She pouts. She smiles. She waves her hand. She virtually screams for your attention. Finally, you give her a thumbs up. Her day is made. Sounds familiar?
Here’s another. Not a fiery speech but a stammering monologue. It gets him rousing applause. And we drink to that. Does that ring a bell?
Last chance. A set of chairs having an uncanny resemblance to the election symbols of some political parties. Where did you see them?
Still clueless? We are talking about the advertisements released this year that made viewers stop in their tracks, chuckle and even say a silent thank you for entertaining them for a full 30 seconds, sometimes less.
Celebrating creativity is a tradition at BrandWagon. Like the past so many years, this year, too, we picked the best ads of 2014 with the help of seven stalwarts from the industry (see panel) . This year, we also ran a campaign inviting our online readers to vote for the ads they loved. So what you see here isn’t just the experts’ recommendations, but also what the ordinary television viewer voted for.
Indeed, when we say the best ads, we arne’t measuring the impact they had on ad sales or the brand recall. We are merely celebrating the creative idea, the thought that struck a chord with us as ordinary consumers.
As we delved through the humungous amount of work that the industry produced this year, there were many aha moments. At the same time, we recognised a new truth— many of the best ads this year were conceived with the internet consumer in mind. Even as brands try to keep TV audiences engaged, they are trying to connect with the digitally savvy bunch as well.
To be sure, even today TV remains the mass medium with maximum reach. There are about 800 million TV viewers across the country. With a internet user base of around 300 million, internet is a much smaller platform but it allows much more targetted and measurable access, something that TV cannot offer. In the midst of the confusion over mass versus targetted reach, brands continued to spend heavily on TV. This year, according to industry estimates, ad spends on TV accounted for R136 billion. Despite the noise around digital, spends on the medium were a little more than R41 billion. The gap shows no signs of being bridged any time soon. It is for this reason that we chose to continue with our tradition of picking the best ads from TV alone.
In terms of creative experiments, the long form commercials with layered story-telling format stood out this year. This was seen in Nescafe’s ‘It All Starts’ ad created by McCann Erickson as well as Fortune Oil’s ‘Ghar ka khana’ ad made by Ogilvy & Mather, both of which have pride of place in our best ads list.
The year 2014 was also the year of the general elections in India. And it wasn’t a regular general election as we know. As our guest columnist Naresh Gupta, chief strategy officer and managing partner of Bang In The Middle points out, the blockbuster campaign of the year was the BJP’s concerted, layered and yet very focussed election campaign. Many a brand took inspiration from the rough and tumble of political campaigns to come out with their own messages. For instance, there was Idea’s opportune ‘No ullu banaoing’ campaign, as also Fevicol’s memorable ‘Crazy chairs’ ad and, of course, Tata Tea’s ‘Power of 49’ ad as part of its long-running Jaago Re campaign. Idea’s campaign finds place in our list of best ads too.
The year also saw the return of a classic– Raymond’s The Complete Man series. But this time, the Raymond man was in step with the changing times, displaying facets of his character that indicated that the brand was acknowledging the changing role of men and women in the society. That was a theme that found resonance in Airtel’s ‘Smartphone network’ ad that depicted a wife as her husband’s supervisor at the workplace.
Read on to know more about the year’s best ads and do give us your feedback.
Nestle: The king’s speech
Campaign: It all starts…
Company: Nestle India
Agency: McCann Erickson
A standup comedian who stammers and stutters his way to a standing ovation, this was perhaps one of the longest ads released this year.
It’s not easy to laugh at yourself and it is certainly not easy to convert your weakness into your strength. This was a very well scripted ad, and you can watch this ad again and again without getting bored. With more than 5 lakh views on YouTube, this is easily the best ad of the year. This ad also got the maximum votes from our panelists. Says SapientNitro chief creative officer KV Sridhar, “This one stands out because of its length. While every internet film has given in to the temptation of 6-8 minutes and has eventually lost the plot, I applause the Nescafe team for resisting the trap.”
More importantly, the ad shows the brand—Nescafe—in a very subtle way, and only speaks about it towards the end when the comedian says, “ It all starts with a Nescafe”. But that does not mean that viewers missed the point. Rather, Nescafe has got a fresh lease of life after this ad as it has helped forge strong ties with the millennial audience who prefer to go online to watch ads. All thanks to the digital medium which made this kind of long format film possible to be made and watched. The new ad is also a major shift for Nescafe which had been relying on celebrity endorsers such as Deepika Padukone and Purab Kohli.
Idea: Foolproof plan
Campaign: No ullu banaoing
Company: Idea CellularAgency: Lowe Lintas & Partners
The film shows a politician promising to bring water to the parched villages at an election rally. As the public applauds, brand ambassador Abhishek Bachchan and his colleague, who are putting up a hoarding nearby, watch the situation unfold. A young man from the crowd interrupts the politician holding up his phone in his hand which shows a YouTube video from the previous election when the politician had made the same promise. The entire crowd jeers the politician and mimics the owl to indicate that they can’t be fooled.
Another ad in this campaign showed a young woman taking on some unscrupulous land developers with the help of her Idea mobile internet which shows the actual layout of the village and the ownership pattern.
Coming during the run-up to the 2014 general election campaigns, this Idea campaign hit the nail on the head. This campaign also marked the return of Abhishek Bachchan, the brand amabassador for Idea Cellular who had disappeared from Idea’s ad campaigns for some time as the brand experimented with other formats. Idea’s previous ads promoting its 3G internet service had not been that memorable and it needed a unique take on mobile internet. So, what better than to go back to its winning formula of reminding the masses how an idea can change their lives, by using an interesting phrase that everyone could identify with. As Meenakshi Madhvani Menon, founder and chairperson, Spatial Access, and one of our panelists, points out, the strength of the Idea ad is not just its gritty realism but the fact that it touches a chord in all of us. “We have had it with pushovers and once again Idea latches on to the ground truth,” she says. This campaign has been able to do that well as it picks up everyday examples of people being conned and how the internet with a little help from Idea can keep them one step ahead. Idea’s target audience has always been the masses—people who need not be comfortable with using mobile internet—and therefore the idea was to tell them how mobile internet was easy, accessible and had the power to change their lives. With the catchy jingle “Idea Internet lagoing, India ko no ullu banoing”, this campaign resonated with viewers. All along the campaign remains true to the brand’s original promise of changing the common man’s life.
KBC: Matter of trust
Campaign: Jo Dilon Ko Jeetey – Kohima
Brand: Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC)
Company: Sony Entertainment Television
Agency: Leo Burnett
Sony Entertainment Television (SET), the flagship Hindi general entertainment channel from the Multi Screen Media network, was back with a cracking campaign for the eighth season of its big-ticket property, Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). Anchor Amitabh Bachchan asks the young woman on the hot seat to name in which country Kohima is located. She thinks for a while and decides to go for an audience poll. When 100% of the audience poll results deliver the answer as ‘India’, The woman’s face breaks into a happy smile. Bachchan looks at her in a questioning way as though he knew what was coming; and says, “But everyone knows that.” The woman smiles and says, “Yes, everyone knows it, but how many believe in it?
At a time when many an Indian prefers to identify herself on the basis of race, caste, community and class rather than just an Indian, KBC continues to design its campaigns based on ‘collaborative inclusion’. Its campaign ideas continue to be positioned as those that empower the common man where nothing is irrelevant and everyone is special. As SapientNitro’s chief creative officer KV Sridhar puts it, it’s not easy to keep the standards high year after year. “Finding an issue and digging into an insight and coming up with a loftier ambition is a huge challenge. It’s heartening to see a brand picking up a burning and politically, not a popular, issue and evoking a national debate,” he says. Agrees Lowe’s national creative director Arun Iyer who says it is a “very relevant topic weaved into a nice story”. After all, it is not often that one sees an ad making such a strong statement about an issue that mainstream India may not even notice. No wonder that this ad was watched more than 1.3 lakh times within the first three days of its launch. According to the company, the ad was based on the insight that viewers remembered the winners and their stories, and not how much money they won. Well, this story will certainly be remembered for long.
Whisper: Girl (un)interrupted
Campaign: Touch The Pickle
Company: Proctor & Gamble India
Agency: BBDO India
The girl in the film touches a jar of pickle nonchalantly while looking for her keys. Her grandmother sees this and brings it to her notice. The girl touches the pickle again, this time purposefully, with a mischievous smile on her face suggesting that she dares to break free from this taboo. In the ensuing shots, the girl breaks one taboo after the other starting with wearing whites, going outdoors and even playing sports during her periods. All this while, she is encouraged by her grandmother and her friends as and when she breaks every one of these taboos.
Remember how your grandma scolded you every time you touched the pickle jar at that time of the month? Busting the age-old myth surrounding mensuration as something impure, this ad was one of the most powerful ads of this year. As our panelist, Sam Balsara, CMD of Madison World, points out, this was a terrific insight which propelled the brand .
Also, instead of tom-toming the benefits of using its product, the brand took the opportunity to celebrate the raison de etre of its existence, and thereby the millions of girls who are empowered to step out of the house unfettered with a little help from the product. Whisper is already the leading brand in the sanitary napkins segment, and with this ad it only reinforced its leadership position. Through the clarion call “She touched the pickle”, it encouraged people, especially teenaged girls, to talk about an issue that virtually rules their lives, but is considered to be unmentionable in polite society. Taking a step further, Whisper also rolled out a online movement titled #TouchThePickle to try and put an end to period taboos that still haunt many Indian women.
Durex: Dirty dancing
Campaign: Do the rex
Company: Reckitt Benckiser
Agency: Digitas Lbi
A peppy rap video featuring Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh. He gives a replicable signature dance move called ‘The Rex’, which, as he explains, is a physical expression of the joy and ecstasy one experiences after having a wonderful sexual experience. The two-minute and five-second video was first launched on the company’s page Durexindia.com/dotherex, and subsequently released on the brand’s YouTube channel.
‘Do the rex’ is a good idea born out a brand name. This ad stood out for the bold stance it took. Unlike the usual condom ads which either objectify women or talk about sex in an oblique way, this campaign took up the issue of safe sex head on, using the quirky side of Ranveer Singh to convey the ‘Have safe sex’ message to youngsters in a fun way. This was also the first time that a top Indian male actor is associated with a condom brand, and an unique example where a brand has made great use of a celebrity. Says Madison World’s CMD Sam Balsara, “While the treatment is not unique, the ad is quite entertaining and communicates the brand story in an interesting way.” Meenakshi Madhvani Menon, founder and chairperson, Spatial Access, puts it more succinctly when she says that the video is high octane, high energy and totally over the top but in a very frontbencher Bollywood way. “His energy and insouciance is what makes this film special. It has spawned a whole gamut of spoofs, proof that even the janta love this one,” she says. ”Audacious” is how Lowe’s NCD Arun Iyer put it. But it has certainly brought the condom category into the limelight. One of the biggest deterrents for growth has been inhibition, which stems from the way the category has been promoted. This video is expected to break those stereotypes and allow more conversations to take place around the product. According to a study by Durex, the brand’s market share as of November 2013 was four per cent. Team Durex is hopeful that Ranveer Singh’s rap will do both the brand and the category, a great service.
Nestle: A sweet deal
Campaign: Good food, good life
Company: Nestle India
Agency: McCann Erickson
This ad is about a little boy whose parents bring home an orphan girl and the insecurities he battles as he realises that the girl is now a member of his family. But as is wont, the two gradually bond over mischief and food, and become friendly. The ad film ends with a voice-over: “When goodness is shared over food, life smiles. That is why we mix goodness in all that we do. Nestle good food, good life.”
The core insight for this ad is really about how food is central to human bonding and social experience. By linking itself to this underlying category benefit, Nestlé looks bigger, more purposeful and more relevant to life than just being a food brand. And with a heart-warming storyline that treats the subject of adoption with much sensitivity, the brand emerges as the hero without the product being the hero or appearing all over the story. Rather, nowhere does any Nestle product make it appearance, and what we see is good wholesome good stored in old-world jars and canisters. As Meenakshi Madhvani Menon, founder and chairperson, Spatial Access says, the ad tackles truth with great sensitivity and builds food into the story as a wonderful bridge bringing the two together. The Indian touch to the ad is also noteworthy. Rather than showcasing a western style of living, the agency has provided an Indian touch to the house, especially the kitchen which also stores jars of pickles apart from biscuits and cookies. Even the way the children sleep with the parents is something that Indians can identify with. Instead of pitting Nestle’s products against the competition, the ad conveys the message that brand Nestle has a larger role to play in the life of Indians. With this ad, Nestle tries to move closer to the hearts and minds of Indian consumers by projecting the Indian-ness of the brand. The ad stands true to Nestle’s brand positioning of ‘Good food, good life’ and also provides a glimpse of what the brand will stand for in the future.
Raymond: Daddy cool
Campaign: The Complete Man – Being There and Letting Go
Company: Raymond Group
Agency: Famous Innovations
The ad captures the emotions of a middle-aged father towards his adolescent daughter. It tries to capture that fateful moment when he is faced with the reality that one day he has to let go of his little girl, who will inevitably be making her own way into the wide world without holding on to him. A second film in the series has also drawn much attention from our panelists. The film features a young working couple, who are also parents to a little baby. In the ad, the husband volunteers to stay home and take care of the baby so that his wife can meet her professional commitments. .
Raymond’s brand proposition has always been ‘The Complete Man’ and these two ads with their refreshing insights add to the relevance of this brand proposition in today’s context. If some years back, a Raymond ad showed a father giving away his daughter in marriage, this ad underlines the new reality of acknowledging that today’s teenager becomes independent much earlier. For SapientNitro’s KV Sridhar, this is the most sensitive of all the ads. “This one puts the brand back to where it belongs. Perfect. Flawless. If you have a teenage daughter you understand what it means to let a teenage girl go on her own especially protective fathers. This one stuck a deep chord with me,” he says. Agrees Meenakshi Madhvani Menon, who says its true Raymond heartland.
The second ad highlights the slowly changing equation between husband and wife and brings out well the sensitive nature of the complete man. The unique situation of the husband deciding to stay at home while the wife goes to work, is relevant today and wouldn’t have worked for an older generation. While the ad is typically Raymond in its style and treatment, it is for today’s evolved complete man in the age group of 35-plus, Raymond’s target audience.
Tanishq: Small is beautiful
Campaign: Sunheri Diwali
Company: Titan Industries
Agency: Lowe Lintas & Partners
A young man has bought a small pendant for his mother but when he sees his mother euphoric about the grand necklace that his father has gifted her, he hesitates to approach her. He, nevertheless, gifts it to her saying it is from his Diwali bonus. The mother played by Tanvi Azmi, is now all emotional and goes on to wear the smaller pendant gifted by him. A voice-over states, ‘Chota Ho Ya Bada, Is Diwali Ko Sone Se Sajae’.
With the sky-rocketing price of gold, Tanishq needed to bring back the customers. And what best but to remind them that small is beautiful and meaningful too. Released just ahead of Diwali, the aim was to shift poor consumer sentiment with the power of emotions. And this the film did as it beautifully captured the tender feelings between a mother and a son. Says Meenakshi Menon, founder and chairperson, Spatial Access and one of our jury members, “It’s a great example of a film that touches you emotionally .regardless of who are you. It’s a lovely story and the acting is really good.”
Airtel: Who’s the boss?
Campaign: The Smartphone Network
Company: Bharti Airtel
Agency: Taproot India
The film opens with a lady sitting in her office talking to her team. She firmly tells them that a particular assignment has to be completed by the end of the day, over-ruling all protests from her team members. She is then seen leaving office in her chauffeur-driven car. On the way, she calls up her husband and asks him what he would like for dinner. On reaching home, she quickly makes a dish meal and calls her husband to come home soon, trying to convince him with a video of the sumptuous dish that is laid out on the table. The twist in the tale is now revealed as we see her husband as the same man who is part of the team working late picking up her call.
It’s not every day that you see an ad getting people all worked up. Social media was abuzz with viewers debating the positives and negatives of this ad, calling it ‘sexist’, ‘modern’, ‘retrograde’, ‘realistic’ and so on. Airtel has had the reputation of coming out with brand campaigns that get people talking (pun intended), and we certainly saw the airwaves crackling with this one. “The smartphone network finds a place, effortlessly, in today’s relationships. This was an ad that generated a lot of talk, perfect for a phone network,” says Rohit Ohri, executive chairman, Dentsu India and CEO, Dentsu Asia Pacific (South). With this ad the Airtel brand positioned itself as the leader marking out a new path for itself. “The ad brings out the character of the new Indian urban young woman and demonstrates the power and convenience of data offered by Airtel,” says our panelist Sam Balsara. “A new twist not often seen on television.”
What is actually pertinent but gets lost in the din is Airtel’s subtle reworking of its target group. If Airtel was seen as a youth brand after its hugely popular ‘Har ek friend zaroori hai’ campaign, with this ad it went after a new set of customers. This time, Airtel is talking to the older, well-heeled audience instead of the youth—the target group that uses the smartphone without keeping a constant eye on the bills.
Fortune oil: Food for the soul
Campaign: Ghar ka khana
Brand: Fortune Oil
Company: Adani Wilmar
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather
The four-and-a-half minute long film revolves around the love of a grandmother who has resolved to feed her bedridden grandson at the hospital home-cooked dal (lentil). Trying every trick in the book – anecdotes, flattery, humour, anger to convince the nurse, she finally gets the nurse to agree. And lo and behold! The grandson gulps down the dal. Satisfied, the old lady kisses him as the film ends with a brand message ‘Ghar ka khana, ghar ka khana hota hai’.
This ad makes you nod, smile and cry all at once, says panelist KV Sridhar. Another of those long format films this year, the ad is a brilliant piece of story-telling, well cast and directed. A clutter breaking piece of communication, the story and the warm feelings it evokes remains in your mind long after it has been seen. The execution is clean and focussed on the story. The direction, the performances, the background score, the sets – everything is perfectly understated, allowing the heart wrenching story that is being played out to take centre stage. Built around the insight that home cooked food towers above the best of scientifically prepared food, it resonates in every heart, thus giving the ad high recall value. While many may contend it is too long a story to hold the interest of the young viewer, the superb acting – the old lady grimacing, the exasperation on the nurse’s face, the defeated gait of the old lady as she walks way and the spring in her step every morning — is worth the time spent watching the ad.