Thursday, October 26, 2006


If you really wish to recreate the wheel, go ahead, give it your best shot... Or better, learn world class ad-making from history books

All of us remember the good old memories of how we used to curl up in bed at night and mom used to read out amazing stories, transporting us instantly into a different magical world every night. It’s said the learning process of a child starts when he hears the world-famous words “Once upon a time...” from his grandmother/father. “Once upon a time...” is actually a simplistic way of narrating history to children and everyone knows the study of history is important. It teaches us a lot!

History gives us our “Today”. It is a collection of experiences and perceptions. Time waits for none, moments keep passing and there is absolutely no way of going back. Once time has passed, all that remains are our perceptions. History itself is our collective perception of the past. It helps to keep in mind our past. Not just do we learn from others’ mistakes, we learn from their achievements too. As in other fields, so too in advertising, it always pays to pause and look back to see what we can learn from the campaigns of yesteryears. If history is a collection of perceptions, then creativity is the ability to grasp, to perceive emotions and thoughts, and to communicate this perception successfully.

The best gems of advertising excellence can be found in our backyards itself. From Leela Chitnis – India’s first brand ambassador – to Shah Rukh Khan – India’s current heartthrob – Lux has managed to remain a household name and outlasted many soaps. Great brands are built through great advertising campaigns. As each Bollywood beauty queen disclosed her “khubsuratee ka raaz” (her beauty secret), advertisers discovered a few secrets of making successful long-lasting campaigns.

Lalitaji showed her “samajhdari” in buying Surf and Surf has continued to benefit from her wisdom. She may no more be there, on our TV screens, but just as the then housewives used to identify with her and Surf, the modern homemaker continues to identify with the brand and says confidently “Daag achche hai.” Surf has continued to win all kinds of brand wars, price wars and still managed to hold its turf. Afterall, “Campaign achcha hai”!! In 2002 “India” was repackaged and relaunched in the world market. Through the “Incredible India” campaign, travellers once again started trotting back to India to discover the different aspects of Indian culture, yoga and spirituality – as was portrayed in the advertisements. The efforts were good and incredibly rewarding. Thumbelina, princess of Indian advertising – the girl in the polka dotted frock – needs no introduction. Amul has a masterpiece of a campaign, which has ensured that the only brand to be consistently found on almost every Indian’s breakfast table is Amul Butter. The ad agency sure knows which side of the bread is buttered!!

It was the itsy... bitsy...teeny... weenie green bikini, which raked in the moolah for Liril. From Karen Lunel to Preity Zinta, all have been Liril girls helping to make it the strongest brand.

And who could have thought that devils could be used as brand ambassadors! However, it’s the green horned devil who made Onida TV a neighbour’s envy and owner’s pride. Today, the devil is back, albeit in a new avatar, but has managed to make people take notice of him and his product once again.

“There are three things in the world every person can do better than anyone else. One is to coach football; second is to judge a beauty contest. And the third, is to write advertising,” said someone a long time ago. However, what is it that makes some campaigns so successful and others totally forgettable? Why are there some ads that make a whole nation hum their tune (remember the Lifebuoy jingle, “Tandurusti ki raksha karta hai Lifebuoy”)? What is it that made us smile for years every time the little girl came on our TV screens and said, “I love you Rasna.”


K.I.S.S. Keep it Short and Simple. Yes, kiss-n-tell seems to be the magic mantra, which has kept so many campaigns going on and on for years. A message that is simple to understand.

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln was invited to make a speech at Gettysburg to honour all those who had given their lives in the war. There are very few speeches that are as loved as the prose poem Abraham Lincoln delivered that day. What’s important to note is that on that day, Edward Everett, the nation’s foremost rhetorician, too spoke for two hours. His speech was long forgotten. Lincoln’s speech is the pristine example of simplicity and clarity. It is the best example of what clear and concise writing can do for you. Complicated messages confuse people and they ignore your whole message. A simple punchline, a simple jingle, is more effective and memorable and likeable.


A good campaign is one that can go on and on. Cigarette advertising is banned, but we still remember the “Made for each other” campaign of Wills. The illustration has remained almost unchanged, still it’s managed to retain its freshness.

The advertisements of Absolut Vodka can go on and on forever. It is this campaign which changed the face of magazine advertising almost single-handedly. The campaign ran for 25 years. There were 1,500 versions of print ads built around the shape of its bottle. Now, that’s a lot! The idea behind the campaign was such that its creators could go on and on with innumerable innovations. Hence, while working on an advertising campaign, the most critical part is deciding the campaign theme. An interesting yet, simple theme is what will guarantee the longevity of the campaign.


A good idea with a dash of humour is a lethal combination. The Chloromint ads have made it very clear what a good laugh can do for your brand. Dubaara mat poochhna!

The bottom line is: The ad should not just sell the product, it should also be enjoyable to watch again and again. You could make it interesting by using cute faces, good music, funny situations, or even emotions. In the Cadbury chocolate advertisement, the impromptu jig done by the girl on the cricket stadium after her boyfriend scores a six, made many smile and feel good. The little Hutch boy and his cute dog made you want the ad to go on forever. The fun and carefree lives of young boys and girls, and also the music in Bacardi advertisements make you want to dance with them, too. The advertisements for Titan watches filled many eyes with tears.

When you can strike a chord with the audience, they not just love your advertisement, but also your product. Some images and icons are just instant successes because they are quickly endeared by all. Take the case of the Air India Maharaja – who was the loving mascot of our national carrier. The Pillsbury dough boy was loved by adults and children alike. Ronald McDonald is an integral part of McDonald’s advertising campaign. Charlie Chaplin became synonymous with Cherry Blossom. He brought about an added dimension of fun to the product. Sometimes, the success of an advertising campaign is simply determined by the jingles used, or even by the characters that we use – real, fictional or cartoon. The viewer then surely connects more easily to the respective brand.

It’s only when you enjoy something and it touches your heart, do you want to watch it again & again. No wonder, even today you enjoy the moves of The Sound of Music. It has no special effects, no item numbers, but just a good story told well. When you create an advertisement, remember to take a look at what the gurus had done in the past. You would know immediately what works & will sustain and what will not.

Times may have changed, but our basic feelings have not changed much. We still cry a laugh at the same things today as our ancestors did yesterday. Some success mantras just never fail to work. So go down the memory lane and take a look at the ad campaigns gone by, and you can get your own winning idea. Many of the ad campaigns are not running anymore, however, they have left an indelible mark on us. They are valuable sources of ideas. They will always teach us a lot. So don’t forget them. It’s true that we will always learn a lot from history. So don’t say goodbye to yesterday.

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