As an idea, it is so preposterously funny (and audacious), it couldn't have spawned but in damp locker rooms. Or in school dormitories, full of pint-sized pranksters finding little ways to keep their devious little selves entertained.
Which, in a way, is the case, as we'll discover.
We're, of course, talking about the latest television spot for music retail chain Planet M, which goes like this. The commercial opens on a street scene: one of those hemmed-in-by-walls side streets, with the usual assortment of pedestrian traffic.
Suddenly, an autorickshaw bursts into the frame, and jerks to a halt by one of the walls bordering the street. The driver apart, the rickshaw has a lone occupant - an elderly priest. Without so much as a 'with your permission', the loutish driver gets out of the vehicle, marches purposefully to the wall and unzips his pants… The mild-mannered priest timidly peers out of the rickshaw in silent disapproval.
Cut to the driver, who lets out a strange "Pee-pee-pee-pee" noise from his lips - as if heralding an event of some significance. Immediately, in the background, an orchestra strikes up a fast-paced tune, and the driver starts swinging vigorously to the rhythm, even as he relieves himself. As the music gathers tempo, the driver is seen jumping around and shaking his hips, much to the curiosity of the priest sitting in the rickshaw.
The music reaches a crescendo and stops, and the driver completes his dance (and deed) with a flourish. Zipping up his pants, the driver stands back to survey the face of the wall.
Scrawled across it is a set of musical notations!
"Planet M. For those obsessed with music," says the voiceover. The final shot has the driver about to start the rickshaw. The priest leans over and gently asks the driver, "Tchaikovsky?" With an expression that says 'oh, such philistines', the driver replies, "Tchk, Beethoven."
Brazen, definitely, but also a fabulous idea, so true to the brand personality, and the concept of 'obsession with music'. "The line 'For those obsessed with music' was working very well among the target audience," says B. Raghu, associate creative director - copy, Ambience D'Arcy. (Raghu and teammate Manish Bhatt conceived this commercial.) "So the client brief for this commercial was to stick to this proposition."
Ambience wanted to ensure that the end product was very out-of-the-box, enjoyable and true to the brand's irreverent image. To get the best ideas, the brief was thrown open to the entire agency. In all, some 40-odd scripts were considered.
So where exactly did this bizarre idea come from? "It came from our schooldays - a hostel insight," Raghu smiles. "Kids have a tendency of trying to write and draw while peeing," Manish Bhatt, associate creative director - art, Ambience D'Arcy, adds. "Some draw the figure 'eight', some draw the 'swastika' and some write their names. So we thought why not show someone drawing musical notations. It seemed so right."
Despite some initial reservations from within the agency, Ambience went ahead with the idea, after whetting it past senior creative people in the D'Arcy worldwide network. "Their reaction was unanimous - that it was a great idea," Raghu glows.
Casting is one of the high points of the commercial. Filmmaker Pradeep Sarkar took pains to get models who were not 'regulars'. Plus, the lead model had to have the ability to perform with his body - in a most uninhibited manner. "I think casting did the trick," agrees Sarkar. Sarkar zeroed in on choreographer Caesar (of Bollywood's Bosco & Caesar fame). "Caesar was a bit apprehensive about doing the ad," says Sarkar. "But once he saw the script, he said this was one hell of a commercial and agreed."
All the casting did not happen by design - part of it was 'compulsion'. It goes like this. The commercial was being shot in the Fort area of Mumbai, where autorickshaws are not allowed. The rickshaw was easily ferried to Fort by truck, but during the shoot, one eager-beaver police constable started raising hell at the sight of the rickshaw. When all appeals fell on deaf ears, Sarkar struck a deal with the cop whereby the cop was given a role in the ad, in lieu of his 'continued cooperation'. The zealous cop is one of the musicians in the brass band!
Funnily, what this commercial manages is highlighting not one, but two obsessions - the second, perhaps unwittingly. While the first is to do with music, the second has to do with the Indian male's visceral affinity towards walls as makeshift loos. Which is what makes the ad 'culturally associateable', so to say.
That doesn't necessarily mean people will not be offended. Three years ago, there was that brilliant 'airport lounge' ad for Onida that drew parallels between the sound of a trumpet and that of flatulence to sell sound quality. Despite the great creative, some people - even within the industry - found the Onida ad a bit rude on sensitivities.
Not that that should deter clients. Certainly not Planet M, which should be credited for boldly buying such clutter-busing creative. After all, Planet M has cultivated a fairly irreverent image. And as Raghu says, "If you are irreverent, you have to go the whole hog. No half measures here."
Agency : Ambience D'Arcy, Mumbai
The Team :
Creative : Ashok Kurien, Elsie Nanji, B. Raghu, Manish Bhatt
Servicing : Parvez Modak, Sanjay Sharma, Deric D'Souza
Planet M Team : Arun Arora, Ajay Mehra, Ruchi Mathur
Filmmaker : Pradeep Sarkar
Production House : Apocalypso
Music : Shiv Mathur
Models : Caesar (driver), Yusuf Hussain (priest)
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