez, what is with the tag line Blame Fastrack, Move On?
Of course, the people behind the campaign would like to believe otherwise, and attribute lofty, motherhood motives to to their raunchy campaign. Akash Das, Creative Director of Lowe Lintas, the agency behind the campaign says, "the youth today are mostly blamed for the things they do or don't.......... Fastrack with its latest proposition offers to take the monkey off their back. Need an excuse. Blame Fastrack. Move on.". And Simeran Bhasin, Marketing Head, Fastrack is passionate about the brief given by her. "The Blame Fastrack campaign draws inspiration from the youth of today and hopes to liberate them from the pre-decided moral rules of the society............We never take the role of the moral police and decide what the line is. The campaign just reflects what's happening in youth's life today."
Yeah, right ! Which India are you living in, Ms. Bhasin?
I am reminded of what Bill Bernbach,co-founder of the legendary agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) said: " All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it to a higher level."
It's pretty clear, the route Fastrack has chosen !