Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Armed Forces Advertising Bake-Off!

One of the baffling, wonderful things about Delhi, and really all of India, is the just-slightly-different way they use language. On top of this, there is (to me, of course) a lack of jadedness, a willingness to accept advertising messages at face value, in a way that just doesn't exist in the US. India never had a true counter-culture movement, did it? I don't think it had a nouveau cinema flowering the way France did, a sixties/seventies experience the way the US did. Did it ever have its Bowie, its Velvet Underground, heck, even its Doors?

I think because of this basic cultural conservatism, there's a kind of American Graffiti (or Indian Graffiti) feeling in the air. Sexual mores still seem to center around lots of giggling and wishful thinking, kind of like Grease. It's changing fast, but it's still here.

For whatever reasons, it makes for awesome advertising. As one example, the armed forces have some really good ads dispersed throughout the city. I've seen some for the army, the coast guard, and the air force. None for the Navy yet, but I'll keep looking. I like the cut of the Coast Guard's advertising jib ("Feel the Thrill."), and I think the Air Force may have the best action shots, but right now I'll start with this series of four army ads. What are they really going for in this series of coordinated messages? I think the answer is simple: P-R-I-D-E. Some of these ads are oriented toward recruiting, some are more about upgrading the image of the army.

Sometimes, though, it's difficult to tell why some ads are placed. "Am I Marching Smartly?" What prompted this, one wonders. Perhaps there's been a rash of poor marching taking over the army ranks? Is this a drastic problem or just a gentle reminder? Or again, perhaps it's all just about upholding the pride that comes with being a member of India's army - the iron first wrapped in velvet, as they say.

Certainly that seems to be the case with this next ad / propaganda piece - "I Take Pride in My Uniform." No explanation necessary here. And for anyone who's seen the Republic Day celebration (book your tickets now!), I think it's clear the armed forces take pride in their uniforms. Sure, sometimes it looks like Morris Day and the Time found a second career as uniform designers, but these men are sporting a more conservative look. "We've seen things you can't possibly imagine," they seem to be saying.

Of course, with all positions of power come responsibility. And what greater responsibility than accurate parking? The person who dreamed up this advertising gem was clearly on their "A" game. OK, I confess that I don't understand this ad, but I'm not in the army, am I? Perhaps this is just another example of the benevolence of the army. I mean, I wouldn't want to be the one who is parked perpendicular to all the other cars in the lot. Thanks, army! That's what I say.

Next up: Coast Guard!

6 Comments:

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Sloan said...

Wow. I just don- wow. On the other hand, the Indian kids aren't flocking to Michigan for a Masters in Advertising and Public Relations, are they?

 
At 4:12 PM, Blogger Crawdad said...

Michigan is a mildly popular school, but not for Advertising and PR. Actually, no school is really 'popular' for PR among those seeking visas here. Engineering and comp science seem to be juuust in the lead right now.

But you know, the question for me is, does this actually mean something to your average person on the street that I just don't get? The next ones (Coast Guard and Air Force) definitely do. I'll post those tonight...

 
At 4:06 AM, Blogger Alizarin said...

That's amazing. Your interpretation goes a long way to helping me find my way through the weirdness.

The questions remind me of the big trucks with that sign in back: "How's my driving?" The army gets this big budget, nice cars, parades around a lot -- but then they're right there to say, What do you think? Am I doing my job? Is my Land Rover blocking traffic?

 
At 1:37 AM, Anonymous Colin said...

I particularly like the veiled menace implied in the "Give respect, take respect sign". Kind of like, join the army and automatically become the scariest kid on the block....

 
At 9:27 PM, Blogger Crawdad said...

The scariest kid on the block would never wear those gaiters...

 
At 1:30 AM, Anonymous Colin said...

But maybe that is what pushes him over the top. All that excess hostility from having your mom dress you that way?

 

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