May 27, 2010


Viewers are people too

Andrew Hughes

Shortness of breath and nausea are among the effects of exposure to IPL telecasts, scientists have found © AFP

Last week saw the publication of a survey, presumably conducted by the Department of the Glaringly Obvious at the University of Duh!, which found (and you might want to be seated for this) that mid-over adverts during the IPL were not, repeat not, popular with television viewers. I know, surprising eh? Who could have guessed that being subjected to a continuous stream of visual marketing junk might begin to rankle a teensy bit with the watching public?

Now, in the interests of fairness, I should say that advertising can have beneficial side effects. For instance, yesterday, in search of distraction from my list of chores, I slumped onto my sofa and flicked through a few channels. In no time at all, I had racked up a new record of eight consecutive adverts without seeing a single scheduled programme. I was so irritated, I decided to clean out my fridge instead. Thus, thanks to advertising, my kitchen no longer smells and I burned a few more calories hacking away at encrusted ice with a screwdriver.

It is also worth pointing out that the cricket watcher’s relationship with brand peddling is not a straightforward one. Certain ad campaigns, if they are sufficiently well conceived and interwoven with the cricket, can become part of the experience. For example, the short sequences on a fictional Caribbean beach that ran during the recent World Twenty20 were almost entertaining, which is pretty much the pinnacle of advertising achievement.

However, I will be honest, I would have to think twice and possibly seek a third opinion from my subconscious to recall precisely which product it was promoting. And it isn’t just me. Apparently half of IPL 3 viewers were unable to remember the main shirt sponsors of their favourite team. Even more astonishingly, a quarter of respondents could not name a single IPL advertiser. And if that doesn’t warm the cockles of your heart, then you are probably Lalit Modi. Or an accountant.

Those of us who watched the IPL from these damp and clammy shores were fortunate in that we did not have to endure the mid-over brainwashing. I cannot imagine what it must have been like. The sheer effort required to maintain concentration in the face of such a barrage of nonsense must have been enormous. And the necessity to press the mute button so often must have left Indian cricket viewers with the most muscular thumbs in the developed world.

Now the IPL, it is true, is not the typical cricket event. It is an enormous, powerful, magnificent elephant of a tournament, with far too many people trying to squeeze into the howdah. But this overloading of the viewer’s plate with great steaming piles of commercial propaganda is symptomatic of how the cricket spectator is seen. We are not real people, we are demographics, we are potential market share, we are viewing figures, we are just the saps who buy the KKR pyjamas and the Yuvraj tea cosies.

Commentators are no better. They think we have the attention spans of goldfish on caffeine, and so they shout gibberish, make bad jokes and generally carry on like holiday-camp entertainers. Expert summarisers think we are too stupid to understand technical matters and so lard their punditry with dollops of lazy, can’t-be-bothered observations. Isn’t it about time the viewer got a better deal? After all, without us there would be no IPL.


Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by the bear jew on (May 28, 2010, 17:31 GMT)

....must have left Indian cricket viewers with the most muscular thumbs in the developed world. couldnt agree with you more , andrew. still i think you are losing your touch just a little bit. the articles you came up with, say, 2 months or so ago used to be much better than your most recent ones. you still are my favourite writer on cricinfo (and that of quite a few other fans as well, i'm sure) so please get back to your best soon

Posted by Srikanth on (May 28, 2010, 8:42 GMT)

Thanks ANdrew, all comments point that you have hit the right topic this time.... IPL is a WHITE ELEPHANT. Dump it and revive test cricket. Throw the advertisers out and provide good cricket and let the game provide the entertainment.

Posted by Srikanth on (May 28, 2010, 8:30 GMT)

I posted a comment yesterday. I see that it has not appeared here though comments posted much later are appearing. Is this a deliberate ploy to block my comments, Andrew? Anyway, in between the ad-show I could see something which was known as the IPL

Posted by Sam - London on (May 28, 2010, 6:46 GMT)

Started reading your fantastic article 'til I was distracted by the Virgin media advert. Still, I'm sure the pertinent points were adressed.

Posted by Dinesh on (May 28, 2010, 2:54 GMT)

IPL epitomises the new breed of Indians with money and no style or class.It may jar your senses but living in India, I have hardly heard any complaints.It is no developed world either.Don't pander to popular sentiments so that what you write gets acceptance.

Posted by Niall on (May 27, 2010, 20:20 GMT)

Goodness me, Andrew, this is the best thing you've put up on here. Bravo. Deeply felt and I agree with all of it.

Posted by karan gera on (May 27, 2010, 19:08 GMT)

I think your views are as tiring and jaded as the advertisements. Even your observations are as lazy as the commentators your criticisms and as obvious as the findings of the University of Duh!. You are a product of a jaded western society that is tired of marketing practices over the years so you think every one alse around the world shares your view. India is experiencing full blown capitalism for the first time and I believe people are not as negative about the promotions as you make it out to be. Take off your jaded hat and then report on this topic.

Posted by srinin on (May 27, 2010, 17:43 GMT)

I dont know how the Cricinfo editors allowed this article to be published!

You have got all facts wrong. First it was IPL not even T20. Definitely not cricket. Then we did not have see any imagination at all. A colossal amount of time was wasted in showing something aboslutely boring. A guy running with the ball in hand, a few guys chasing a ball. All I wanted to see was whther the guy with that wooden stick hit the ball or the ball hit one of those three sticks this guy was not holding. Instead they cd have shown us the 47th new mobile or the 9671st face cream that makes you look fairer than you are.

And who are the commentators you are talking about? I only heard guys with drums and trumpets crying hoarse about a ballon on the sky or 'moment of maximum success' or some such phrase.

There were a guys sitting around in the studio performing a mimicry show - mimicking a broken gramaphone record!

Get the facts right! And Cricinfo Editors, check facts or get fired by a Dimo gun.

Posted by Sam on (May 27, 2010, 15:56 GMT)

Advertising everywhere. Bats, helmets, shoes, stumps, umpires, pitch, ropes, side boards, sight-screens, 3rd umpire.

Exclusive beers and food in grounds.

Plus commentators getting their share.

All cricket should be ashamed, especially the soul-less IPL.

Posted by tim on (May 27, 2010, 14:34 GMT)

Harsh Raut... harsh and bitter and a chip on your shoulder about the English! Must be a big one to prefer moronic advertising to anything!

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Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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