As India braces itself for another blistering summer, I am reminded of a time long ago — over 25 years ago — when a company based in Ahmedabad would feverishly prepare itself for the peak season. It was marketing a famous brand of soft drink concentrate back then, called Rasna, that many middle class Indians grew up and slurped on.
Although I had nothing to do with those commercials, which were path-breaking, I was one of the several Mudra employees who basked in the glory of our Ahmedabad office’s creative. Crucial to the success of these commercials was a cute, cuddly girl who eyeballed the camera and said “I love you Rasna”!
The entire India wholeheartedly accepted the adorable little girl and I’m sure many parents wanted their children to be like her. Here is one of the many ads that featured this much-loved child in the late 1980s and 1990s. She had become Rasna’s brand property and was always mentioned when research was done on the brand.
Fair or Lovely or both?
Another brand that I have always admired (though never used) is Fair & Lovely. It has often caught the attention of activists and young girls who wish to appear fairer than they actually are.
It has been a bestseller for Hindustan Unilever, irrespective of what the detractors of the brand have to say, as the advertising has always appealed to middle-class women. One of the constants of Fair & Lovely advertising in recent times has been Yami Gautam.
She also featured in a recent Bollywood film. While that may or may not have helped the brand, there is no denying the fact that this model is a constant feature in the brand’s advertising and will surely be recalled by consumers.
The Airtel girl
Not too long ago, Airtel launched a high decibel campaign for its 4G offering, with a series of commercials. They were on different themes and had multiple creative executions, all of which featured a model who beamed at us from TV screens, newspapers and hoardings all over India.
The model, Sasha Chettri, talks to a variety of people on the features of 4G and its speed; she travels all around the countryside, goes to villages in bullock carts, holidays in the Himalayas and claims that 4G works extremely well, wherever you go. While one can quibble about the veracity of the claims, there is no doubt that the girl’s image is strongly associated with Airtel 4G.
It was in this context, therefore, that I was a bit bemused when I saw this commercial for Quick Heal, an anti-virus solutions brand, featuring Sasha Chettri! In the ad, she tells a group of youngsters about the various types of viruses their smartphones are vulnerable to. More intriguingly, the setting and the script of the commercial is very similar to that of Airtel.
I have always maintained that our advertising creative executives don’t seem to watch enough of other Indian advertising, which explains the similarity between advertising and scripts across categories, to say nothing about the choice of models.
Keep your eyes open
The reality is that most advertising professionals seem to have a very poor view of other ads produced in India. Hence, they consider it beneath their dignity to watch advertisements created by others. This places a greater responsibility on clients to ensure that their own advertising stands out and is easily differentiated.
One of the easiest ways to not get lost in the crowd is to use a unique and recognisable model, just as Fair & Lovely, Airtel and Rasna have done. While it is difficult to ensure that models are not used in multiple categories, it is certainly within your power to look for models who are not overused, and try to appropriate them for your own brand.
Yes, small things can make a big difference, if only you put in the hard yards. Are you ready?