When I see condemnation of the journalistic standards of “The Times of India” littering my newsfeed, a question posed by Gail Wynand whose media empire spread like bubonic plague comes back to me: “Do you think it took no talent to create the Banner? The critics of the Times of India do not know that it takes breathtaking creativity to create the largest selling English language newspaper in the world—in a country where most people cannot read, let alone read an English language newspaper.
It is an ancient method of swindling, but virtually everyone is hoodwinked because it is instinctively shrewd. But then, human nature has changed little since the 17th century frauds took to the streets to put on a show, stir up the masses and sell dubious medicines to large numbers of people. It did not matter that the show did not have anything to do with the medicines they were selling—By any stretch of imagination. But, what are the principles involved? Robert Greene tells us:
Appear as news, never as publicity
“People pay more attention to what is broadcast as news—it seems more real. You suddenly stand out from everything else, if only for a moment—but that moment has more credibility than hours of advertising time. The key is to orchestrate the details thoroughly, creating a story with dramatic impact and movement, tension and resolution. The media will cover it for days. Conceal your real purpose—to sell yourself—at any cost.”
When her new movie was released, The Times Of India reporter posted a video of Deepika Padukone’s cleavage.
Soon Deepika lashed out against the Times Of India, invoking the cause of women’s empowerment. Note that Deepika is also one of the actresses who had supported Sweta Basu Prasad, the actress arrested for prostitution.
Stir basic emotions
“Never promote your message through a rational, direct argument. That will take effort on your audience’s part and will not gain its attention. Aim for the heart, not the head. Design your words and images to stir basic emotions—lust, patriotism, family values.”
If women have breasts, and breasts are beautiful, is there anything wrong in sharing such videos? If Deepika’s breasts are beautiful, what is wrong in saying it? I am an iconoclast and true iconoclasts are often met with ridicule and ostracism. But, I am proud than I am seen as an iconoclast. Perhaps because I have not accepted the prejudice against iconoclasts? If this is so, shouldn’t women be proud of their sexuality too? If not, why?
But, such arguments appeal to the head and not to the heart. As Gail Wynand said, “Make them itch and make them cry. Then you have got them.”
Make the medium the message.
“Pay more attention to the form of your message than to the content. Images are more seductive than words, and visuals—soothing colors, appropriate backdrop, the suggestion of speed or movement—should actually be your real message. The audience may focus superficially on the content or moral you are preaching, but they are really absorbing the visuals, which get under their skin and stay there longer than any words or preachy pronouncements.”
Deepika’s twitter handle name is Finding Fanny. Her profile picture is a colorful poster of the movie. What the Times Of India shared was a video of her.
The people might claim that this is about women’s empowerment, but this is really about Deepika, about her breasts, about her cleavage.
Speak the target’s language—be chummy.
“At all costs, avoid appearing superior to your audience. Any hint of smugness, the use of complicated words or ideas, quoting too many statistics—all that is fatal. Instead, make yourself seem equal to your targets and on intimate terms with them. You understand them, you share their spirit, their language.”
The Times Of India uses the simplest possible words in their tweets. “OMG. Deepika Padukone’s cleavage show.” This is precisely what the audience needs. Deepika was not too unlike them while lashing out at the Times of India. “YES! I am a Woman. I have breasts AND a cleavage! You got a problem!!??” She too was speaking their language. The Times Of India replied back: “It is a compliment. You look so great that we want to make sure everyone knew.” They understand their audience, they share their spirit, their language.
Start a chain reaction—everyone is doing it.
“People who seem to be desired by others are immediately more seductive to their targets. Apply this to the soft seduction. You need to act as if you have already excited crowds of people; your behavior will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Seem to be in the vanguard of a trend or life-style and the public will lap you up for fear of being left behind. Spread your image, with a logo, slogans, posters, so that it appears everywhere. Announce your message as a trend and it will become one. The goal is to create a kind of viral effect in which more and more people become infected with the desire to have whatever you are offering. This is the easiest and most seductive way to sell.”
In 1929, the women in the US started smoking in the streets after a similar marketing campaign. Yes, the concretes differ, but the principles are the same.
“On Easter Sunday, March 31, 1929, New York churchgoers began to pour onto Fifth Avenue after the morning service for the annual Easter parade. The streets were blocked off, and as had been the custom for years, people were wearing their finest outfits, women in particular showing off the latest in spring fashions. But this year the promenaders on Fifth Avenue noticed something else. Two young women were coming down the steps of Saint Thomas’s Church. At the bottom they reached into their purses, took out cigarettes—Lucky Strikes—and lit up. Then they walked down the avenue with their escorts, laughing and puffing away. A buzz went through the crowd. Women had only recently begun smoking cigarettes, and it was considered improper for a lady to be seen smoking in the street. Only a certain kind of woman would do that. These two, however, were elegant and fashionable. People watched them intently, and were further astounded several minutes later when they reached the next church along the avenue. Here two more young ladies—equally elegant and well bred—left the church, approached the two holding cigarettes, and, as if suddenly inspired to join them, pulled out Lucky Strikes of their own and asked for a light. Now the four women were marching together down the avenue. They were steadily joined by more, and soon ten young women were holding cigarettes in public, as if nothing were more natural. Photographers appeared and took pictures of this novel sight. Usually at the Easter parade, people would have been whispering about a new hat style or the new spring color. This year everyone was talking about the daring young women and their cigarettes. The next day, photographs and articles appeared in the papers about them. A United Press dispatch read, “Just as Miss Federica Freylinghusen, conspicuous in a tailored outfit of dark grey, pushed her way thru the jam in front of St.Patrick‘s, Miss Bertha Hunt and six colleagues struck another blow in behalf of the liberty of women. Down Fifth Avenue they strolled, puffing at cigarettes. Miss Hunt issued the following communiqué from the smoke-clouded battlefield: ‘I hope that we have started something and that these torches of freedom, with no particular brand favored, will smash the discriminatory taboo on cigarettes for women and that our sex will go on breaking down all discriminations.’ ”
The story was picked up by newspapers around the country, and soon women in other cities began to light up in the streets. The controversy raged for weeks, some papers decrying this new habit, others coming to the women’s defense. A few months later, though, public smoking by women had become a socially acceptable practice. Few people bothered to protest it anymore.
In January 1929, several New York debutantes received the same telegram from a Miss Bertha Hunt: “In the interests of equality of the sexes … I and other young women will light another torch of freedom by smoking cigarettes while strolling on Fifth Avenue Easter Sunday.” The debutantes who ended up participating met beforehand in the office where Hunt worked as a secretary. They planned what churches to appear at, how to link up with each other, all the details. Hunt handed out packs of Lucky Strikes. Everything worked to perfection on the appointed day. Little did the debutantes know, though, that the whole affair had been masterminded by a man—Miss Hunt’s boss, Edward Bernays, a public relations adviser to the American Tobacco Company, makers of Lucky Strike. American Tobacco had been luring women into smoking with all kinds of clever ads, but the consumption was limited by the fact that smoking in the street was considered unladylike. The head of American Tobacco had asked Bernays for his help and Mr. Bernays had obliged him by applying a technique that was to become his trademark: gain public attention by creating an event that the media would cover as news. Orchestrate every detail but make them seem spontaneous. As more people heard of this “event,” it would spark imitative behavior—in this case more women smoking in the streets.
Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud and perhaps the greatest public relations genius of the twentieth century, understood a fundamental law of any kind of sell. The moment the targets know you are after something—a vote, a sale—they become resistant. But disguise your sales pitch as a news event and not only will you bypass their resistance, you can also create a social trend that does the selling for you. To make this work, the event you set up must stand out from all the other events that are covered by the media, yet it cannot stand out too far or it will seem contrived. In the case of the Easter parade, Bernays (through Bertha Hunt) chose women who would seem elegant and proper even with their cigarettes in their hands. Yet in breaking a social taboo, and doing so as a group, such women would create an image so dramatic and startling that the media would be unable to pass it up.
An event that is picked up by the news has the imprimatur of reality. It is important to give this manufactured event positive associations, as Bernays did in creating a feeling of rebellion, of women banding together. Associations that are patriotic, say, or subtly sexual, or spiritual—anything pleasant and seductive—take on a life of their own. Who can resist? People essentially persuade themselves to join the crowd without even realizing that a sale has taken place. The feeling of active participation is vital to seduction. No one wants to feel left out of a growing movement.”-Robert Greene, The Art Of Seduction.
Yes, but…..mine is genuine.