Saturday, October 24, 2015

August 20, 2015: Talk on "Media and advertising in Chennai - A fascinating history" by R. V. Rajan at the Press Institute of India

Attended presentation and lecture on Media and Advertising in Chennai - A fascinating history by R. V. Rajan. Was late and present for barely fifteen minutes of the lecture. Seems by then, Mr. Rajan had already given a detailed presentation on the history of the advertising and approaching the fag end of his speech. When I walked in, he was playing a few advertisement videos from the 1990s and lamenting how the aarrival of retail jewellery stores has affected advertisement ethics and quality. He gave the reason for this downtrend as the  choice of amateurs by these retailers instead of professional advertisement agencies. But fortunately, we were given complimentary copies of books by R. V. Rajan that seemed to contain all the matter.

According to Mr. Rajan, newspapers right from the beginning carried elaborate advertisements in the form of classifieds. The Madras Almanac of 1851 carried details of births, deaths, thefts, auctions and public announcements. The first advertising agency in Madras city was founded by P. S. Mani Iyer in 1939. Mani Iyer canvassed for advertisements for The Hindu and Swadesamitran and in return, got a 25% commission from them. Advertising in newspapers underwent a radical change in the early 1930s with the advent of line drawings and half-tone prints. But perhaps the leading advertisement professional of that era was R. K. Swami who started as manager with J. Walter Thomson in 1955 and continued well into the 1970s.  Starting R. K. Swamy and Associates in 1973, in five years, he had transformed it into one of India's ten best advertisement agencies.

During this time, radio was also a popular medium for advertising.
Radio Ceylon was in particular, a pioneer in this field. During the 1970s and 80s, most of the advertisements in Tamil were dubbed from Hindi and English. When colour television started to become popular in India during the 1982 Asian Games, J. S. Films started by Jayendra Pachapakesan, a  copy writer and film producer and the well-known cinematographer, P. C. Sreeram, took off. Their advertisements became popular nationwide. Some of the popular names that emerged from ad films during this period where the famous cinematographer and film director, Rajiv Menon and the Academy award winning music director A. R. Rahman.

With the turn of the 21st century, came the age of the internet and the MNCs. Advertisements changed their focus and priorities once again. Mr. Rajan, however, doesn't seem too amused by the turn of events. While he ended the presentation with a note of regret, we left the presentation with not much to regret about.  

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