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Do the IIN Ads Deserve only Mocking Memes?

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I know this post is late into the game, with the many troll memes inspired by the IIN ads arguably as popular than the ads themselves, but never too late to offer an opinion contrary to vox populi!

Before I begin, I have 3 disclaimers to make: (1) I’m a chronic Ad Hater for various reasons. (2) I don’t profit from Idea or its Internet service, or what they’d like to call Idea Internet Network (IIN), which is abbreviated thus solely to (perhaps ridiculously?) resemble the brand value of IITs and IIMs. (3) Yes, some of the ads are filmi, but come on, they rank much lower on the silly scale than the cola, car, packaged food, real estate, clothing, and the several other buhdonkerous zombie ads waging a war with our senses, occupying our spaces, and reaching for our pockets.

Just giving credit where it’s due: Idea Cellular has almost always had hatke ads for its internet network. Being a discontinuous TV gazer and a crabby YouTube ad skipper (‘Skip Ad in 5 seconds’ is an annoyance and the forced 2-min ads are criminal!), I can recall that with themes such as using the mobile broadband for gathering public opinion (“Democracy” series?) and quick information (“No ullu-banaoing“; excuse my spelling), this brand had already carved a niche for itself. While other mobile internet brands heavily focused on marketing their services as an entertainment medium  <Insert 1 rupee mein Kareena video>, Idea highlighted other possibilities.

Having said that, were there tacky Idea ads pre-IIN? Sure! (Reminder: Tackiness has a fashion sense of its own, conveniently garbing itself to make us buy more.) Were these ads otherwise flawless? No! Some of the “Sirji” series were heavy on feudalistic hegemony, with a lower-class man folding arms and trepidly bowing to Sirji Abhishek Bacchan. <Insert CRINGE!>

Now, with the IIN ads, Idea has largely expanded and outdone itself by highlighting the potential of the world wide web not merely aiding but “changing your life” through education. Ambitious? Perhaps. But why the hell not?! If “IIN” had a film star, say Rancho from 3 Idiots taking mobile internet to the Leh-Ladakh experimental school, not many would bat an eyelid. If the Kindle guy uses the mobile internet medium to enhance the audio-visual narrative experience to the seemingly unschooled kids in the Sunderban-like setup, with sublime ad music and editing, we would even nominate it for awards.

But with ordinary faces and real-life-like stories? A boy who couldn’t win the engineering entrance race making a talking drone; ghoonghat-clad women of Haryana talking politics through smartphones hidden in their veils; a student who wishes to learn more than what his college allows him to; a transgender woman explaining how she was denied entry into educational institutions; a town-dwelling primary school teacher speaking about the importance of continuing to educate herself; a young woman helping her mother continue her law education; an aged man pursuing his passion for music at home? Pretentious! Also, alternative education is only entitled to people with PCs and LAN/Wifi, subscribing to established MOOCs; Smartphones and YouTube are a myth! <:P>

There has been some criticism about the unrealistic setup of these ads in political forums as well (for example, on the Haryana-women IIN ad). While it is important to note the realities of the issues at hand, the commentators seem to ignore addressing the larger contextual problem—the unambiguously unreal scenarios manufactured by advertising both in the past and present. So, it is incomplete and perhaps futile to criticize ads by a typical corporation for the inaccurate imagination of their social impact while ignoring the breakthroughs these very ads have made (or attempted).

In short, IIN is indeed a tacky abbreviation or rather appropriation by yet another seller. But the ads imagine the very tangible possibility of gaining the education (or learning) of your choice, not by subscribing to an educational establishment but by paying much lesser fees for internet, at the convenience of your smartphone. If we enjoy the 1-rupee Kareena videos, quick photo shares, and the endless chats with har ek zaroori friend, then we can totally appreciate this idea that expands the potential of our pocket idiot boxes.

And with the issue of some mobile internet service providers willing to compromise on Net Neutrality in India, it is all the more necessary to highlight the potential of an affordable internet service on an affordable smartphone in an increasingly “developing” nation like ours.

Yours sincerely,

A graduate who many-a-time found solace learning about interesting stuff on Wikipedia (accessed via GPRS in the pre-smartphone era) on her daily trips to a college while pursuing a course not of her choice but of compromise. A true believer in the potential of affordable common technology and education. A life-long learner.

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