Douwe Osinga's Blog: Truth in advertising

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Advertising tells you a lot about a country. Not maybe so much about what is the case, but about what people dream about. Or at least what the advertisers want people to dream about.

Going on that, Hyderabad is dreaming about real estate. I can’t remember ever have seen ads for concrete in Switzerland or the Netherlands, but here they are all over town. ‘European Style Living’ bill boards are popular too. Nice house, nice family in the picture and this big highway right in front of the house. You’d want a freeway to if you’ve experienced Hyderabad traffic.

There are ads for lower cost housing too. Working Women Hotels have a lot of mural painted ads – though they don’t house working girls of the type na├»ve Europeans might expect.

The most mysterious ads are huge signs only filled with phone numbers. For the longest time I was wondering what the point was? Indians are enthusiastic and easily excited, but calling a phone number because it is on an ad with no other context, seems even here a tat optimistic. But I think I figured it out. The billboards can be booked if you call the number.

You don’t see that much advertising for travel other than the ubiquous low cost airlines. Jet Airlines now direct to Jaipur. In news papers however you see the odd trip to Europe offered. Obviously the United Kingdom gets a lot of attention; you want to know all about your former colonizers. But for somebody who moved here from Switzerland it is interesting to see that that Alpine country is right there with the Brits.

I’ve been told this is because of Bollywood – originally Hindi movies any good would contain a scene in Kashmir. But shooting there became rather impossible because of the, well, shooting there (sorry, couldn’t resist). So the Indian movie moguls (again) looked for a different mountain scene and hit on good old Switzerland. So now Indian tourists want to go where there movies came from.

Still, see Europe in 10 days, spend 4 in Switzerland, not really the balance I would strike.