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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Marketing to TAM Land: The Pulli Raja way

A literal translation of a national ad may not necessarily work in the Tamilnadu market. Ramanujam Sridhar writes about how ads need to be customized to suit the TN market. Some excerpts:

Many of my friends and contemporaries grew up in an environment where Hindi was an alien language. Thanks to the politicians who had been behind the `anti-Hindi' agitations, many of us could not read or write Hindi, including myself. Our understanding and appreciation of the language was limited, to say the least.

In the '80s and '90s, commercials used to be conceptualised in English and posed several problems in translation, but today they seem to be primarily conceived with the Hindi belt in mind.

Translations turn out stilted and are almost laughable in their execution. Some of the situations too are completely alien to the average Tamilian - the Chevrolet Optra ad featuring Karva Chauth, which is a way of life in the rest of India, means very little to Chennai notwithstanding the Dilwale Dulhania Lejayenges of this world.

I think where advertisers and advertising agencies come to grief in translation is where the creative thought is essentially Hindi — Chinta Mani — or has a clever turn of phrase, like "Cheetah Bhi Peeta Hai" for Mountain Dew. The challenge for agencies is to create advertising that is not dependant on a clever turn of phrase but on the power of an idea that cuts across languages and cultures.

Tamil Nadu is an important market with its own characteristics. And yet it is changing, perceptibly and imperceptibly. It is not made up of the "Hindi down down!" consumers of the '70s though it is not entirely comfortable with Hindi concepts. The average Tamilian is not a diehard conservative as the Khushboo bashers would like us to believe. Advertising agencies must try to "push the envelope."


  • It really does stretch the limits of a company's budget though.

    My dad was working in a company which had 2% for advertising. Though the rest of India thought Amul's ad-campaign was the coolest, it almost did not touch TN. One cannot blame the company though - they had such tight constraints on money, being a cooperative and all.

    This, inspite of Tamil Nadu being 60% for Nutramul's market. Not sure what the situation is now. The figures are from early 90's.

    By Blogger Nilu, at 6:19 AM  

  • Since every region in this world is developing very fast, advertisements now no longer hold a global view.

    Each one has to be customized to their region: And what is the real concept of ad is- To reach people.

    By Blogger xperienceblog, at 10:13 PM  

  • nice post..
    interesting read.
    Thanks for that.

    By Blogger revatechnic, at 9:25 AM  

  • @Nilu,
    If it's merely rewording a punch line to suit the regional tastes, it shouldn't cost much. If companies are really serious, they should mind spending more money.

    very true

    you are welcome.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 1:50 PM  

  • http://spaces.msn.com/members/gopalms/

    read our discussion on this topic

    By Anonymous Bhavani Arumbakkam, at 12:13 AM  

  • As a tamizh copywriter in advertising i can relate to what Sambhar mafia says but when agencies insist upon getting their baselines translated and not transcreated, we writers have to give them whatever they want.
    It just doesnt work when we tell them that the phrase does not work down South.

    A classic example:
    A copywriter wanted a tamizh translation of
    and the writer gave him
    KOTEX - mooocchuvidugiradu...
    ha ha ha!!

    There are umpteen such lines doing the rounds..
    The worst is when agencies and prodcuers do the joint killing when they insist upon using singers like Kailash Kher (paying him a bomb!) to sing tamizh, telugu, kannada,malayalam jingles!! Hilarious!


    Bhavani Arumbakkam

    By Anonymous Bhavani Arumbakkam, at 12:20 AM  

  • @Bhavani,
    I can understand what you are saying. With the increasing dominance of regional TV channels and FM stations it's high time the marketers paid more attention to the regional flavour of their ads.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 1:07 AM  

  • Kaps, you too?


    By Blogger thennavan, at 1:37 AM  

  • Thennavan,
    The word was not used in a derogatory sense....
    Regional flavour = local flavour
    Regional TV channels = Hindi Tv channels.

    It was not used in the context of Them Vs Us or Hindi Vs the rest of India.
    Hope this clarifies your question.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 2:51 AM  

  • Thanks, but I still felt like putting a post on it since even if not you, I have seen it being used elsewhere. My problem has been why should the word be used at all? Either everything is regional or everything is national. Using regional in a sentence to denote non-Hindi/Bollywood is what I REALLY have an objection to and yours was not like that and I also know you did not mean it that way, but it is still jarring to hear that in the context of "languages" or "films" or anything else for that matter. But I guess most people don't see it that way :-)

    By Blogger thennavan, at 3:15 AM  

  • Let the marketplace decide!

    By Anonymous SloganMurugan, at 1:26 PM  

  • I didn't see Bhavani's link to our debate on the same topic ahead. The deate is actually in the comments section of this post called Price of Persia.

    Don't be scared by the Iranian bomb. Scroll down to the comments section.


    By Anonymous SloganMurugan, at 2:33 PM  

  • Another of those awfully stupid translated ads

    Jab Woh Aaayithi bohut sundar thi!
    Abhi zor kam hogaya! exchange kar naa padega
    (When SHE came , she was beautiful.. now she is no longer powerful.. gotta exchange her)

    Wife thinks her husband is talking about her but actually the conversation is about his car which he is planning to exchange

    Now in tamizh do we ever talk
    about a CAR????

    I mean, do you think the agencies creative duddos would have understood if the translator had explained that we dont have this chair-male ; train - female kinda thing?

    This horrible ad is about a maruti car i guess.. please watch is puke for yourself

    By Anonymous bubby, at 10:40 AM  

  • .. It was me again.. as bubby

    By Anonymous Bhavani Arumbakkam, at 11:19 AM  

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