21 July 2016 13:54:03 IST

Why are network advertisements so misleading?

Claims of the ads are nowhere close to the reality of what the consumers face

Every one of us wears multiple hats, and I am no exception. Let me talk about two large hats I wear that still struggle to hide the shining halo at the crown of my head.

One is of a consumer who buys products and services and has a strong point of view. If I am not happy with something, I don’t hold back my displeasure — I tweet till the cows come home. The second is that of a brand consultant, who is passionate about advertising and who watches a lot of TV. Sometimes, I find advertising more interesting than the programmes they are featured in.

I have been an Airtel consumer since their JTM days (a brand Airtel took over), and have been watching the brand’s advertising with great interest. The brand had pushed the envelope with newer, more creative ads, but sadly, they have no relevance or relation to the ground reality, and this makes them misleading.

Increasing my frustration is their abysmal coverage, horrendous service and complete lack of concern for the consumer. So why haven’t I shifted, then? Simply because I am increasingly sceptical about all mobile services in general. And who would like to jump from the frying pan into the fire?

Oh so transparent!

The latest in the series of misleading ads is the one that gives you a sense of empowerment. It aims to show you that you, the customer, know exactly where your tower is and where the gaps are. They keep patting themselves on the back as to how wonderful they are. Here’s the ad which you would have seen — and which left me cold.

Why do I say that? Let me tell you my own experience. Both my wife and I have been loyal Airtel users for several years now, and yet, the network is appalling inside our house. Thanks to them, though, we are invariably a little fitter as we rush out of the house the moment the phone rings. Probably the mobile service operator, in his wisdom, decided that we don’t exercise enough. But I did exercise my rights as a consumer by complaining several times!

So what does our ‘transparent’ mobile service operator do when I go to him with the complaint? Throw up his hand and say he is unable to do anything as there is no tower near my house. Which leads me to the important point — how is anything going to change?

Are you telling me that a company, which is the market leader, needs two decades to figure out where the network is poor? And why should I tell them how bad they are? Don’t they know it themselves? And to add insult to injury, they claim they are transparent!

Ads have generally been misleading

Before this campaign, Airtel had launched their 4G with great fanfare, proudly announcing how it works in the farthest corners of India — in hilly mountains, distant villages and the back of beyond.

Sadly, though, it does not work in Malabar Hill or Koramangala. And as an actual user, I just cannot experience any difference between my earlier 3G and my present 4G. Here’s that Airtel girl who lies with a sweet face and thankfully, seems to have taken a break.

This is my problem with all mobile services. The advertising is clever, interesting and entertaining, but has no relation with the ground reality of what consumers face. Otherwise, why would call drops be such an issue with all of us, including the Parliament?

Vodafone too has had very cute ads, talking about their service and network, but I continue to experience both their network and service, and have been hardly impressed.

As a consumer…

What do I expect as a consumer?

Today, the mobile is an integral part of our life and no one, young or old, can imagine life without this device. But the service providers’ cartel is trying to milk the existing networks, which are already stretched, and is painting a rosy picture about the coverage.

The network and the consumers are like a married couple, where one takes the other for granted, and is extremely casual about the other’s angst and genuine fears. They are merely being glib in their attitude and advertising.

If Airtel or Vodafone is serious about its business, consumer and way of doing business, it must focus on network, coverage and customer service — and spend less money, attention and time on advertising. Like a poor student who only concentrates on easy subjects, they are focussing on the easy part, which is advertising.

And that’s the hard part for me, as a dissatisfied, angry and frustrated consumer.