Nawabs, Nudes, and Noodles: The story of 30 years of Indian advertising
Ambi Parmeswaran’s new book is an erudite treatise on how Indians market goods and services to fellow Indians in a changing worldbooks Updated: Jun 11, 2016 13:51 IST
As I started reading the introduction to Ambi Parameswaran’s Nawabs, Nudes, Noodles, I was reminded of a chat with my late grandfather. The patriarch had blanched when informed that his grandson was jettisoning a career in the cerebral field of chartered accountancy to ‘take up’ advertising. Like most Indians, he had assumed that advertising was a profession populated only by pony-tailed alcoholics.
I wish Nawabs, Nudes, Noodles had been around then to convince the aged relative that advertising is a legitimate, intelligent, creative, lucrative and respected profession filled with all kinds of people with sophisticated qualifications.
(Okay, okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but as an advertising copywriter, that is my prerogative.)
The fact is that most people don’t take advertising seriously and that irks people in advertising — particularly the few who do take it seriously.
While the stated purpose of Nawabs, Nudes, Noodles is to provide ‘a window to the changing Indian consumer landscape for students of management, marketing, advertising …’ the author also hopes that ‘the person on the other side’ (that is you and my late grandfather — the consumers) will become a little more ‘aware’ of the advertising business.
And there is no reason why they shouldn’t do so after reading Nawabs, Nudes, Noodles.
In a style that is affable and engaging, Ambi, through anecdote and analysis takes the layman on a fascinating journey. He shares secrets behind beloved (and irritating) Indian advertising campaigns. He talks of the intricacies that are a part of the advertising process. Of how society is changing and how advertising is reflecting and sometimes influencing that change.
In the hands of a first-time author, the material in Nawabs, Nudes, Noodles could have deteriorated into a series self-serving hypothesises but Ambi’s discipline in sticking to facts and his experience in making the obtuse relevant is what makes this book so credible and interesting. (Ambi’s previous effort was ‘For God’s Sake’, a book that examined the connection between religion, consumer and advertising. And yes, there is a connection.)
Nawabs, Nudes, Noodles has been divided into four clear sections: People, Products, Services and Ad Narratives. Each one of these sections examines the evolution of advertising from a different perspective.
Along the narrative, Ambi scatters nuggets of information about familiar brands and services. How an economical-to-manufacture brief (read underwear) became a money spinner. How an Indian cola capitalised on the lifting of the emergency. How Dada became Dalda. How a pressure cooker’s gasket system has been sold as a gauge for measuring a husband’s love for the better-half. Why ‘Har ek friend zaroori hota hai’ worked as an ad. How an employment portal used a hitherto unarticulated thought to create one of the most memorable ads in the country. And the reasons behind the failure of an artificial sweetener to make an impression on consumers.
To people in the advertising and marketing fields, Nawabs, Nudes, Noodles is much more than a dry examination of why certain products sell and others don’t. It can be viewed as an erudite treatise on how Indians market goods and services to fellow Indians in a changing world.
To people who are not involved with advertising and marketing, Nawabs, Nudes, Noodles portrays advertising as an earnest and lively business and may even compel them to spare a thought for an ad the next time it flashes on the TV.
Even if the ad is written by a pony-tailed alcoholic.
(Simha Sagar is an independent creative consultant. Disclosure: He worked as a creative director at the agency where Ambi Parameswaran was managing director.)
(All ad images are from abhisays.com)