Chai Biskoot: A biscuit in a metaphor

By , agencyfaqs! | In | March 18, 2002
The six-ad campaign for Britannia's mass-market brand, Chai Biskoot, aims to celebrate the small joys of ordinary Indians by using the chai biskoot routine as "a coming together of people"

In a very literal sense, Chai Biskoot just means 'chai biskoot' - a biscuit one has with tea. Which, in itself, is a clever bit of branding on the part of Britannia Industries (BIL), in a day and age where marketers are doing everything possible to 'own the category' or 'straddle the proposition' ("thanda matlab Coca-Cola" being the most recent example). A mass-market biscuit with as generic a brand name as Chai Biskoot, is half the battle won.

But then, Chai Biskoot isn't only about chai and biskoot. At a subliminal level, 'chai biskoot' is about small human interactions. Like in college, where the college canteen is invariably the focal point of existence, the tea or the lime juice is not the real reason why students hangout at the canteen. The canteen (and its tea or lime juice) is more a catalyst or a facilitator of student interaction. Similarly, for the average man on the street, the chai biskoot routine is an interface. In that sense, Chai Biskoot isn't as much a biscuit as it is a metaphor.

And it is this metaphorical aspect of the phrase 'chai biskoot' that the advertising for Chai Biskoot attempts to capture through a six-ad television campaign. Take the 'shoe' ad, for instance. The commercial starts with a middle-middle class couple walking along a very up-market street lined with shopping windows. The couple is quite overawed by their surroundings. Suddenly, the wife notices a pair of fashionable, high-heeled sandals adorning one window. As she looks at the sandals with yearning, her eye catches the price tag. Her face falls. She turns to find her husband counting the money in his wallet. One look at his crestfallen face shows there just isn't enough to spare. She walks up to him, takes the wallet from his hands, thrusts it back into his pocket and says lovingly, 'Chalo, chai biskoot ho jaye?' The last shot shows the wife putting a biscuit into the husband's mouth. At the last moment, she abruptly stands on her toes, smiles at him and gestures mischievously towards her imaginary high-heeled shoes. The couple laugh, their disappointments behind them.

To say the other five commercials are similar would be right… and wrong. Wrong because not all the ads are about overcoming some disappointment or the other. Right because they are all about how 'chai biskoot' serves as an expression of human bonding.

So, in the 'rain' ad, a small gesture of goodwill helps a woman overcome her embarrassment, while in the 'train' ad a small act of reassurance goes a long way in giving hope to a mother waiting for her soldier son to return home. For its part, the 'geese' ad has nothing but a small-town girl tending a gaggle of geese as her beau follows her on a cycle. The 'college' ad is about this boy who, despite the constant encouragement from a friend, just cannot muster enough courage to speak to a girl he likes. And the 'farm' spot has the farmer and his wife proudly looking at their young son shooing birds in a field.

Looking at it, none of the situations in any of the ads are of great significance. No insurmountable problems, nothing earthshakingly serious, nothing that will not pass with time. Yet, the situations have somehow been lived - in various degrees and forms - by average people. Slice-of-life. And in each ad, 'chai biskoot' serves as an instrument of human bonding.

"From a marketing point of view, we wanted to get to the core of the Indian customer, because the big growth will come from the mass-market," reveals Sunil Alagh, CEO, BIL. "So, in terms of positioning, we wanted this brand to be a part of the consumer's life. Now, from a communication point of view, I was looking at things that are expressions of the consumer's life. And I felt that Chai Biskoot is not just a biscuit but a coming together of people." Alagh cites a scene from the movie Shri 420 to make his point. "In the movie, while Raj Kapoor and Nargis are singing 'Pyaar hua, ikraar hua' in the rain, there is a small chaiwalla under a bridge… Now this, to my mind, is what pure romance over chai biskoot is all about. Small joys. And that is all that we wanted to communicate."

"It was one of the best briefs we have ever got," remarks Balki (R. Balakrishnan), executive creative director, Lowe. "Here was a healthy, affordable biscuit, and Sunil (Alagh) wanted us to showcase it by romanticizing the lives of ordinary Indians and celebrating their little moments of joy. This, by borrowing from the phrase 'chai biskoot'."

One interesting thing about this campaign is that the six commercials have been directed one each by six different directors. For instance, the 'shoe' spot is the work of Mansoor Khan, the 'rain' ad is Priyadarshan's work, the 'train' ad has been directed by Aziz Mirza, Govind Nihlani directed the 'geese' ad, while Raja Sen worked on the 'college' ad. The 'farm' ad is the work of Ashit Desai, creative director, Lowe (who also wrote all six scripts). Incidentally, it was Alagh's idea to use six different directors. "We wanted the ethos and emotions from across the country, so we thought let's get six directors," he says. "With one director you'll get one touch, but with six, you get six different flavours. As you can see, each ad has a distinct touch."

Of course, getting this team of directors together was a challenge, admits Sunil Manchanda of MAD Films. "But once they got together, and were told about how each one was going to do one ad, they got very excited," Manchanda recollects with a smile. "Each one wanted to outdo the other." It was Manchanda's idea to get the line-up. "The scripts were so sensitive, they needed people with experience working on them. The emotions had to be captured right."

The ads' background scores - all old Hindi movie soundtracks - play a critical role in rounding-off the communication. For instance, the score in the 'shoe' ad is bang-on - Lata Mangeshkar's 'Aaja piya, tohe pyaar doon'. The 'rain' ad has Hemant Kumar's soulful voice singing 'Na tum hamhe jaano'. Kishore Kumar's heavy-on-the-heart 'Kiska rastaa dekhen' forms the background for the 'train' ad, while his spirited 'Main hoon jhum-jhum-jhum-juhm jhumroo' reflects the kid's enthusiasm in the 'farm' ad. Hemant Kumar's 'Bekaraar karke hamen' fits in the 'college' ad (a bit predictably, though), while Lata's 'Main chali, chali' is theme for the 'geese' ad. Here again, credit goes to Manchanda. "For two weeks I was a most miserable man listening to all the sad songs from the 60s onwards," he smiles. "The scripts were great, so the songs had to complement them."

While Manchanda gives the scripts the credit, Balki feels it had more to do with Britannia's brief and Manchanda's work. "The scripts were good, yes, but all the agency did was tell stories," says Balki. "Without Sunil's (Alagh) vision and Sunil's (Manchanda) interpretation, no story. These ads aren't ads but corner-of-the-eye observations of life. And doing this for a mass-market brand is a killer. It shows what a difference it makes when everyone partners in the creation of advertising." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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© 2002 agencyfaqs!