Vicks: Bringing the Action to 500

By Biprorshee Das , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | July 14, 2010
Moving away from the traditional TVCs for the tablet, Publicis Ambience attempts a more engaging and memorable execution

Gone are the days of the exasperated man screaming, 'Haan, bhai haan', only to be handed a Vicks Action 500 that would give him relief from all the symptoms of the common cold. Commercials now have to be more than just the brand promise, and clients understand that.

& #BANNER1 & #Treading a different path for Vicks Action 500, Publicis Ambience has tried to make a more engaging film for the product with a relevant insight.

The film, through exaggerated, dramatised actions in a South Indian setting, shows an auto rickshaw driver troubled by a blocked nose, headache, body ache, backache and a sore throat.

The five problems he faces are metaphorically represented by five other auto rickshaws.

Just as the driver is about to take a normal pill, his passenger offers him a Vicks Action 500. The driver is instantly ready to take on the five auto rickshaws, and pulls off some daredevil stunts in the process.

The creative of the TVC is credited to the team of Ambar Chakravarty, executive creative director, Publicis Ambience; while film production was handled by Hozefa Alibhai, head of Publicis' films division and his team. The film has been directed by Anurag Kashyap and produced by Tushar Raut of Coconut Films.

Chakravarty tells afaqs! that the film is a sort of tribute to the ordinary Indian and all that he goes through in his everyday life. The cough and cold are just part of the other odds that are stacked against him. While the execution remains cheeky, the team took care that the product message stays apparent.

"We contextualised the driver as a hero. The five symptoms could be part of the problems he faces in a day and he beats them with élan. Our one-point agenda was to make the communication more engaging, watchable and memorable. At the same time, we did not do away with the message that has worked for the product before," says Chakravarty.

"We thought that the context setting must be more engaging and stay close to the heart at the same time. While the mind reads the product, the heart sees the relevance. Moreover, the Vicks story comes in strongly and smoothly through the film and is not abrupt," adds Rakesh Hinduja, associate vice-president, Publicis Ambience.

The film rides on the action and stunts, which was a deliberate attempt to take the product name literally and "put some action" into it.

On the South Indian setting, Chakravarty says that while the intention was not to do a spoof; but the action in South Indian movies is "funkier with its over-the-top nature" and makes for a memorable watch.

While further extension of the campaign is still being worked out, the team is hoping that the expression of 'Indian heroism' can be taken forward into future communication of the product.

And the verdict…

Having seen the film, experts appreciate the different route taken to convey the product message, and give a thumbs-up to the execution too.

"I quite like it. The over-the-top execution is quite deliberate and the spot itself is quite funny," says Rajeev Raja, national creative director, DDB Mudra Group.

Sandhya Srinivasan, managing partner and chief strategy officer, Law & Kenneth, reads the commercial perfectly, as she almost echoes the views of the film's creative team. "Vicks Action 500, by virtue of its name, needed some action in conveying its message. The new execution conveys its five benefits in an interesting way, without being dependent on the classic product window."

"The use of the rickshaw driver as a victim is possibly to convey the desperation of people who cannot afford to take a break. I guess it must work to broaden the segment base," Srinivasan adds.

However, both agree that the South Indian treatment takes away from the originality of the film.

"The South Indian auto driver and a clone of 'Quick Gun Murugan' reduce the originality quotient. Quite unnecessary, I thought, as it takes away from what is otherwise an unusual idea," Raja says.

Srinivasan, too, adds that the Southern flavour was not entirely authentic.