face it. No Happydent Palace, no Lead India and no Nike Cricket.
There's one school of thought that says 2008 was a year of euphoria spent in lapping up awards for work done in 2007, but the year per se didn't have too much to say for itself. Another - rather defensive - mindset argues, "So what? Comparison with previous years aside, 2008 didn't fare badly on the creativity meter in absolute terms."
To check which side of the meter India's top creative brains are tipping towards, afaqs! sought the opinion of national creative directors and chief creative officers on their five favourite adverts of 2008 and, surprisingly, while most of them could rattle off some three choices easily, they struggled to complete the list. One wonders what that says for the top of mind creativity recall of the ads released last year.
And the winners are…
Apart from these, for an unassuming brand, Himani Fast Relief's Aadmi Bana Machine had an incredibly high recall and NCDs rated it high, particularly on execution.
While on the Tatas, Tata Tea's Jaago Re hit the jackpot once again, maintaining its creative momentum from 2007.
Other ads that made it to the hit list include Cadbury Bournville (Earn It), Airtel (featuring Shreyas Talpade), Bajaj XCD DTS-Si (the Comparison ad), Lenovo (Sumo Wrestlers), Bingo! (Market Duel), Amrutanjan (Candid Camera) and The Times of India's Chennai launch ads.
Interestingly, an animated film for Sulekha.com, called Arjuna The Archer (created by JWT), and even a public service film by Little Lamb Films, called Gharelu Himsa Ko Roko: Bell Bajao, have managed to find their way into the 2008 roll of honour.
Joshi, Nair, Chax and Pat: Mirror, mirror on the wall
Next on his list are the Vodafone: Happy to Help (Stamp Licking) ad, the Tata Sky ad featuring Aamir Khan in a double role and the Tata Tea: Jaago Re ad (the "Agar aap vote nahin kar rahe" piece of communication), which he hails as thought provoking with a clear message.
From ads for brands such as Idea, Joshi prefers the Caste Wars ad of 2007 to the 2008 work, while he thinks the campaigns for Virgin Mobile are reminiscent of some past international campaigns.
Priti Nair, managing partner, BBH India, differs from Joshi on the Idea work, asserting that the 'Yes-No' Democracy campaign is "a lovely stance for a cellular network to take and can become a big thing if continued".
She feels the Tata Sky (Khan-Panag) ads are charming, refreshing and "watchable", while the Airtel ad for rural markets featuring Shreyas Talpade ("Is bheed mein, main khounga nahin") by Rediffusion Y&R has a very feature film feel. "It is a highly melodramatic story, well-calibrated and well-told," she says.
For Nair, the Bajaj XCD DTS-Si film, which has two bikers comparing their bikes, is a different format in a category that usually ends up showing faceless riders. "It is an interesting and sustainable idea," she states, rounding off her list.
Cheil Worldwide's Prathap Suthan (Pat) is perhaps among the few whose top of mind favourite is Virgin Mobile's Fake Escort Services spot. "It was such a brave strategy and a lateral way of entering the market. The advertising really took off from the strategy," he says.
Pat also appreciates the Education and Democracy ads for Idea, terming them as "empowering". Himani Fast Relief is next, although Pat isn't too sure whether the execution was immaculate or not; the boldness of the idea is what did it for him.
Amrutanjan's Candid Camera ads created by Mudra also feature in Pat's "fab" ads, as he feels they took a refreshing look at an otherwise product-window dominated category, while the inexpensive candid feel was a plus. Pat's final choice is Arjuna The Archer, an animated film created by Senthil Kumar of JWT and directed by E Suresh for Sulekha.com. "They pulled it off!" he grins.
KS Chakravarthy, aka Chax, national creative director, DraftFCB Ulka, votes for Himani Fast Relief's Aadmi Bana Machine, hailing it as "a bold idea with spectacular execution - a huge clutter-breaker in a completely undifferentiated category". Having said that, he feels the brand did itself a "major disservice by looking a bit too reminiscent of Happydent Palace".
Next on his plate are the Idea series of ads. "It is one of my favourite ongoing campaigns," Chax grins, and adds that after losing its way a bit on the Mumbai launch, Idea came back strongly with the Democracy series. "If only ads came true!" he quips.
He also nominates the Bell Bajao public service films. One of them shows boys playing cricket when they hear the screams of a woman being beaten at home. They walk towards the 'chawl' home and ring the doorbell. The screams stop and a man opens the door.
When the children ask for the ball, he goes in and returns empty handed, only to see the boys tossing the cricket ball menacingly among themselves as the perpetrator of the violence gulps nervously. The film is about a call for action against domestic violence.
Balki, Pops, Khazanchi and Pawar on sizzling hot creativity
'Idea' man R Balakrishnan, aka Balki, chairperson and chief creative officer, Lowe Lintas, has three favourites: Vodafone (Happy to Help), Airtel (Madhavan-Balan) and Tata Sky (Khan-Panag).
When we "popped' the question to Pops (KV Sridhar), national creative director, Leo Burnett India, he cited the usual suspects: Idea (he feels its creator, Balki of Lowe, found the right interpretation and pitching), Vodafone (Happy to Help and the Chota Recharge Classroom commercial) and Airtel (the Madhavan-Balan series).
An addition in his list is the Lenovo Think Pad Sumo Wrestlers film by O&M for the 2008 Olympics. "If you start with a brief of communicating the speed and weight of a machine, you may not end up with this idea unless you are working with the backdrop of the Olympics," he declares. "It is a charming idea."
On Himani Fast Relief, Pops starts out by lauding a brave agency (Publicis Ambience), a fantastic director (Ram Madhvani) and a brave client with big budgets. "But none of these could save the film," he declares.
And why is he stumping the ad? A hyperbolic dramatisation of the problem weakened the connection and the reward, he explains. Furthermore, the resemblance to Happydent is a "dent" in its plans, but "nonetheless, great effort", he concedes quickly, allowing the brand some fast relief.
Pops has a soft spot for the Airtel films because he feels that Madhavan and Balan have acted sensitively and the agency (Rediffusion) got the right emotional connect. Further, the Magical Moments of Life brand essence has come alive. "This is why good actors are hired in the first place!" he chuckles.
Ashish Khazanchi, national creative director, Publicis Ambience, feels that 2008's advertising work closely mirrored the Hindi film industry. "There were some unexpected gems, but mostly a lush hangover of the glory that was," he says.
His favourites? Tata Sky Plus, Bingo (Market Duel), Tata Tea's Jaago Re and The Times of India's Chennai launch film, which he feels has a story very familiar and relevant to the city in question.
On Bingo, Khazanchi asserts, "The irreverent brand persona takes another step up. It's directed like only Rajesh Krishnan can. He's fast turning out to be India's answer to international director Thanonchai Sornsriwichai."
Delivering the final ball of the over, Joshi concludes that although there wasn't much pathbreaking work this year, there was some rather good brand building, dolled up with Indian nuances. "These may not appeal to international juries, but have worked brilliantly in our market," he signs off.