Nirma harps on women power

By Shibani Gharat , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | September 15, 2011
Nirma detergent's new TVC shows the lead ladies getting their hands dirty while pushing out an ambulance stuck in a pit -- as the men watch.

An ambulance stuck in a pit. Men watching -- some of them taking photographs and some disgusted at the sight of the filth. Four women 'knights', the all-too-familiar Hema, Rekha, Jaya and Sushma -- in immaculate, crisp and clean attire -- step into the pit to push the ambulance out. The famous jingle lingers in the air. But, what has changed is the portrayal.

To grasp the difference, one has to flash backwards to spotless white sari-clad happy mothers with detergent packs in their hands, and frock-clad girls. 'Washing Powder Nirma' (created by composer Vedpal) tied the TVC together with a single knot.

Decades of change in the outlook towards women, and more importantly, women's approach towards life, have left only a residue of yesteryears' famous commercial.

The erstwhile trusting housewife and affectionate mother, who was largely concerned with domestic duties, has transformed into a strong, confident woman. The attire has changed -- and so has her approach and attitude.

According to Manan Soni, director, Purnima Advertising (an agency that has been associated with Nirma's advertising for a very long time), says, "The TVC has a new dimension. It is appropriate for today's women, who are raring to go. The ad has a modern outlook to it." He says that the company wants to target a younger generation through this TVC.

Soni adds that the jingle is one of the biggest properties of Nirma. "The jingle is there for brand recall, but we are showing women power."

Agnellio Dias and Santosh Padhi's Taproot is the creative agency for this commercial. The production house is Dungarpur Films.

Santosh Padhi, chief creative officer and co-founder, Taproot India, tells afaqs! that to get the second-most important property of Nirma, namely the four women -- Hema, Rekha, Jaya and Sushma -- back was what they did different for this particular TVC.

Names of these four women, along with the Nirma jingle, immediately flash the brand Nirma, he says. He adds that the TVC aims to portray how women have evolved from what they were 20 years ago.

"Women today are much stronger and are contributing immensely to society, along with contributing towards their home and work. We chose some well-known lead faces on TV to portray common Indian women in the TVC."

Dirt is good

However, this is not the first time that the concept of getting one's hands dirty and feeling good about it has been applied. Unilever's Surf has been famously postulating 'Daag achche hain' for quite some time. Enjoying the feeling of washing dirty linen has been explored by the Amul Macho TVC -- 'Crafted for Fantasies' -- where a newlywed woman is shown having no qualms about washing her husband's undergarment in public.

Also, the Ariel commercials featured a journalist and a guide who did not mind getting dirt on their sleeves when performing their jobs.

Brushing off any comparisons, Padhi says that these are nothing but category clichés.

Evolving and changing

Of late, Nirma has been attempting to do something unusual while retaining the jingle in all its advertising. The brand has been experimenting with its approach for quite some time.

Last year, it created a splash, literally, with a determined woman instructing a wave of slush to halt in mid-air.

The year 2009 witnessed ballet dancers swaying underwater in flowing garments. The TVC was followed by the Projector Film ad, where a young girl uses white clothing, drying on a clothesline, as a screen to project a movie, as it is whiter than the actual screen.

The thought of evolving and changing seems to be imbibed in the Nirma philosophy. The company, started by Dr Karsanbhai Patel as a one-man operation in 1969, has evolved into a company with an annual turnover of Rs 2,500 crore, employing about 14,000 people.

Empowering women?

The advertising industry feels that the ad is unique and quite different from the previous Nirma detergent ads. "The ad definitely cuts across the clutter," says Chraneeta Mann, executive creative director, Rediffusion-Y&R. "The whole idea of 'women getting their hands dirty and doing a guy's job' is a refreshing take in the category. I see the ad definitely appealing to women of today, who feel they are shouldering a lot more than their male counterparts. The TVC is more fun as it is a quirky mix of a soap opera and the real world," she adds.

Madhu Noorani, chief creative planner, Lowe Lintas likes the idea of women taking charge. "The TVC shows that women are unafraid to do the right thing. Women power is empowered by the brand. It kind of reminds me of an adult version of 'dirt is good'," she articulates.

Rajan Narayan, president and chief executive officer, Quadrant Communications, agrees with Mann about the ad being a clutter-breaker. "It captures today's societal trend in which women are seen as being more than equal to men. Be it at home management, ensuring kids do well in academics and extracurricular activities, planning vacations, designing homes, entertaining friends, being fitter, and obliviously being star performers at work, women have become stronger."

However, he feels that showing them getting their hands muddy, unfortunately, ventures into Surf's area and comes across as 'me-too' for Nirma.

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