Free Press Journal

Stark Raving Ad: A Giddy Guide to Indian Ads You Love (Or Hate) by Ritu Singh- Review


Name of the book: Stark Raving Ad

Author: Ritu Singh

Publisher: Hachette

Price: Rs. 350/-

Pages: XXXVIII + 274

The book’s cover is provoking, and one wonders if it was designed to create some kind of controversy and get some mileage out of it! Even the extended name of the book does draw attention, it is Stark Raving Ad, a giddy guide to Indian ads you love (or hate). The font used in the book is not what one finds in regular books and it looks good. It is expected that name of the chapters in a book on advertising will be creative, but this is the first time I have come across two names of a chapter, one in capital case and one is small case, for example, ‘THE VERY FIRST APPLE AD, The Eve Of Advertising”.

Thoda zyaada, laalach, gobhi, keraakter, chaudahveen, lein, ghumaao, zyaada, pehante, daakiya and similar other words, readers will encounter in every page. Some of these words are from Hindi, others from Hinglish. All of it put together, the book’s language reminds one of the languages of Hindi advertisement in India and that is Hinglish. This is the first book in Hinglish that I have read. This also is the reminder for readers. If they can’t make head and tail of Hinglish words, then this book is best avoidable. One wonders was is the use of such words that made the author add the line, “a giddy guide to Indian ads” in the name of the book. A chart explaining these Hinglish words would have benefitted the readers. And yes, most probably this will be the first book on advertising without having a single picture.

The nine chapters are not numbered, and references are given at the bottom of page wherever author felt like giving one. Numbering of chapters makes the book easy to read. Broadly themed according to consumer insights, language innovations, gender and controversy, this one-of-its-kind informal business book presents sharp insights into how one reacts to and learn from advertising.  An index would have added a lot of value to the book because the book gives examples of many brands.

The book has attempted to cover modern-Indian advertising from the time of its inception to the current period. That is why images were all the more important for this book. Images would have helped the reader to connect to the explanations. However, one might be good at explaining images in words, one can never match images. In today’s day and age when even Whatsapp messages are backed by images, it is a startling omission. The language of the book will not be a delight to a purist of language, but today’s young generation might feel connected.

Book has covered a wide variety of advertisements covering all the mediums and product categories. Not an easy task by any standard. The author, Ritu Singh has herself spent time in advertising agencies, and it reflects in the wide coverage of a different kind of advertising in the book, but the depth is missing. The book doesn’t conclude always the court battles fought over advertisements by different advertisers. It covers only successful advertisements, not the high-profile flop advertisements. Maybe depth was traded off for width of coverage.

But those readers who want to understand advertising, thoughts behind it, the strategy behind it, the role and importance of competition, but not looking for a detailed analysis will love this book. The book answers why certain mascots were created and how they were retired, in the process, gives away a lot of secrets and destroys myths around some of them, like Parle G, girl or boy? Both, the controversial and non-controversial advertisements are covered with equal aplomb. One will be able to have an overview of Indian advertising through this book.

The feminist in the author takes over the advertising professional at a few places; is it because of fashion or oversight, is anybody’s guess. It is not a definitive guide to Indian advertising, but a quirky guide to Indian advertising.

One couldn’t agree more than the last line mentioned in the back cover of the book, “This is the non-classic book about advertising in India that no one asked for.” Wondering was this the reason that the book didn’t have a preview or forward or as they say nowadays, ‘advance praise’ for the book, not that it matters. This year has a lot of long weekends, and if reader is looking for a light reading, and advertising is of interest, then this book is a good option.