SHOCK THERAPY

Written by Payal Khandelwal | Updated: Feb 28 2012, 10:44am hrs
Making the Headlines

Campaign: Stay ahead of the times

Brand: The Hindu

Company: The Hindu

Agency: Ogilvy India

Ratings: **

The Campaign:

The background story behind this ad is The Times of India's campaign in Chennai launched in November last year which asked readers to stay awake and not sleep because of the boring daily they read. ToI was clearly taking a potshot at The Hindu. The Hindu decided to get back with its 'Stay ahead of the Times' campaign in which ToI readers were shown to have no knowledge of current affairs but for non-serious issues such as the nickname of a Bollywood star.

Expert Take:

Rediffusion Y&Rs Mann maintains that direct face-offs between rival brands are quite entertaining as these are witty and fun but taking potshots at eachother may not work for newspapers as their readership is quite loyal and not easy to shake.

"The cola war between Coca-Cola and Pepsi has probably been one of the most talked about series in this context and those ads were, indeed, interesting. But I have my doubts about the campaign in question. Newspapers are the most habit-bound of categories and it's very difficult to change habits in this space. I would assume the task here is more to reassure The Hindu readers about their intelligent choice, and for ToI to perhaps chip away at the Chennai newspaper's reader bank by appealing to recent migrants. And to that extent the campaign would have worked, she says.

Ignite Mudras Ravinder Siwach, however, gives full marks to The Hindu ad. I heard a resounding touche when this ad was aired. It definitely works for The Hindu. The fact presented in The Hindu ad is undeniable and honestly, makes you wonder about what we read in the name of news. I am sure it had viewers wondering if they knew the correct answer to all the questions. The ad raised a relevant question, and answered it too. Hope The Hindu will follow it through for a while.

Cheil Worldwides Varun Arora loves The Hindus response to TOIs commercial. More so, because theres some product truth in the campaign, he adds.

Our Take:

The Times of India is seen as a bold and outgoing brand. The group has perfected the art of selling and is known for its innovative communications. The Hindu belongs to a different genre; it has all along been a conservative brand. But this campaign reflected a departure from the past. The Hindu hit ToI's weakest spot and came out a winner. It clearly beat ToI at its own game but whether it will be able to sustain this aggression remains to be seen.

Angels of Peace

Campaign: Unhate

Brand: United Colors of Benetton

Company: United Colors of Benetton

Agency: 72andsunny (Amsterdam)

Ratings: *****

The Campaign:

This campaign shocked one and all by showing world leaders, supposed to be adversaries in real life, in a lip-lock. Those whose doctored pictures were used for the campaign included the Pope and an Egyptian imam, Barack Obama and Hu Jintao, and Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. The idea, according to the brand, was to spread the message of love.

Expert Take:

According to Ignite Mudras Siwach, this is definitely the boldest peace message we have seen in recent times. And the message is loud, clear and hard to ignore. Thats good for a brand, especially when it is no longer as top of mind a brand as it used to be. Could a nice nice ad do all this I doubt it. Its gay Thats exactly why.

Says Mann, Shock ads have long been a part of Benetton's publicity strategy, with famous past campaigns featuring death row inmates and people dying of AIDS. And Benetton has been keen to perpetuate its image of a bunch of radicals who believes it can change the way the world coexists. The smooching world leaders, scoring immensely in shock value, are a tad creepy. Anything less would not have had the impact. But would this campaign sell more sweaters Unlikely. But thats not what its intended for anyway.

Arora thinks that the campaign totally works. Benetton is in familiar terrain here since they already did an ad in which a nun kissed a priest. Nothing new, still catches the eye, he says.

Our Take:

One of the best examples of shocking ads, this campaign blends well with the brand imagery of being radical and bold. The campaign managed to grab a huge number of eyeballs, create controversy and trigger opinions and discussions. Most Benetton campaigns have gone through this, intentionally. The campaign is striking and surely works for the brand.

Whitewashed!

Campaign: Tide se kahi behtar safedi de

Brand: Rin

Company: Hindustan Unilever Ltd

Agency: JWT India

Ratings: **

The Campaign:

The ad shows two women waiting to pick up their respective children. One of them is carrying a Tide packet and boasts about its good aroma and cleaning ability. When the children come, she is shocked by the superior whiteness of the other woman's kid's shirt. The ad ends with the voiceover: 'Tide se kahi behtar safedi de' (Gives a better white than Tide).

Expert Take:

Says Ignite Mudras Ravinder Siwach, This isnt allowed in our country. So I believe, Rin was prepared to take a measured risk. By the time it was taken off air, it had done the damage. How much damage could that be though, I wonder. You are still saying washes whiter than the other bar, only this time you are also showing the other bar. Big deal. And by the way, the other shirt is cream in colour. The consumer is your wife and even direct comparison wont make her a moron.

Rediffusion Y&Rs Mann says globally, comparative ads have been around for decades. They appeal to our Indian voyeuristic tendencies of enjoying a fight. The Hindu-TOI fight and Bajaj Discover are perhaps the most recent ones to indulge in this form of advertising. But the Rin ad falters in terms of being witty enough to inspire repeat viewing. Also breaking the norm of 'thou shalt not name thy enemy' has more shock value where the marketers are concerned than the viewers.

Says Cheil Worldwides Arora, A very old formula (no pun intended) for detergent ads. Nothing new from Rin as well. The brand has been built on, Bhala uski kameez meri kameez se safed kaise! HUL needs to move to this century.

Our Take:

This ad blatantly shows its rival brand (without even pixelating it) and actually uses the name in the final voiceover. There have been comparative ads in the past but this one is unusual as it doesn't bother to hide or blur the competitor's name. As expected, it caught the Advertising Standards Council of Indias eye and was soon off the air. However, it managed to attract a phenomenal number of eyeballs because of its great timing (a long weekend). If that was part of the media strategy, it worked. Beyond that We dont think so.

Guiding Light

Campaign: Hangman

Brand: Havells CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps)

Company: Havells India

Agency: Lowe

Ratings: ****

The Campaign:

The film shows how a hangman who feels guilty after an execution and tries to make up for it by switching on the CFL bulb at his home to save electricity. The voiceover says, 'Zindagi main hum sabko paap karna padta hai, kuchh to punya kama sakte hai, bijli bacha ke' (We all sin in life, but some redemption can be found by saving electricity).

Expert Take:

Ignite Mudras Siwach thinks that the premise here fails. The logic of the ad is, we all commit some sins and hence we must save some electricity'. Sorry! I swear I have committed some sins but most of them when lights were off and for the ones when lights were on, I didnt use any extra electricity. So why must my penance be to save electricity Speaking of sins, accepting and giving bribes is a lot more commonplace than hanging people. Those who made this one, by their own logic, must save some electricity though.

Says Rediffusion Y&Rs Mann, The hangman ad is a true clutter breaker. The candidness of the shooting style, the character that plays the hangman, the starkness of the professions portrayal, does complete justice to the plot. I admired the ad for its boldness and choice of subject. Of course, it is a bit of an exaggeration to show that the guilt of a hangman can be appeased by switching on a CFL bulb, there is very little that can do that, which is why we have such few hangmen left in India. But, all in all, the ad did make you stop in your tracks and look at CFL bulbs as something more than a mere cost-saving choice.

Our Take:

When this ad was released in 2010, it courted a decent amount of controversy and was dubbed as one of the darkest ads in Indian advertising. A few industry people found it edgy, clutter breaking and some found it bizarre and too dark for the category. The ad is, in fact, shocking in terms of its subject and the exaggeration of its conclusion and proposition. However, it does manage to create brand recall in a difficult category.

Blood, Sweat and Tears

Campaign: Martyr

Brand: Corporate Chhattisgarh

Company: Corporate Chhattisgarh

Agency: Ogilvy India

Ratungs: ****

The Campaign:

The campaign questions terrorism based on religious faith in Chhattisgarh. The print ads carry messages such as If

faith can truly move mountains, doesnt using RDX to massacre mere humans denote a certain lack of faith, Just what if after the successful completion of your suicide bombing mission you discover God doesnt exist, and If dying for your faith makes you a martyr, what does it makes those whom you killed for your faith. These are written on various places in red, indicating blood, accompanied by gory images.

Expert Take:

Ignite Mudras Siwach thinks that the question asked in the ad is pertinent. The imagery is gory. This wont let you turn the page easily. And that works for the ad. You would rather show the ghastliness of it point blank than say make love not war. To that extent, it brings the point home. The issue being addressed however, is a complex one. Will it make a misguided youth think about it Sure. Could it have stopped Ajmal Kasab No.

Cheil Worldwides Arora calls it a very simple and provocative ad.

Our Take:

The ad is stark, bold. gory and shocking and fits perfectly well with the subject that it handles. It works.