Daag Acche Nahin Hain!

Just as I was checking my Twitter feed this Sunday morning, I saw the #Surfexcel trending. Initially I ignored attributing it to some sponsored marketing campaign. But when I saw a whole bunch of individuals from the Right to the Left tweeting on the same, I decided to check it out. There, I could see other hashtags calling for a boycott of Unilever products and so on. The reason for the furore being, this ad (watch here) which Hindustan Unilever (HUL) has made for Surf Excel for the upcoming Holi. I watched the ad and I thought it was a brilliant ad though the theme has got a bit repetitive particularly with HUL these days!

People calling for a boycott of Surf Excel and Unilever products though, had a different take. They questioned the need for the company to pick up on a Hindu festival (Holi) to push their product. Few also quizzed if Unilever would do an ad around any Muslim festival. There were also many other tweets with images of Muslim festivals photo shopped with Surf Excel and its now famous tag line – ‘Daag Acche Hain’!  Notwithstanding all this, the ad achieved the purpose of creating a buzz and finally going viral.

This comes closely in the heels of another ad from the same company created during the Kumbh Mela! This ad (Watch here) for their Brooke Bond Red label Tea literally kicked up a storm in the social media tea-cup! . Though extremely well made, it is clear from the ad that the product and its attributes were secondary while the primary objective was just to ride the buzz around the Kumbh. While the commercial went viral on many WhatsApp groups as a great ad, on Twitter though, folks derided the company HUL for hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus. The supers that appeared at the end of the ad said, “Kumbh Mela is the largest religious gathering in the world. At this holy gathering, many elderly are abandoned by their families”!

I am not sure what kind of research went behind, to make a statement like this.  Nevertheless, the ad, I repeat very well made and executed, came across as a botched attempt where just to bring in the “Kumbh” story, you build a very touchy and probably insensitive narrative. I would rather prefer the approach by Fevicol in a similar context for the Kumbh where, they weaved a positive story (watch the ad here) around the event while plugging the attributes of the product effectively.  In the Red label ad, the product got thrust upon in the story at the end. With the massive uproar about this ad in social media, I am told that the company decided to take down the same. However, it didn’t stop it from going viral on social media platforms where it got trolled heavily.

These days, companies when they brief the agency for their commercials, I think must be outlining their 1st objective as “It should go viral”! As I had written in my earlier posts, “Stir up to sell” is an old ploy in marketing and advertising.  Achieving the objective of getting ad go viral is of late falling into very predictable tropes like Hindu – Muslim unity sentiment, Indo – Pak emotion and so on.

The larger point I am trying to put forward though, is different.  Few days back, I received as a forward on WhatsApp a clip which, I then gathered was a trailer for an upcoming web series titled ‘Metro Park’. Watch it here. I watched it, had a hearty laugh and forwarded the same to few other WhatsApp groups as is the wont these days. Little did I realise that, even for what I perceived as a routine comedy clip, I would receive some critique questioning, if the makers would dare to make fun of any other religion’s practices in a similar way!

A few years back, the Surf Excel Ad and the Red Label Kumbh ad would have just got beamed across homes through your television sets and the agencies would have just walked away with awards galore. But today, there is no such getting away easily. Though personally I thought that the Surf Excel Holi Ad is a brilliant one which weaves in the product attributes into the Holi story, while at the same time talking of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood… the extreme reactions against the ad actually conveys something else. That of bringing to the fore the fault lines that exist/existed all along in our society.

First of all, the repeated emergence of these themes in ads is itself an aberration in my view. A Unilever company in another country say in the US or in Europe I feel, will not take pains to come up with an ad promoting Hindu-Muslim unity in the guise of promoting their product. After over 70 years of Independence and declaring ourselves as a secular nation, if we have to keep clutching at straws (read as films and TV Commercials) to promote self-belief as a secular nation, something has gone wrong somewhere. Secondly, the extreme reactions a TV commercial promoting harmony evokes among us, also is worrisome.  While social media playing the role of a watch dog is good, more often than not, it is barking up the wrong tree.

‘Daag Acche Hain’ (Stains are good) may be a good tag line for a detergent.  However, “Communal”, “Bigoted” as tags are stains. And as a country we could do without such stains. Kyunki woh Daag acche nahin hain!

Advertisements

“Ideas Mela” – What an Idea, Sirji !!!

Years ago, I was attending a business conference at a resort type place few miles off Mumbai. While our meeting was in a usual conference room and in a typical business setting, there was another business meeting going on albeit in an offbeat mood. I could see quite a few signs of “Ideas Mela” in and around the swimming pool.  Could also see quite a few seemingly “creative” types floating in water on “Ideas Mela” branded floats. On further enquiry, I was told that “Ideas Mela” was an Annual ritual held by a renowned ad agency with their team where they try to unwind and come up with some big ideas for their clients !!!

I’m not sure if the team of Hindustan Unilever and their campaign agency ‘Ogilvy Action’ had an “Ideas Mela” to come up with that brilliant idea to promote Lifebuoy during Kumbh Mela a relegious congregation which happens once in 3 years in different locations in different scales. This campaign which has now got into the coveted list of media innovations in India has ‘Incredible India’ written or stamped all over it.  The brand team has reportedly teamed up with over 100 hotels and dhabas in and around the ‘Kumbh’ site to serve ‘rotis’ that are stamped with “Lifebuoy se haath dhoye kya?” (Have you washed your hand with Lifebuoy?).  Given the fact that ‘roti’ is the staple diet with the North Indians, serving the same hot with a reminder message is expected to reach more than 3 million visitors.  And the massive PR follow up coverage on the unique and interesting campaign that followed is expected to reach few more millions all over the country. Using the ‘roti’ as the medium for communicating the importance of ‘hand washing’ particularly in a mass congregation of the ‘Kumbh’ type is certainly a master stroke and a brilliant media innovation. Roti oops topi  off to the creative team !!!

Lifeboy2

Similarly I was personally experienced to another interesting media innovation on a Sunday morning last year (2012).  As I picked up the Sunday Times of India and began to read, a strong aroma of coffee emanated and tempted me to get back to my old coffee days. It’s been a while since I switched loyalties from Coffee to Tea. As I kept wondering where the strong aroma was coming from, I saw the ad in the 1st page for (again) Hindustan Unilever’s flagship coffee product – ‘Bru Gold’.  The Sunday TOI edition of that day in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore broke the smell sense barrier and came with a strong coffee flavour to lure consumers to the coffee brand. Aroma of actual coffee, ad for the same, newspaper, Sunday,.. all add to the weekend morning mood. I think it was an excellent idea to use a media innovatively.  I realized that HUL had missed out ‘Chennai’ a city of coffee connoisseurs for this innovative campaign.  Well, can a Bru Gold beat that ubiquitous ‘filter Kaapi’???  In the land of filter Kaapi trying to push any other form of coffee would have petered out I guess.

coffee-aroma-innovation

Recently I was also impressed to see another media innovation to promote the World TV première of the film – EV on Zee TV on the 29th Dec 2012. Few days before that when I was in the Mumbai Airport, I could see English Vinglish signboards at the check in counters, boarding gates, near the luggage conveyors,..  I thought for a product with a short life, using such media was certainly low cost and at the same time inventive.  The director of the movie, Gauri Shinde who signed a whole sale contract for the “Best Debutant Director” trophy in all the film award shows this year stretched the film’s branding further when in the thanks giving speech at ‘Screen Awards’ she thanked ‘Screen Veen’ !!! A bit over board no???

English Vinglish Media innovation,Mumbai AP,122012

In Mumbai when I go to office, I see sometimes a car ahead of me with a bumper sticker which says:

“Keep Safe Distance – I work with Fevicol”

A smart media innovation not surprising for a brand which boasts of some great creative stuff in the country!  This idea has limited scope but certainly tongue in cheek!

There’s another media ingenuity which comes to my mind here.  I‘ve seen this (surprisingly) only at the Bengaluru airport.  These days as we all know and endure, the security routine at airports is quite elaborate and calls for passengers to follow certain instructions like putting the mobile phones for scanning, removing laptops from the bags,…,.. So there you have, at the security area of the Bengaluru airport few TV screens which show what are the do’s and don’ts for the passengers. And these are in the form of very well made videos with Zoo Zoo characters of ‘Vodafone’ fame!!!  I don’t recall seeing the Vodafone brand or the logo in the videos. Is it necessary? Vodafone was completing its quota of Corporate Social responsibility I guess. Still no respite from the Tax authorities, though!!!

vodafone-zoozoo

Another one from Vodafone. Though this will qualify for smart ambush marketing, the ingenious use of a medium brings this part of this post. On the final day of the F1 race in Noida ( Delhi ) last year,  it was a “Toll Free Day” at the DND flyway – which many race enthusiasts used to reach the Budh International Circuit. This was thanks to Vodafone which sponsored thisThe advertising message was – “Speed up for F1”.  The idea resonated well with the event which is all about Speed thrills!  That the F1 event had Vodafone’s main competitor “Airtel” as the title sponsor  made it a very innovative and cheeky move !!!

These are just few great Ideas which came to my mind as I wrote this post. There could be many more I’m sure.  My focus was only on ideas which used media differently and not necessarily on “Creative” ideas or Ideas which were just part of some “Cannespiracy”!!! (Ideas which get used only for reaping award at festivals)

I liked the idea of that “Ideas Mela”.  If ‘Kumbh Mela’ can be a congregation of not only bodies but minds and souls as they say, an “Ideas Mela” can be one for great ideas!!! For, today marketing communication or for that matter entire business is all about one “Big Idea”!!!