Parle: The lite-r side of life

By Savia Jane Pinto , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | June 08, 2009
Parle's newest candy doesn't pile on the calories. In fact, the TVC says that it's light enough to make Sumo wrestlers do the ballet

It's rather bizarre to watch heavyweight Sumo wrestlers breaking into a run on a street, and suddenly taking off into the air. Equally strange is to see another set of heavyweights glide around gracefully, pirouetting like ballerinas.

What's interesting is that these ideas belong to two commercials, which were released within months of each other, for two starkly different categories. The former is an ad for the Lenovo ThinkPad X300, which was done last year, during the Beijing Olympics. The 'ballerina' concept is for Parlé Products' latest offering: Parlé Lite bonbons. Not only do both ads use heavyweights, but ironically, both also propagate the supposed 'lightness' of the product in question.

& #BANNER1 & #afaqs! explores how the agency, Everest Brand Solutions, wrestled with the brief and came up with the concept, and the similarities between the ads for the two brands.

Eat to lose

A new product in Parlé's confectionery basket, the bonbon is sugar-free and aimed at health-conscious urban adults. N Padmakumar, national creative director, Everest Brand Solutions, explains, "The bonbon is an indulgence for those who crave sweet, but want to cut out the calories." The message, quite clearly, is to announce the launch of Parlé's candy, minus the calories.

Padmakumar adds that eating candy is an addictive habit with some individuals and many harbour the guilt of consuming the unnecessary calories - a problem area that the product addresses. "Though the candy comes without additional calories, it still is an indulgence," which is why the creative route isn't a preachy one, but rather, an exaggeration to add a dash of entertainment.

Doing the ballet

The film opens on a butler welcoming someone inside. A product shot, and the bonbons are soon popping into open mouths. Cut to a ballerina who is waiting for her class to commence. The surprise element in the class is a group of Sumo wrestlers, who were the ones to eat the bonbons.

The class dances to a soft, romantic Bollywoodesque tune (the music is reminiscent of Yash Chopra's movies, and has been compiled by composer, Sameer Uddin). The ad concludes on a pack shot and the heavyweights going about the ballet lesson with ease, doing passes and pirouettes without breaking into a sweat.

Heavy duty

afaqs! asked the director, Amit Sharma of Chrome Pictures, how the team managed to hoist the heavyweights.

At the three-day shoot in Cape Town, Sharma got the wrestlers to 'fly' up in the air using rigs. The wrestlers had an iron belt around their waist that had a base. The base was attached to one end of the wire, which in turn went around a pulley. The pulley was manoeuvred by people on the other end.

The heavyweights, however, aren't all trained, Japanese Sumo wrestlers - some of them are Brazilian and South African; and a few are simply large people, weighing about 180 kg, who could pass off as Sumo wrestlers.

The dance movements were choreographed by a local choreographer in Cape Town to beats. The music was set much later.

The agency and the sound engineer initially toyed with the idea of using techno-trance or somber music, "much like artist Enya," says Padmakumar. But the team finally settled for something that was very reminiscent of a Yash Chopra movie, since the idea was to bring out the sharp contrast between the music and the movements of the Sumo wrestlers.

Bitter-Sweet symphony

afaqs! got in touch with a few adlanders, to find out if the heavy commercial made a dent, or whether it was too reminiscent of Lenovo.

Lloyd Baptista, director with Nomad Films, appreciates the contrast in music to the visual storyline.

As is known, Lenovo's 2008 commercial showed Sumo wrestlers getting off a bus, running in the shape of an airplane and taking off. This was for a product which was heavy on features and light in weight. When afaqs! spoke to Rod Vallis, worldwide creative director on Lenovo at Ogilvy India, he admitted that he was surprised to see the Parlé Lite commercial also featuring Sumo wrestlers for a 'light' proposition. But then, he was quick to add, "I guess we weren't the first to use Sumos in an ad either."

About the similarity, Vallis comments that since the Lenovo ad ran only for a few days during the Beijing Olympics, the "team at Everest must have missed it."

Shalin Desai, brand manager, Parlé Products, reveals that the ad was completed in August last year, but due to distribution issues, the team waited until now to release it.

Everest's Padmakumar, however, boils the debate down to a "startling coincidence". "There have been many instances where the same device has been used to portray something similar," he shrugs, adding that the entertainment factor of the Sumos doing ballet should take the brand ahead.

Parlé will bank only on television for this particular campaign, though below the line activities such as ground activation in modern trade outlets are on the charts. Some amount of outdoor will also be used.

Parlé Products has a host of other confectionery in its basket, including Melody, Mango Bite, Kismi Toffee, Poppins, Xhale, Orange candy and Kaccha Mango Bite. The company also manufactures biscuits -- such as Parlé - G, Hide and Seek and Krackjack, and snacks -- such as Musst Bites and Monaco Bites Cheeslings.