Ordinary is interesting

Celebrating the common man, Television reality shows and soaps, cinema and advertising are all focusing on the common man and his stories. Aspiration is the key attraction. Why the common man is the new hero
Hindustan Times | By Anita Sharan, Mumbai
UPDATED ON SEP 24, 2012 12:04 AM IST

Santosh Desai, ex-adman, social commentator and CEO, Future Brands, shared a recent conversation with a fashion model, “He told me that advertising no longer hires models. It wants more real, common people to convey the messages.”

While there is plenty of celebrity endorsed advertising, there is a growing trend of advertising that uses more ‘common’ people. Tata Tea’s “Jaago Re…” and Hero MotorCorp’s “Hum Mein Hai Hero…” campaigns are manifestations.

This common man focus is cutting across entertainment today, with many films – Delhi Belly, Kaminey, Dev D, Kahaani, A Wednesday, Gangs of Wasseypur are some examples – and TV content, including reality shows and soaps, plugging into it. Some of the latest TV reality shows have, in fact, used their ‘common man’ focus as a major promotion plank.

Siddharth Basu, CMD, BIG Synergy Media, which produces reality shows for television, said of the ongoing Kaun Banega Crorepati season: “The true stars of KBC on Sony now are the aam aadmi and aurat who come on to the show. In a knowledge game, where you could see somebody's life change before your eyes, true engagement is vital. You have to care for the contestant, his or her circumstance, what winning might mean to him or her, to truly engage with the show. In opening up more than ever before to the people of the heartland and hinterland of India, the show has found a place in the hearts of viewers, not just their minds. Democratisation of this space has proved to be truly popular.”

Danish Khan, senior VP and head of marketing, Sony Entertainment Television, commented: “The demographic pyramid is fattening in the middle. This middle part of India is a potent power that will see a lot of focus by entertainment media. Telling middle India’s stories, of struggle, aspirations and achievements, appeal to all viewers.”

For the latest (sixth) season of the Salman Khan-anchored Bigg Boss, to open shortly, Colors has announced its decision to bring in the common man and to make the show more suitable for family viewing. Manisha Sharma, weekend programming head, Colors, said, “With Bigg Boss 6 - Alag Che, our endeavour is to present inclusive entertainment – a democratic format that weaves the common man into our story, giving viewers a more relatable experience, providing audiences with differentiated and believable content that leaves them with a feeling of empathy.”

She added that even with its soaps, Colors deals with contemporary issues that have mass appeal. “The common man in the tier 2 markets is an equally important stakeholder, just like the metro audience. For audience engagement, we often have key characters from our shows visit TAM (the TV viewership measurement agency) markets and engage with viewers.”

The latest season of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa on Zee TV spanned across 21 cities and towns – a number Colors also covered for its latest season of India’s Got Talent. “We had covered around 18 cities last year in search of talent and expanded the coverage for Sa Re Ga Ma Pa this year to 21 cities,” said Ajay Bhalwankar, content head, Zee TV.

He added: “TV is primarily a medium of the people. Its consumption is at home, requiring some amount of camaraderie between the viewer and the medium. The medium cannot talk down – you are a part of people’s homes and lives. And TV’s growth is coming from beyond the metros today.”

The viewership success of reality show Satyamev Jayate – across viewer classes – on Star Plus, which brought up real issues of real people in real life, showed that India is interested in the real stories of the common man.

“Human interest stories are interesting, where the emotional connect is high. Today, we are willing to watch on screen what is real in life, not larger than life,” said Sharda Agarwal, director, MarketGate Consulting.

Desai added, “Today, reality itself has currency. We are consuming it, rather than escaping it.”

Bhalwankar summed it up: “The representation of the common man stems from our euphoria about a nation doing well – of hope and positivity.”

Story Saved