06 May 2020 16:51:22 IST

Do you have a treasure in your archives?

Every agency has a winning ad from the not-too-distant past, and now may be the time to revive it

Even as clients are trying to stay afloat in these testing times with various measures of economising, including salary cuts,downsizing, and budget cuts, reduction in agency fees, invoking of force majeure clauses, and so on, I was wondering if there is something they have easy recourse to, that may have a dramatic positive impact.

Not surprisingly, there has been a phenomenal response to Ramayan on Doordarshan, where grandchildren (for once) are sitting and watching with their grandparents the exploits of Hanuman. The generation that grew up on Playstation has suddenly realised what made their grandparents tick!

Of course, Doordarshan might have missed a trick in not doing digital remastering or language adaptations, but perhaps that’s asking for too much from an organisation created with a different objective. Be that as it may, Doordarshan is now going retro and rerunning all its old hits. This led me to wonder why brands cannot usefully bring back some of their old commercials. Customers might actually prefer those to what’s currently running and, more importantly, they could save lots of money in not having to produce fresh commercials.

What is this Daag ?

I have always been a great admirer of Surf Excel and its advertising, right from the Lalitaji days. Am I the only one who believes that the earlier Surf Excel advertising is streets ahead of the current lot? Let me take you back in time to this endearing commercial of a brother and sister getting thoroughly drenched in slush and who gives a damn about the daag ? Daag Acche Hai ! Here’s a look at the commercial:


What’s to prevent Hindustan Unilever from running this commercial now? Yes the positioning is slightly different but the brand promise has not changed over the years so why not research it with today’s customers? There’s a strong chance it will work.

Lauki, Kal Bhi Aaj Bhi

As families are stuck in their houses without the maids, who are enjoying a well-earned rest, most food is dull, bland and repetitive. Don’t for a moment get fooled by those creative recipes on social media that everyone seems to be dishing out day after day. This is like a lady in make-up! The refrigerator is brimming with week-old stuff and recycling is the name of the game. It is in this context that I recalled the lauki commercial of Dairy Milk. Here it is, in case you have forgotten it.


Perfectly relevant in my house at least, where one enters the dining room with trepidation, wondering what’s in store and constantly looking for bailouts!

Liril and the girl in the waterfall

I have written reams about the original Liril commercial and the girl in the waterfall and the tremendous brand properties it created like the girl, the waterfall, freshness, lime, Alyque…. Here’s the original masterpiece:


The brand did multiple executions over the years, though these properties only served to stifle the brand, forcing it to move to the desert and even to Iceland! The brand’s advertising became increasingly less interesting and finally came a full circle, when the agency reshot the old commercial afresh with a new model, as you can see here….


So where’s the treasure?

Mind you, I have just given a couple of examples and if brand managers checked out their past history with a fine-tooth comb, they would definitely unearth winners for their brand and, most importantly, many would still work and be relevant for their target audience. So why am I saying this?

Clients and agencies get tired of their advertising long before their customers do. It is part of advertising folklore that when Duracell did research years after changing the advertising, people still recalled the energizer bunny, forcing them to go back.

So, agencies may try to do more commercials that are based on brand ideas and consumer insights, and not merely on current technological fads or gimmicks.

Also, don’t try to ride the topicality wave, as your commercial will have a limited shelf-life.

We do talk about the changing consumer, but one wonders if basic emotions like love, envy, respect for elders, and so on, change.

And finally, many of us are caught up in our own jargon trap. Can customers really figure out the fine-tuned positioning differences that we try to show over the years in different executions and, more importantly, do they care?

While I don’t want to end with the cliché ‘old is gold’, I still want to maintain that we probably have a winner in our midst from the not-too-distant past. Are you looking hard enough for it?