Happydent: An Elephantine effort for sparkling teeth

By Abhishek Chanda , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising
Last updated : June 04, 2009
After the Palace film, the brand is out with yet another highly exaggerated TVC to promote the brand promise of sparkling white teeth

Happydent is at it again. After the 'photo studio' film, and the globally acclaimed 'Palace' commercial, the brand has just unveiled a commercial for one of its new variants - Happydent Wave. In the wake of the brand promise of Muskurale, jagmagale... for Happydent White in 2007, Happydent Wave comes with the somewhat poetic promise of Daaton tale, diya jale.

The film, conceived by McCann Erickson, opens on a shepherd looking for his lost sheep. He comes across a herd of elephants that has found a toppled lorry full of Happydent Wave. As the elephants step on the gum, there are splashes of water, which gradually turn into a river in which the elephants swim and play. At nightfall, the elephants' tusks suddenly start shining bright, lighting up the jungle. The film ends with a few old men sitting in the darkness and quipping sarcastically, "Jangal mein mangal ho raha hai, par gaon mein toh bijli aayi hi nahin bhaiya!" (There is no light in the village, while the jungle is shining bright.)

The film has been penned by Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman, McCann Erickson India, and regional executive creative director, Asia Pacific, McCann Erickson. It has been directed by Abhijit Chaudhuri aka Dadu - who had also directed the 2004 'Photo studio' film -- and produced by Black Magic Films. The post production and CG (computer graphics) related work has been executed by the team of Reynold and Nikhil of Pixion.

Thoughts behind the film

The Happydent Wave film comes almost two years after the Palace film was released. Sameer Suneja, chief executive officer, Perfetti Van Melle, reasons that the previous film had generated enough top-of-mind recall and there wasn't need for another film. "However, for launching a variant like Wave, we required a commercial that amplifies the launch and generates further recall," he says.

The film is expected to serve the purpose of creating trials for the variant as well as reinforcing the mother brand. The Wave, according to Suneja, is among the first-of-its-kind - coated gum with a liquid centre.

For Joshi, the biggest challenge was the weight of the previous film. Added to this was the task of cracking a film for a variant which dealt with twin propositions: sparkling teeth and a liquid-filled centre.

Joshi attributes the story of the film to references of Jal Krida (an act of playing in or with water) in ancient Sanskrit tales and folklore about elephants and their love for water.

Exaggeration to the nth power? Joshi explains, "Since the category isn't that involving, one needs to suspend logic and make the ad as memorable and entertaining as possible. Exaggerations and elements of fantasy work as good tools in this respect." The satire towards the end rounds the story up. To make it entertaining and catchy, the agency opted for Chhattisgarhi folk music as the background score - one may recall that the Palace film had a touch of Sufi music.

The advertising for Wave presently comprises a single TVC and might branch out to OOH also.

Behind the scenes

The film has been shot entirely in Palakkad, Kerala, over a period of three days. afaqs! caught up with Dadu, who has been working on Perfetti films - including the 'crocodile and Kajol' film for Alpenliebe - since 2001.

The team originally wanted to shoot in Bangkok or Sri Lanka, the latter for its elephant farms. However, in Kerala, they had to rely on elephants from different owners; as a result, the animals didn't know each other, nor did they share a comfort level. Various challenges came up in managing the herd of 12-13 elephants and their mahouts (the elephant trainers). Dadu grins, "In shooting the sequence of the elephants stepping on the cartons of gum and water splashing, we had to use hose pipes, which made the elephants run away."

Again, there was a persistent language problem with the mahouts, coupled with the problem of working with timber elephants instead of performing elephants. However, Dadu is glad to have found a dream location, which had all the elements for the film -- the jungle and the lake. All the team had to do was construct a village for the final shot.

The film has a lot of CG (computer graphics) work too. For instance, the shot with the elephants swimming in the lake or their tusks glowing in the dark have been modified on the edit table. For the tusks, Chaudhuri maintains that "There was a need for a tube-light like flickering glow." For this shot, the team had to make special replicas of the tusk and replace them with the shot of real tusks on the computer.

Similarly, the number of elephants was multiplied on the computer in the final shot to give the feel of scale. In certain shots, the elephants would just not cooperate, and as a result, the mahouts had to be physically present in these shots. These were also later modified with the mahouts removed.

Anybody smiling?

afaqs! spoke to adland to find out what they make of this attempt. Apart from the fact that most are still under the hangover of the Palace film, this is what they had to say.

Ashish Khazanchi, national creative director, Publicis Ambience, remarks, "Most creative people, if told to work on the new Happydent ad, would probably rub their hands in glee. Not me though. I'd wear dark clothes to office and stand motionlessly in a dark corner till someone else cracked it. How do you better an ad that's the best that this country has ever seen?"

He finds the copy for the new ad a work of pure genius: 'Roshni ka matka hai, ek nadi ka tukda isme latka hai'. Apart from that, he finds it visually arresting, and feels it improves with each viewing, especially, "when you catch the villagers' wisecracks. But then, the Palace still remains the one to beat."

Pinaki Bhattacharya, senior vice-president, strategic planning, Saatchi & Saatchi, thinks there really is no insight here and never was - it's just a superbly exaggerated visualisation of the product truth. Coining it as yet another memorable film for the brand, he says, "To McCann's credit, I think they have pulled off another good one. This time, though, there was the added burden of the 'liquid inside', which has been nicely integrated into the whitening truth - 'roshni ka matka hai'."

First Published : June 04, 2009

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