Saturday, September 7, 2013

Advertising Innovation

What do you every time a commercial break interrupts your favorite movie? Most of us just skip to a different channel, hoping to find something more entertaining. But the fact is that TV commercials can never really be escaped. Think about it. Even though you've all tried it, you still know who the brand ambassador for Lux is and the catchy jingle of Airtel. I bet that ads are probably the most watched features on television. I mean, only a handful of people catch the episodes of The Big Bang Theory and Indian Idol, but the one thing commonly watched by all kinds of audiences is the television ads. Naturally, advertising agencies work very hard to develop all kinds of innovative ideas for the products they represent. It is only through these ideas that one product can stand out from the rest. There's definitely a competition as all the commercials try to be the most memorable. However, only a few succeed. Only a few have people talking about them. Actually, it's the same with print ads too, except that print ads are easier to ignore if they're not catchy. So today I'm discussing some of the best TV and print commercials I've ever seen.

1. Cadbury Dairy Milk

I think we all remember the first commercial from the Shubh Arambh series. A young girl and a boy wait at a bus stop. The boy turns to the girl and asks if he can have a bite of her chocolate. The girls snobbishly asks if she knows him and when he says no, she dismissively says "So?" Then comes the boy's clever reply that made the ad famous. He says: "My mother says you should always taste something sweet before you start something new." This makes the girl curious and she asks what his new endeavour will be. He shyly replies, "Well, I was thinking I could drop you home...."

The second ad of the series was shot in a college hostel.  A group of senior students rag on a bunch of freshmen. One of the freshmen- a pudgy, average-looking guy- offers packs of Dairy Milk to the seniors. The seniors are suspicious and think he's just acting smart. A girl even asks if he's trying to flirt. The freshmen- all polite and referring to his seniors as 'sir' and 'ma'am'- explains "My mummy says..." The word mummy is made fun of but the freshman remains unfazed and continues, "My mummy says you should always taste something sweet before you start something new". The seniors are now confused and ask him "Why?" He replies, "Kaam achchha hota hai (Your endeavour becomes successful)". At that moment, the walls between seniors and freshmen break down and the two groups approach each other as friends.

Another ad in the Shubh Arambh series- which is arguably my favorite- had a middle aged lady stepping out in jeans for the first time. She is apprehensive of what people will say, what her mother-in-law will say. Her husband then lovingly says that she would just say that you should taste something sweet before starting something new. The lady now steps out of her apartment, and is greeted by a friendly neighbour who praises her new look.

The reason these ads work so well with the audience is that even though chocolate is not a typically Indian treat like rasgulla or gulab jamun, these ads incorporate an essence of modern Indian culture within them. For example, in the first ad, the boy asks the girl out and it's implied they start dating. Now dating is still considered a Western concept by some, but the ad shows it in such a way that you won't believe it for a second to be something foreign. Another case in point is the third ad. Often we think middle-aged ladies should always dress traditionally, but that doesn't mean they always want to wear saris and salwar-kameezes. Here, the woman tries a new outfit for the first time and you can see her anxiousness, but her husband explains that it's okay. Nowhere do these ads get preachy or educational. Lastly, what makes them so special is the reaction they cause in the audience. When you watch them, you don't laugh out loud or gawk at the glamour of the celebrity endorser. Instead, you just smile to yourself. How many ads do that?

2. Airtel

The key word in any advert for a phone company is 'connection'. It doesn't always have to feature a phone conversation. Some admen know how to play with the word more innovatively. Just look at this ad, in which two boys play football at the border. You don't really understand the language the little boys speak in, but you know what they're saying. The ad ends with the voiceover "There's no wall, no boundary that can keep us apart, if only we talked to each other". And then come Rehman's classic jingle...

I request everyone to please see this ad just once, whether or not you subscribe to the network. Children sometimes say a lot without saying anything, and you can learn a lot from the two children featured in this video.

The second ad that I liked took real-life historical events and examples to depict the power of human expression. Somehow, there is something so unifying about this ad that any person in the whole world will feel a connection to it. And did I mention Rehman's classic jingle?

3. Amul

Amul is one of those thoroughly Indian companies. Even if you don't know anything about it's history or establishment, you can sense that it was born and bred in India. And who better to represent it than a little girl in a polka-dotted frock that gives social commentary with a winning smile. Every Amul ad has featured the Amul girl in a scene depicting a recent event of national importance, but never do the ads get serious. The girl is the best possible brand ambassador for this kind of campaign, as she is just a harmless observer in the events she's surrounded by. But you keep feeling there's something behind that smile that understands everything....

The Day The Telegram Said Goodbye 

Retirement of Ratan Tata

Fall of the Rupee
Rise of prices of Onions
Adarsh Scam
Fall of rupee

Financial Crisis of a Major Airline

4. Harvest Gold

Many of you might not be familiar with the Harvest Gold Bread ads. In fact, even I haven't seen one in the last few years because the brand is most popular in Delhi and I haven't been there in a while. But I cannot forget their straightforwardness, which is complimentary to the tagline 'No Bakwaas, Only Good Bread'. Unfortunately, the brand has been dragging along the same concept for several years now and it has lost it's surprise factor. This explains why we haven't been seeing (or paying much attention to) the ads for a while now. Nevertheless, the ad has it's share of loyal fans that will bite into its wittiness every time it's printed.

(Unfortunately, I couldn't find any of these ads online. If anybody has a picture or clipping of the ad, please send it to me so I can share it with everyone)

5. Flipkart

Flipkart has one of the most unique advertisements for online shopping. In fact, it has the most innovatinve, attention-grabbing ad-campaigns on air. While other portals advertise with hot models chasing after shoes while being tied down during a bank robbery, this portal maintains a universal appeal by casting children pretending to be adults. These ads are satirical in their own way. Take for example the ad with the little-boy-slash-busy-officer who orders a phone on Flipkart, feels lost as fears of the phone's delayed delivery begin haunting and finally says that Flipkart changed his life with it's perfectly timed delivery. Check it out:

6. Dove- When Did You Stop Believing You're Beautiful?

This ad wasn't released in our country, so we continue to watch ads with beautiful women smiling and giggling over soft skin. This ad campaign has a montage of women hiding their faces from the camera, something that we've all done in our lifetime. Then, another montage follows, one that shows the same women when they were children, happily smiling and posing for the video camera, not conscious of anything. SO here's the question- when do we stop believing we're beautiful? And how did that even happen, if we were so open to the camera as kids?