Lux: Playing 'catch' with Abhi-Ash

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | November 05, 2009
A new commercial for Lux makes use of Bollywood's star couple, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, in what is their first endorsement deal together

The only other time Hindustan Unilever's Lux employed a male celebrity endorser - Shahrukh Khan - as the central protagonist in its brand story, it made headlines, generating extreme reactions from consumers and the ad fraternity alike. Four years later, Lux has roped in another male Bollywood superstar (Abhishek Bachchan), but with a difference: this time, the actor is seen as a part of the brand story, along with his real life wife and Lux's brand ambassador for a decade, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

This marks the first ever brand endorsement together by the high profile celebrity couple.


As is common knowledge, Lux has, for the longest time, positioned itself as the beauty bar for film stars. The last seen commercial for Lux featured one of its endorsers, Priyanka Chopra, partaking in a masked ballroom dance. To bring forth the launch of the new range of Lux soaps enriched with beauty oils, Lux has stuck to its tried and tested celebrity formula.

Sudhanshu Vats, vice-president, home care and skin cleansing, Hindustan Unilever, says, "The Lux re-launch promises to give consumers a luxurious bathing experience through a creamier lather, leaving their skin soft and smooth. We have made improvements to every element of the mix - product, packaging and fragrance."

The commercial, directed by Stephen Mead of London-based production house Short Films, opens on the shot of Rai enjoying a luxurious bath with Lux, and deciding to spring a surprise on her husband. When Bachchan comes home from work, she blindfolds him and he is to trace her by her new-found scent. A playful sensual game of 'Catch me if you can' ensues, with Bachchan unable to catch his wife as his hands glide off her smooth skin. Finally, when he thinks he has her, he removes his blindfold, only to see that he is hugging his cleaning lady instead, as Rai laughs on. A music track composed by trio Shankar -Ehsaan-Loy lends a rustic, sufi-esque feel to the film.

Tista Sen, senior vice-president and executive creative director, JWT India, says, "Lux has changed its formulation, upping the fragrance quotient and beauty oils, which give a glow to one's skin. Therefore, the communication had to have touch, skin and intimacy cues." The core insight was that as the skin is rather soft after using Lux, anytime someone reaches out to touch a Lux user, she'll just glide past.

As this is a re-launch of Lux, Sen adds, the plan was to recall long time endorser Rai, but in a manner that would up the sensuality and entertainment factor, particularly to connect with small town India, which is an aspirational lot and looks up to celebrities. Hence, the brand decided to rope in the star couple, with a playful storyline woven in.

"Although Abhishek is the prankster in real life, the ad did a role reversal and had the woman - Aishwarya - play a prank on him, displaying her taking pleasure in feeling beautiful, which is what Lux is about," Sen remarks. The tone of voice has been kept light, playful and sensuous. The creative team from JWT on Lux includes Tista Sen, Goral Ajmera, Sasha Mahajan, Pooja Talwar and Anupama Ahluwalia.

The film was shot over three days at Filmcity in Mumbai. The director of photography was Simon Coull, while Indrani Pillai was the production designer. The film has been produced jointly by Holly Hartley, Roopak Saluja, Kirk Dias and Shivani Mehta, belonging to two production houses: Short Films and Bang Bang Films, while the post-production was done at Pixion.

Soft spot?

The TV spot scores on execution and the music track, going by the reactions of the ad fraternity.

As Ashish Chakravarty, creative chief, McCann Erickson Delhi, puts it, "The ad has a catchy song and has been nicely executed. One hasn't seen Ash (Aishwarya) on TV in a while, so it's a pleasant change." But the idea - or a lack of it as he puts it - leaves Chakravarty wanting more from the film. "However, to give it due credit, the category of beauty products itself doesn't experiment too much with ideas in the true sense of the word, so in that sense, this ad does stand out with its production value," he shrugs.

Furthermore, the thought of 'peeping' into the bedroom games of India's 'A-list' couple is something that has been captured nicely, he says.

Chakravarty personally feels the element of the old lady towards the end looks like a forced way to end the 'story'. "Maybe if the film had been an out-and-out sensual one, it could've been better. But in all, it is like a 'masala' Hindi film, with the star couple as its USP," he grins.

Amit Akali, group creative director, Ogilvy India Bengaluru, says, "It's definitely a step ahead for a Lux ad. Lux ads had actually become blind spots: they were basically combinations of product windows and testimonials. This one starts off like that and then changes gear, introduces Abhishek, has a plot of some sort and actually holds your attention."

Akali allows that the actual story or plot is slightly clichéd (particularly the blind-folded husband hugging someone else instead of his wife). Akali, too, gives marks to the chemistry, the music (which adds to the sensuality element) and execution.

Further, Akali feels that the use of a male endorser in addition to Rai could be a good thing for the brand. "I still remember the Shahrukh Khan ad, although I have trouble remembering some other Lux ads," he says, clearly stating that experimentation now and then is probably a good thing for a formula advertising led brand such as Lux.

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