Selective Amnesia There was a point to this. But I forgot.



A guest post by Lalita Mukherjea.

In the beginning was the word. The word was, advertise.

We think of advertising as a twentieth century phenomenon that grew with magazines, television and economic tides. Not so. What is a lawyer’s shingle but advertising? What is an inn’s sign but advertising? Handing out pamphlets and flyers is not new. Sandwich boards aren’t new. Even advertising in newspapers is not a twentieth century phenomenon. [1]

Advertising daily brought “miraculous newes” to readers of seventeenth century newspapers. There was a dentifrice in 1660 that guaranteed to its users a lifetime of freedom from toothaches. Not only did it clean the teeth “white as ivory” but it fastened loose teeth, sweetened the breath, and preserved the gums and mouth from “Cankers and Impostumes.””
~ Joseph Seldin. The Golden Fleece

Seldin also cites Charles Lehman’s observation that caught between the product-selling desires of the manufacturers and the product-buying desires of the public—desires which usually are in some degree of conflict— admen can serve only as the buffer, the punching bag for both.

To sell, and to persuade to buy, an ad has to be memorable, recall the brand name, differentiate the brand, and more. Some originality will help too. More than the copy, it is the slogan that makes an ad memorable.

Some slogans become part of our collective vocabulary. “You’ve come a long way, Baby.” Not all those who use the phrase will know that it was the tag line of Virginia Slims, aimed at women smokers. “Just do it,” more recent, is as memorable.

“A diamond is forever” was dreamed up for De Beers, and is believed universally now. It even inspired “Extinct is forever” a slogan of Friends of Animals.

“Don’t leave home without it” worked well for American Express. Mixed breed dogs are referred to as Heinz, thanks to the slogan, “Heinz 57 Varieties” and “Finger lickin’ good” is Kentucky Fried Chicken’s enduring claim. Burger King is the “Home of the Whopper”.

Images endure, too. The HMV dog is one. The Liril girl under the waterfall is another. Catchy jingles make ad recall easier. However corny it was, “Washing powder Nirma” stuck in our heads because of the cliché-filled ear worm jingle. Likewise, the Lifebuoy soap jingle stays with us because of the trite music.

I don’t know the nitty-gritty of advertising, but I do recall a few memorable ads from my youth. The image of Hema Malini’s face in a bulb with the slogan “I am a Crompton fan” lingers because it is so bad. “Whenever you see colour, think of us” of Jensen and Nicholson paints, with its series of ordinary items is a campaign I remember well, it is a brilliant concept.

I remember seeing some lovely ads in Woman’s Only and Woman magazines as a teenager. “Hostess with the mostest” was a slogan that caught my attention. The phrase with its wanton bad grammar caught on, but not many will know it was for a cake mix that it was coined. The height of flouting grammar was achieved in “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should” though.

“Utterly Butterly Delicious” for Amul is inspired by “Utterly, deliciously Sara Lee”, perhaps. “If it is Philips, you are sure”, I’ve always felt was inspired by “Raise your hand if you’re sure”, an ad for an antiperspirant.

There are short and pithy slogans like “Because I’m Worth It” or “Intel inside”. I don’t know how many people remember “I think, therefore IBM”, though. The recent Air Deccan slogan, “Simplifly” is another mauling of the language, but it makes its point.

In this age of Internet even blogs have tag lines. A few short words to indicate the content, or the blogger’s philosophy. And Chandru’s, as befits his profession, is memorable. [2]


[1] This is a topic I’d touched upon earlier. (Ignore the ghastly and naive writing)

[2] I must point out that that particular line was crafted by the great Zigzackly saar. As part of this exercise in feeding my ego.

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  1. Brilliant links, CCG. I loved reading prehistory 2004. You are having an advertent day, it seems. 🙂

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