AdAsia 2011 in New Delhi wrapped up with a third day of conference sessions, culminating in a talk by Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. She talked eloquently about Pepsi’s attempts to build a long-term vision in an unstable financial climate. The volatility of the last few years, she said, had forced businesses to change the way they plan. “The book has not been written on this topic. We’re writing it as we go along.”
However, the session that drew the most gasps from the audience was undoubtedly the first one of the day. This was a talk from Swami Sukhabodhananda, a spiritual leader and founder of the Prasanna Trust. It’s certainly the first time I’ve seen a spiritual leader talk at an ad conference. Topics included why men should love their wife’s nagging, the evils of consumerism that is rooted in personal ambition, and the need to think more widely about the impact our actions have on the world (he denounced plastic bags as “evil”). Questions from the conference delegates included how they could align his teachings with consumerism, and the merits of vegetarianism.
The talk received the only standing ovation of the conference, and delegates were buzzing about it for the rest of the day. One thing it underlined (for a non-Indian) was that, despite the rapid growth of personal wealth and consumerism in the country, there remains a huge spiritual dimension to Indian culture, even at the upper echelons.
It was, then, somewhat surprising to find that the only brand on the conference stage really putting some of Swami Sukhabodhananda’s ideas into practice was British. Duncan Goose, founder of the One brand (and a former JWT executive), laid out the philosophy behind the company, which exists to raise money for good causes around the world.
As a company, One exists to give its profits away. The brand’s foundation is that a purchase decision in the UK is linked to a direct action in the developing world. Its first product was a bottled water, with proceeds going to water provision schemes - the idea being that if you bought One water, you were also buying water for people who really needed it.
The company targets commoditised categories where there is little differentiation, in the belief that consumers will be open to an ethical pitch in these sectors. It now offers bread, eggs and a number of other products. It has given away more than US$12 million since it was set up.
As one delegate, the head of a local agency, told me later, this is exactly the sort of idea India should be producing. “The one thing India has given the world is spirituality,” he said. “That should have been an Indian brand.”
Stay tuned to the conference reports page for further write-ups from the conference.