Most industry watchers recall old commercials as their favourites, including the Egg, Bus, Moochwali and Vagabond ads or the Fisherman ad for Fevikwik.
By Venkata Susmita Biswas
In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described India’s friendship with Japan thus: “Yeh Fevicol se bhi zyada mazboot jod hai”. Adhesive brand Fevicol, oft quoted as a metaphor for stickiness or for things that don’t budge, has become a ‘senior citizen’ this year – 2019 marks 60 years of the brand’s existence.
In marketing hallways though, Fevicol is still perceived to be a youthful, irreverent, cheeky brand, largely due to its advertising over the years. To mark its 60 year anniversary, its agency Ogilvy India recently released a 90-second TV commercial.
“Fevicol is no longer just a brand or an adhesive that sticks two surfaces together. It has become an adjective,” said Bharat Puri, MD, Pidilite Industries. The company aims to spend around Rs 20 crore on media buying to push its 60-year anniversary ad. The commercial, which follows the journey of a two-seater wooden sofa over 60 years, will be aired in seven languages (Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu and Tamil). It has been directed by Prasoon Pandey of Corcoise Films who has also written the song for it, whereas the ad concept has been created by Ogilvy’s worldwide chief creative officer Piyush Pandey.
Even though the 15-second ad has become the gold standard for TV advertising, both Ogilvy and Pidilite decided to air the full length 90-seconder on television. Furthermore, the ad will also be placed as a content piece alongside video content on OTT platforms like Hotstar, SonyLiv, Zee5, etc. While Ogilvy had been Pidilite’s creative agency since the mid-1970s, it was in 1989 that Piyush Pandey took on the reins for its creative execution, giving the brand a unique voice and treatment with a grassroots appeal in an otherwise banal, low-involvement category.
Pandey was handed the “boring” B2B account with a brief to create a Hindi radio spot for Fevitite, a Fevicol sub-brand. This was around the time when the brand was shifting focus from trade advertising to consumer advertising. Pidilite later wanted the radio ad to be turned into a TVC. Full of trepidation, Pandey showcased the ad to BK Parekh, the founder of Pidilite Industries, who eventually got it reshot for
Fevicol because “a small sub-brand could not do justice to the idea”, in the words of Parekh. The secret to Fevicol’s memorable ads, Puri says, is in “staying rooted but contemporary”. This is why the legacy brand has a social media profile (handled by digital agency Schabang) that picks up on the latest trends and memes.
Despite the theme of ‘bonding’ that lends itself to social issues, the brand has stayed away from social commentary. “Fevicol ads touch your heart and make you smile. We have always made sure that we don’t get into commenting on binding the nation together in any fashion. Instead, we pick up cultural flavours of the nation for our ads,” said Piyush Pandey. He further adds that Fevicol’s commercials transcend languages and are submitted to the jury at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity without subtitles.
The brand, which owns about 70% of the adhesive market share, tends to refresh its communication every year. “Paradoxically, it’s always the same ad, but it does not repeat itself,” said Pandey.
However, Fevicol has been criticised for sub-standard advertising in more recent times. Most industry watchers recall old commercials as their favourites, including the Egg, Bus, Moochwali and Vagabond ads or the Fisherman ad for Fevikwik.
“The brand and its agency have set the benchmark very high for themselves with their early ads. It is quite a challenge to keep improving upon perfection,” said Prathap Suthan, managing partner and CCO, Bang in the Middle. He wishes the brand advertised more, at least during big ticket events. Interestingly, the brand did advertise during the IPL in 2018, but it doesn’t seem to have had the same recall as older Fevicol ads.
Narayan Devanathan, group executive and strategy officer, Dentsu Aegis Network South Asia, isn’t too worried about the current avatar of Fevicol not living up to its own past lineage. “The proof that Fevicol is able to navigate the challenges of being a market leader is that I still can’t name a competitor of Fevicol’s. I’m sure there are some, but I can’t recall a single one.”