In his 1971 book The Poster in History Max Gallo describes the poster as a mirror, stating:
“Posters channel our dreams, excite our desires. For a poster to be effective it must speak to us and secretly appeal to weak spots of which we ourselves are not aware. It must us a code that corresponds to one of our own. And the more the poster appeals to those aspects of our character that we ourselves hardly know, the greater will be the penetration of its message” (9).
McCann worldwide launched a 2015 print poster campaign in India for client Dabur Gastrina – a brand of digestive pills popular in South Asia. The campaign, aptly titled, “Stop the Music” (figures 4-6),
features a series of flat illustrated adults (male and female) set against a fill background. All posters feature bright, saturated colors that are vibrant, fun and happy. Within each figure is the illustration of a musical instrument, designed to mimic the digestive track, with the mouthpiece at the mouth, and the bell of the instrument at (you guessed it!) the end of their digestive track.
The colors and design of the series of posters have roots in the Pop movement of the 1960s and 70s, as “irreverence, play and cleverness underlay pop’s cartoon illustrations and lettering, vivid colors and dreamlike drawings” (Drucker and McVarish 2013, 271). The Pop style has been used prolifically in advertising throughout the intervening years (Figures 1-3).
The core stylistic departure of the “Stop the Music” ads from the Pop style is the downplayed branding – if you’re not looking closely, you might even miss the small stylized bottle of digestive pills, clearly labeled with the brand Dabur Gastrina, in the bottom right corner.
As the concept and idea of flatulence is taboo in India, the execution of the ads is very clever – the simple visuals avoid overtly depicting flatulence, and the lack of type in the ad means the focus is very clearly on the depiction of the idea. There is no potentially offensive messaging, only a witty visual joke that engages the viewer.
The combination of high-brow (using classical music instruments) with low-brow humor is so effective because the juxtaposition of the two is so shocking and unusual. The joke is immediately clear, and so is the intent of the ad: with the cultural understanding that breaking wind (particularly with sound) is strictly taboo, it is an obvious benefit to have a product at your disposal that can stop the music for you and help you maintain good standing in society.
Campaign Brief Asia. “Dabur Gastrina Digestive Pills Stop the Music in Print Campaign via McCann Worldgroup India.” Campaign Brief Asia. Accessed March 2, 2020. https://campaignbriefasia.com/2015/07/09/gastrina-digestive-pills-stop/.
Drucker, Johanna, and Emily McVarish. Graphic Design History: a Critical Guide. Pearson, 2013.
Gallo, Max, et al. The Poster in History. Norton, 2001.
“Art in Advertising – PMG – Digital Agency.” PMG, 10 Sept. 2018, www.pmg.com/blog/art-in-advertising/.
All About Outdoor. “Indian OOH Industry Shines at ADFEST 2016.” All About Outdoor. Accessed March 2, 2020. https://www.allaboutoutdoor.com/news-detail.php?mid=4571&keyword=Indian OOH Industry.
“Brand India.” IBEF, www.ibef.org/industry/advertising-marketing-india.aspx.
“The Indian Artist Challenging ‘Dirty Taboos’ on Instagram.” BBC News, BBC, 18 Feb. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-43084472.
Tumelty, Josh. “6 Campaigns That Break the Status Quo in Healthcare Marketing.” MM&M – Medical Marketing and Media, September 5, 2018. https://www.mmm-online.com/home/channel/campaigns/6-campaigns-that-break-the-status-quo-in-healthcare-marketing/.
Worthington, Roger P, and Anupriya Gogne. “Cultural Aspects of Primary Healthcare in India: A Case- Based Analysis.” Asia Pacific Family Medicine 10, no. 1 (2011): 8. https://doi.org/10.1186/1447-056x-10-8.