Surf Excel: Dirty like a dog

By Neha Kalra , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | September 11, 2009
The premium detergent brand has released its fourth campaign in the fifth year of the Daag Achche Hai positioning. This time around, it's about acting like a dog. afaqs! finds out about the act

Surf Excel's 'Daag Achche Hai' campaign has brought forward interesting concepts about the benefits of children getting their clothes stained. This time, it gets a child to go to the extent of getting dirty like a dog, which for some has been a thoughtful insight, while for others, distasteful. afaqs! explores the facets of the campaign.

Creative dirt

The film opens on a noisy classroom set-up, with children having fun. A student asks another about the absence of Rosy Miss, the teacher. The friend explains that the teacher's dog has passed away. On his way after school, the lively child visits the teacher's home, only to find her sitting lonely and sad at her doorstep.

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When he sees the leash of the dog beside her, he suddenly understands what she's going through. Putting the leash around his own neck, the child starts behaving like a dog - fetching a ball, rolling and playing in the mud, and even peeing and scratching like one. He is able to achieve what he had come for - to make her smile. The commercial ends with the customary line: Agar daag lagne se kuchch achcha hota hai, toh daag achche hai (If the stains are for good, then stains are good), followed by the tagline - Surf Excel, Daag achche hain - and the logo.

Arun Iyer, group creative director, Lowe Lintas explains that children can demonstrate a lot of values through actions - in this case, it is the emotion of empathy. "It is about how a child feels instinctively for someone's pain, even though he doesn't know what it feels like. When he sees her, he understands the magnitude of her grief."

Sudhanshu Vats, senior vice-president, home and personal care, Unilever India, reveals that following a research, this particular creative received the maximum votes out of the various scripts that they had tested.

Staining all along

The 'Daag Achche Hai' positioning has been around for almost five years now and this is the fourth campaign under this positioning. The first TV commercial with the 'Daag Achche Hai' message showed a brother diving into the puddle and pounding it left, right and centre, threatening it and demanding that it apologise to his sister because his sister had fallen into the puddle. The second ad showed two children staging a fight to stop their fathers from fighting, which was followed by the hiccup advert.

Iyer reveals that Surf Excel runs a thematic campaign each year, based on 'Daag Achche Hai'. Apart from that, it runs other commercials talking about the benefits of the product around the year.

Vats sees this as a journey for the brand against the conventional paradigm of 'daag acche nahi hai'. "It has taken the latter head-on by elaborating that stains are good," he says.

"As a brand philosophy, we believe that stains are integral to the development of a child. We have only taken up this philosophy more upfront, each time," Vats adds.

The opinionated eye

Vineet Mahajan, senior creative director, McCann Erickson Delhi believes that the new rendition of Dirt is Good (the international level positioning) has taken the positioning smoothly to the next level.

Vikram Dhaliwal, senior planning director, Bates 141 Delhi understands that the insight of 'Daag Achche Hain' has been powerful and revolutionary in its original form. He feels that the earlier executions did justice to the idea and added to it, as the stories were meaningful and real in the emotions that they depicted.

Talking about the current commercial, he says that the story lacks execution insight and real connect. "The story is contrived and doesn't make an impact at all," he adds.

A general opinion about the commercial amongst the ad fraternity is that it is demeaning to the extent that it shows a child acting like a dog. A few others feel that the casting is all wrong.

To all this, Iyer clearly says that it's the way each one looks at it. While he claims to have received quite a bit of appreciation for this piece, he explains that the film is simply about how a child thinks - a child doesn't think too deeply.

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