In the early 1970s, one of the oil majors – I forget which one – ran an outdoor campaign with a headline that screamed, “Save that drop of oil – or walk to your destination 20 years from now.”
It’s over 50 years since I saw that message, and no one is walking anywhere and all of us are far from saving oil in any form. Now I’m older and wiser and know that obvious exaggeration is a potent tool in advertising and tend to be cynical on any ad that exaggerates.
So what does one do with this campaign by Jiyo Parsi, whether one is a Parsi or not? Are we close to a Parsi-less world, where our only connection to these wonderful people is history books, statues of their achievers, terrific recipes and street names? Oh, I forgot, well maintained pianos and vintage cars. That’s what the campaign suggests. Unless Parsis learn from the rabbit and procreate like crazy, they’re, well, history.
Do you take the campaign seriously or rejected it as hyperbole?
Before we answer the question, let’s take a look at the campaign itself. It’s completely a pro bono job (very Parsi, considering how philanthropic Parsis are in general), which causes the campaign to involve only those with big hearts. It’s a good campaign, but not a GREAT campaign.
It’s got Parsi genes, with generous doses of self-deprecating humour. It continues the Parsi tradition of being clean, neat and correct, with dollops of puns strewn around. And like all Parsis, it’s got a point of view. A strong one.
It’s a campaign that only Parsis could have got away with creating. The knife digs deep – and it hurts. The lines acknowledges some of the issues that cause late marriages (and subsequent childlessness) that only Parsis can truly know, such as “Will your boyfriend ever be as successful as Ratan Tata? Who are you to judge, Nicole Kidman?” Are Parsi women as quality-conscious as to reject all men below a certain ‘standard’ – and is this one of the (surely many) causes for the decline of the population of the Parsis?
How bad are things? Even to a non-Parsi such as myself, visits to Doongerwadi to attend funerals are more frequent than the happy visits to an agiary to celebrate a Novjote or a marriage. Invitations to Parsi marriages are as rare as the vulture;’s visits to the Tower of Silence. Perhaps there is more truth in the campaign that one thought.
It gets more real when Sam Balsara, chairman and managing director of Madison World, says that, in the absence of the ad campaign, he could have met every single unwed Parsi in Mumbai and passed on the message personally. That’s when it hits you – the exaggeration, if any, is inconsequential. I do hope the campaign works. Like many Indians who count Parsis amongst their friends, I enjoy the sweetness that they added to the Indian milk.