Summer blaze, cold wars

Written by Geeta Rao | Updated: May 5 2005, 06:09am hrs
The summer blaze follows a simple trajectory as far as advertising is concerned. The hotter the blaze the colder the wars. This is the crazy season as far as an entire range of coolers are concerned. Coolers could be anything. The same principles of communication apply. So you could be marketing Switzerland or Shimla, iced tea or iced coffee, soft drinks or fizzies, ice-creams or ice skating, airconditioners or cooling systemsthe imagery and the communication takes on a whole new seasonal dimension. The heat and the holiday mood make the demands on communication amply clearentertain or else.

The colas are usually the first to kick off the first gleam of the summer holidays. Frothy and fun they usually lead to heated debates on who scored over whom in communication. The debate is not just restricted to advertising agencies and marketing teams. It is a hotly debated topic on the net, in chat rooms and in opinion polls.

This year to add some more fizz to the debate, a slew of stars has been unleashed into the fray. Some stars feature in double roles to double up our viewing pleasure. Wherever you look stars are running amok across soft drink advertising. Akshay Kumar in Thums up, Shah Rukh Khan in Pepsi, Aamir Khan in Coke, Hrithik in Rasna, and Rani Mukherji in the Fanta commercials. Will the stars reign and will the cola wars ensure that one falls by the wayside at the expense of the other

Coke and Pepsi have been traditional rivals. One of the reasons has been that for a long time we heard that India was the only country in the world where Pepsi outsold Coke. I dont know if the current numbers will stand up to scrutiny but that has often been cited as the reason for Pepsis high visibility in India.

Right now Pepsi has been quick off the mark with Hello Bubbly. The jingle is catchy, trendy and hummable. Score one for Pepsi. I am not sure how I feel about animated tongues, lips, navels and pockets and innumerable animation techniques vying with each other to be cool. But teenagers arent complaining. And the song is being hummed. Shah Rukh is cool, that is an established fact although Pepsis strategy of straddling its communication across several starsAmitabh, Saif, Preity and Shah Rukh ensures that no star is singled out as the face of Pepsi. As a result the brand is bigger than the star.

Coke, on the other hand, has used Aamir Khan as its face. Or Aamir Khan in different renditions has wily nily become the face of Coke. Aishwarya Rai and Vivek Oberoi are on the Coke wagon too, but it is Aamir who stands out. Aamir has proven he is mass cool too with a series of commercials featuring him as every cliched rendition of the common man from every Indian state and every Indian stereotype.

This time it is Aamir in drag as Manno aunty that is the star turn of the commercial. Aamir also features as the NRI groom. Aamir makes for a beautiful Manno aunty and plays the role to the hilt. My issue with it is that the commercial is too much about Aamir and not so much about Coke. So score one for Aamir, but the situation is a cliche. Even though it is meant to be a spoof of a cliche, it tries too hard.

What will Aamir do for Coke this time around Coke is aiming to be mass cool while Pepsi has stuck to being youth cool. Over the years, Pepsi has developed the more meaningful linesdil maange more, nothing official about it and so on. Coke has struggled in the past but has steadied with its chat room commercials featuring Aamir khan and Aishwarya Rai and then its thanda matlab Coke campaign. Drag queens vs animated navelsit is a tough choice for the viewer.

But it is only the beginning of summer. To keep our cool I have no doubt both Coke and Pepsi will have newer fizzier renditions through May and June. But right now, I am veering towards that eminently hummable Hello Bubbly. It is too early for sales graphs to show us whose advertising scored better. At the beginning of the summer holiday, despite being loyal Coke drinker I vote for Pepsi.

The writer is CEO, Paradigm Shift, and creative advisor, Saatchi & Saatchi Advt