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Friday, April 07, 2006

What is it with Formula1 and today's youth?

Why is Velayudham (an auto driver) so fixated on advertising the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro Formula1 (F1) team? Puzzled??…well, why else has he adorned the maximum available surface area of his auto with the choicest of Marlboro ads? So is the paraphernalia that he has swathed his auto with, (by the remotest of possibilities) a reflection of his taste for the classiest choice of tobacco in this world? The chances are that his knowledge of tobacco might not be too far-fetched than the very ethnic, desi-bred cousin of the western cigarette, the Beedi! The afore-mentioned trend one would more readily associate with the alpine dwellers of the societal hierarchy i.e. the teeny-bopper college crowd and the cash-strapped 20-something corporate fraternity.

Is this the parity, the striking similarity that our conniving politicians have been seeking between these vastly diverse social groups? The current day backpack clad, low-hip boot-cut clad, urban youth worth his salt must follow the diktat "Thou shalt own a vehicle" to even qualify for the ‘cool’ and ‘hep’ adjectives in his resume….. But this diktat now comes tagged with a disturbing new corollary to it…"Thou shalt adorn the vehicle with ads of the leading tobacco cartels in the world". Don’t get it? F1 has become a rage amongst the youth today, thanks to the heady concoction of ultra-modern technical gizmos, cutting edge technology, charismatic drivers and the most intoxicating of all the ingredients, speed! But the expression of this rage has not been in the best of means.

The youth spend hard-earned cash adorning every available inch of their vehicle exterior with stickers that advertise the brands of some of the biggest tobacco cartels in the world! This fashionable exercise has recklessly pervaded even the 15" by 10" real estate so carefully earmarked by the Indian govt for the ‘Number/Registration plate’, much to the chagrin of traffic cops all over the country. The point here is that majority of the enthusiastic participants of this bizarre exercise have hardly any clue of what the stickers advertise. It is a trend cruelly juxtaposed with the fact that most of the F1 teams could hardly afford their stay in the highest echelon of motor racing without generous contributions from the major tobacco cartels in the world.

But, the sheer magnitude of marketing space and mileage that these tobacco cartels are achieving in one of the most populous and potent markets in the world, especially within its niche audience is shocking! The sad irony being that most of the brands that adorn bikes, cars, t-shirts, shirts and even school bags and water bottles are not even available in India! So, now that the tobacco cartels have already pulled off the biggest marketing coup in the history of advertising all that is left for them is to do is to ‘actually’ start selling the brands!! Here’s a hypothetical scenario...how many of these ‘hip’ and ‘cool’ youngsters would like to exchange the stickers for more close-to-home brands like Charms, Scissors filter or Panama?

Urgh…what a despicable idea! How on earth could any sane person commit such acts of ludicrous inanity, right? So, what is it that makes sporting clothes and automobile paraphernalia that advertise "foreign" brands, so meaningful and fashionable? It is the sheer ignorance and naiveté of actually embracing a trend without any serious effort of comprehension that is appalling. One can now see the wisdom behind most of the countries in the European Union phasing out tobacco ads since 2004. It would at least prevent the illicit and subterranean embezzlement of puerile minds.

The fault lies not in the hands of the tobacco cartels alone; after all in this world of quicksilver advertising and aggressive marketing, they can hardly be blamed for associating themselves with the most appealing of pastimes! F1 definitely has a lot of influence on the young and gullible minds of the Indian youth. But it is the expression of one’s appreciation for this exciting sport that has gone totally awry in India. The infiltration has indeed reached subcutaneous depths, with school bags and water bottles designed for tiny-tots sporting an assortment of tobacco ads. While most of the impact has been cosmetic, it can turn malignant with the introduction of many new brands of cigarettes manufactured by these giant tobacco conglomerates that have already been sponsoring F1 teams. It is time for the youth to take a stand! To choose between fostering this debilitating fad or exercising restraint in their fashion choices...

Whither goest thou, Generation 'Z'??

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