brand Pepsi is moving forward on the Youngistaan route. PepsiCo's relatively new brand ambassador, MS Dhoni, has made his second appearance for Pepsi in its new TV commercial. The cricketer's story of not being good in his studies will find a number of takers, especially among the youth and children.
The film takes off with Dhoni getting hauled up by his teacher in college for not being up to the mark. He goes into introspective mode, musing that there is no life without 'padhai' (study). His field of study, he says out aloud, was cricket and he studied every detail of the game. As a cricketer, he studied the pitch and the minds of his team members, and as a batsman, he studied the minds of the bowlers.
Sreesanth waltzes in at that point and makes him confess that he hasn't been able to study the latter yet. Dhoni signs off saying, "Padhai chahe kuchch bhi ho, life main pyaas honi chahiye (Whatever your subject of study, there should be thirst in your life)."
Hari Krishnan, vice-president, JWT, Pepsi's creative agency, says the concept of Youngistaan has seeded into the young souls of India. "Youngistaan is a philosophy, a way of life. In that context, the campaign has achieved its objective. This commercial takes it a step further. The youth are judged by what they do and society accepts a select few things as good career options. This film encourages the youth to do whatever they like with passion, stressing that education is not necessarily restricted to conventional studies."
In Dhoni's first appearance for Pepsi, the Jharkhandi cricketer was made over as a South Indian, in typical Rajnikanth style. The ad was timed for the DLF Indian Premier League in April.
When asked which of the two brand ambassadors - Dhoni and actor Ranbir Kapoor - represents young India better, Krishnan says diplomatically, "Both are equally befitting as brand endorsers, but it would be difficult to judge between them because they belong to different platforms - Dhoni to cricket and Kapoor to entertainment. Dhoni is experienced in his arena, while Kapoor is still gearing up, but he is definitely getting there."
Among the peer group, Thomas Xavier, chairman and national creative director, Orchard, analyses the ad in detail: "Now that schools and colleges have reopened, I think Pepsi has tried to create an ad to ride on what is top of mind for kids now - studies! As a strategy, I like this positive opportunism on the part of Pepsi. Picking Dhoni (and not Kapoor) is also apt because sports is definitely a more acceptable reason to flunk in one's studies than acting."
"I sort of like the script, but not the final commercial so much because the script just sticks out too much. By that I mean that whatever emotional impact one feels comes from the scripted words and not from the performances. That is the usual problem when we cast sport celebrities in speaking roles. They are too focussed on getting the lines right. The ad's creators could have avoided what has become a cliché - ribbing Sreesanth for his dancing," explains Xavier.
His final take: "Finally, why is Pepsi just a prop? Where is it pushing the narrative forward? Why can't this be a film for Reebok with the product shots replaced? The line about 'pyaas' is just not enough. Overall, another average Pepsi ad. Anyway, I hate advertising which has celebrities giving you 'gyan' about life. Let me tell you what I want see for Pepsi. I want to see an ad that makes me THIRST for Pepsi!"
Sandipan Bhattacharyya, executive creative director, BBDO, believes that the ad delivers what it is supposed to, but is not among the brand's most memorable ads.
"The celebrity layer makes the brand more mass and popular. This film resonates with the Youngistaan concept and is in continuation. The construct is not new - we have seen Dhoni in a similar situation in the 7Up Aur Main Bann Gaya Dhoni film in 2007 and in the Dhoni and Shah Rukh Khan Videocon TVC, which talked about embracing whatever role life offers you. The ad for Kaun Banega Crorepati 3 depicted Shah Rukh's life. These ads have already used this construct - the same character in the same situation about not being good at a particular thing and opting for an alternative. As long there is no fatigue level, I guess it could work," says Bhattacharyya.
Sainath Saraban, executive creative director, Leo Burnett Delhi, agrees with Bhattacharyya. He says, "I've been observing the Youngistaan work since it began. Thankfully, this one is much better than the first few Youngistaan ads. There is a clear Youngistaan message here - about not sticking to conventions to get to where you want. The first few ads were just trying to be smart. This one seems to have purpose."
Saraban says further, "The good parts are Dhoni's performance. The bit about Sreesanth seems somewhat funny. But one thing that struck me was that the ad was very disjointed. There's no flow and the more I see it, the more I find parts where the story jumps. I found a lack of connection with the film. If you remember the Shah Rukh-John Abraham 'My Can' ads, they were quite nice and you kinda bonded with them. Overall, a piece of communication that seems to be headed in the right direction for Pepsi, but could have been better in its form."
Dhoni also endorses the snack brand of PepsiCo, Frito-Lay. Recently, he starred in a commercial with long-time brand ambassador, actor Saif Ali Khan. Apart from brands from the PepsiCo basket, Dhoni is also the brand ambassador for Dainik Bhaskar, Reebok, GE Money, Reliance Money, Parle Milk Shakti, Videocon, Big Bazaar, Godrej Sara Lee, Siyaram's, Orient PSPO, Sonata and Royal Stag.