The year that went by will be remembered for tough and testing times. While the world economy weakened, and ramifications were felt in India; brands and marketers became more careful of where they put their money. This overall behaviour of caution resulted in some positive growth and some stagnation; some creativity in advertising and some run-of-the-mill stuff.
At the turn of a new year, when things have begun to look up and we look forward to fresh beginnings, afaqs! takes a look at the stellar advertising work that stood out among the turmoil.
Though Indian advertising didn't have a great run at the Cannes this year, there has been work that made the fraternity sit up, watch, smile and applaud. afaqs! asked some national creative directors and chief creative officers about which ads in 2009 they found memorable.
Of the eight creative heads we spoke to, seven voted for the Vodafone Zoozoos, which didn't even get a nomination at Cannes. The only person who didn't, or rather couldn't, vote for the Zoozoos was Rajiv Rao, NCD, Ogilvy India; since we didn't allow anyone to nominate work done by their own agency.
The other ads that were mentioned by more than one person were: Surf Excel (the Dog ad); ING Vysya (three films - Bullhorn, Chase and Spy); Center Fresh (Zubaan pe rakhe lagam); The Economist - Interpret the world (outdoor); Max New York Life (Pension Plan); Alpenliebe (Lions); IPL season 2 and Fevicol 50 years (Moochwaali).
The other ads that were appreciated were: Saint Juice (launch ad); Fast Track (Move on); Birla Sun Life (cricketers); Airtel Twitter; Bajaj DTS-i (Bikebots); Volkswagen (launch campaign); Idea (Walk the talk) and the Pink Chaddi campaign. Yes, you read that last one right.
Among the new launches this year, Volkswagen and Saint Juice were highly appreciated. But Tata Docomo clearly sounded the loudest bell.
Cricket and moustache and dancing lions…
His other choices are Fevicol's Moochwaali ad, commemorating 50 years of the adhesive brand; and Alpenliebe's Lion commercial, released in November this year.
The latter also made it to Ramanuj Shastry's list. "Bizarre is also about the craft, we are reminded," is how the NCD of Saatchi & Saatchi puts it.
Another ad that Raja appreciates is the Max New York Life ad for Pension Plans (Out Partying). The ad shows a wife scolding her retired husband, who left home on the pretext of taking a morning walk, and has returned home late in the night, after a fun time with his friends. Raja likes the ad, since it was a humorous take on retirement. "A good departure from the tearjerkers in the category. The casting, of course, is brilliant," he says.
Insurance and lather and pockets on fire…
Another life insurance brand that is part of Dias' list is Birla Sun Life, showcasing cricketers Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh. The ad is shot in a very Frost Nixon style, where the protagonists make confessions, while a hidden camera captures them on film. Dias is not only impressed with the insight of the films, but also the choice of cricketers. "These are cricketers who are otherwise seen as fearless," he says.
Bajaj Discover's TVC, which shows how you could discover new places in India with a litre of petrol, also found its way to Aggi's list.
Finally, ING Vysya's set of three ads, done by JWT, Bengaluru, put a smile on Dias' face, and on the face of bank advertising, by ditching the sentimental way to a consumer's heart.
Shastry of Saatchi & Saatchi, too, has a smile on his face when he agrees with Aggi. Shastry particularly liked the Chase commercial, which talks about quick debit card replacement. "It's the best interpretation of 'fast' that I have seen in recent times," he says.
The school kid acting as his teacher's dead pet dog, in the Surf Excel commercial, is an example of "supreme storytelling", and continues to linger in Shastry's memory. The ad, created by Lowe Lintas, is also part of another favourite list, that of Josy Paul, chairman and chief creative officer, BBDO India.
Walking and talking and a few Pink chaddis…
The other ads that were part of Paul's list this year are led by the language of action, more than the action of words. Paul explains, "The advertising of the future will not just talk, but act, and let the consumer carry out those actions."
As an example, he points out Tata Tea's Jaago Re campaign. The first campaign took up the cause of getting consumers and people in general to register to vote; the second campaign (released this year) has picked up the problem of corruption in the country.
The other example of action-led advertising on his list is Idea's Walk the Talk campaign. The campaign kicked off with the commercial featuring brand ambassador, Abhishek Bachchan as a doctor, who prescribes walking while talking, so that India could tackle obesity. Both these ads have been created by Lowe Lintas, Mumbai.
However, the top of Paul's action-packed advertising list is occupied by a campaign that wasn't done by an ad agency. It's a campaign that depicts the power of one. It's the Pink Chaddi campaign.
The campaign was flagged off by Nisha Susan as a reaction to the attacks on women in pubs in Mangalore by Sri Ram Sene activists. On Valentine's Day this year, pink chaddis were sent to the chief of Sri Ram Sene as a non-violent protest. You could read more on this at thepinkchaddicampaign.blogspot.com.
Cadbury's Pehli Tareek impressed him, because of its mass relate-ability and the buzz it created. Bajaj Pulsar's 'Fastest Indian'(Ogilvy India) and the unassuming Sleepwell Wake up Fresh ad (Rediffusion Y&R) too have stayed with Jauhari.
Aircel's outdoor activity, where a raft was attached to a billboard, created quite a buzz. The raft was put up during the monsoons in Mumbai. And on a day of heavy rain, it was used by people to ferry themselves to safety. Jauhari liked the way the medium (outdoor) was used. "Rare piece of excellence that stood out," he says.
Comprehend the incomprehensible
Center Fresh - Zubaan pe rakhe lagaam, too, is a favourite with both Jauhari and Mahabaleshwarkar, for its tongue-in-cheek storyline.
Mahabaleshwarkar has added Fevicol's Moochwaali, Fast Track's new 'Move on' campaign (the same story told with a male and female perspective), and the latest Exbox ads to his 2009 list. He wishes he'd done these campaigns.
Next we have Satbir Singh, NCD, Euro RSCG, who says that Tata Sky's Sodhiji ad has found a place in his heart, for obvious reasons.
Like Raja, Singh likes the Synchronicity ad, and the entire campaign for IPL Season 2. The fact that IPL created so much buzz, despite the general elections, impressed Singh. So did the marketing activities carried out for movies such as Paa, Blue, Rocket Singh and 3 Idiots. This was either because these films managed to spend advertising budgets much larger than what brands allot for a year's worth of advertising, or because very little other advertising managed to enthrall the creative head.
The good, the bad and the 'egg'ly
All these creative heads picked Vodafone's Zoozoos as topmost on their lists. The Zoozoos broke clutter, broke rules and broke records with their antics. The egg-shaped characters managed to take over ads, merchandise and more.
Paul puts it well when he says that the Zoozoos managed all that, without saying a word. "It was a language of gibberish. And it connected with the audiences."
Aggi also mentions the launch of the Tata Nano, which was done by Rediffusion Y&R.
He also likes the Saint Juice commercial, for the manner in which it portrays the purity of the product. Of the Airtel Twitter ads, he says, "A film that doesn't try too hard to impress, and yet, does so in an effortless manner."
Among brands that were launched this year, Tata Docomo definitely made the most of now. Singh talks about the Volkswagen launch that took place a couple of months ago, but admits that the Tata Docomo jingle is stuck in his head and refuses to leave.
The telecom player entered when there were four strong players in the market, but with offers that none could offer. "It felt like the other players had no clue about what was happening," says Jauhari.
Looking back at 2009, there were no increased budgets and no Lions; but there were many other hindrances instead. Yet, the year wasn't all that gloomy, all thanks to some groundbreaking and sound advertising.