Saturday, June 02, 2007

Subliminal persuasion.

In a previous post I had briefly alluded to Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders. In this Fifties’ bestseller, Packard claimed that advertisers were playing on unconscious motivations of their prospects. "If people spent millions of dollars and millions of hours on the analyst’s couch trying to fathom the deeper depths of their own minds, where was the question of a humble copywriter doing so?” was the question posed by his detractors. Frankly, I was highly fascinated by Packard's hypothesis when I joined advertising. I did not realise that Packard was obviously theorising from the then American reality. Then on, I was always on the lookout for a real life example of subliminal advertising. It kept on eluding me till Chini Kum with ‘Sexy’ happened. Intentionally or unintentionally, Balki, a successful advertising man, stumbled upon the perfect way to inject a subliminal persuasive element into his product. He got the brilliant inspiration to name an important child character in it ‘Sexy’. It got people talking whether or not it is okay to call the chief protagonist’s “innocent” little neighbour and confidante by such a wicked, almost grungy moniker and – hey, presto! – it snowballed into millions worth of word of mouth or viral publicity. Any publicity, good or bad, is good for the product, especially a made-for-the-multiplex movie. This is the cleverest creative coup by Balki, cleverer than the product placement in the film if only because it is so much more subtle. Even Seth Godin could not have outdone this gambit. Brilliant!

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