Deo wars: Confounding senses

By , agencyfaqs! | In | March 22, 2002
The new Cinthol Deodorant and the Rexona Deodorant commercials on TV tell the same story differently. But that is not the end of the story


Everytime you see the new Cinthol Deodorant and the Rexona Deodorant commercials on TV, you wonder if you got the brand names right after all!

The 30-second Cinthol ad, created by Orchard Advertising, Mumbai, opens with a 'chase' scene - true to the finest tradition of Hindi movie. A girl is seen running across a bridge. She is being chased by a group of baddies accompanied by a bunch of dogs. While on the run through the wilderness, she drops her bag. One of the guys chasing her takes out a bottle of Cinthol deodorant for the hounds to sniff. When the thugs reach a clearing, to their utter dismay, the hounds leap from behind the bushes and start growling at them. Cut to a couple of these ferocious dogs lying at the girl's feet, subdued, totally tamed. The super reads 'Scent of Confidence'.

The Rexona International ad (by Lowe, Mumbai) has a very similar storyline. The ad opens with the shot of a prison cell steeped in darkness. A guard hands over a package to the convict inside. The woman unwraps the package to reveal a Rexona deodorant. Cut to the washroom. The woman gets ready for a shower and discards her soiled clothes. She then contrives a way to give the guards the slip. The cops snap into action and try to trace her with the help of trained dogs. But the dogs are unable to identify her as she is now shrouded by the fantastic odour of Rexona. As the guards admit defeat, the voice over says, "New Rexona deodorant. Won't let you down."

The Cinthol ad was released on February 8 and the Rexona ad on February 27. Two similar stories in the span of three weeks. Another instance of creative coincidence?

Interestingly, while both the ads more or less tell the same story, they manage to elicit very different reactions.

Take the Cinthol ad. Couple of key things are missing, say observers. First, this is the first time Cinthol is being made available as a deodorant. The ad fails to make the point. Second, the ad doesn't seem to give the consumer enough reason to buy the product. To top it all, Pratap Suthan, associate vice-president, Grey Worldwide, Delhi, says the ad fails to convey the brand personality of Cinthol. "Cinthol captures a certain brand world. All of Cinthol's advertising should belong to that realm. Take the Pond's ad. One sees oodles of confidence in it. The benefit comes across clearly. But this Cinthol Deo ad offers you no clear product benefit."

Defending the company's stance, HK Press, executive director and president, Godrej Consumers Products, says, "The ad is about a group of baddies with their fierce dogs, out to catch the Cinthol girl. She is 'confidence' personified and manages to turn the tables on her pursuers, by turning the dogs against their masters. This is the essence of the storyline. The advertisement strongly establishes the brand differentiator of a young, confident woman - always in control, who comes out on top, irrespective of how sticky the situation."

V Sunil creative director, O&M, Delhi, finds the idea a bit far-fetched. "The kind of women the ad is trying to target already knows what is the right product for them. There is no impact, no brand recall here. It is not really important to have a brilliant creative idea to make a point. Take the Whirpool ad. There is no creative insight. But it's entertaining and so it works," he says.

Part of the problem lies in the execution, it seems. "An unusual idea, which has gone astray over ambitious execution," opines Anil Warner, vice-president and executive creative director, HTA, Delhi. "The camerawork and edit pattern is so confusing that comprehension is an issue. The strapline of confidence doesn't quite fit." However, he thinks the agency and the client deserve credit for at least trying to do something different.

Doing something different is fine as long as the target consumer gets the idea. Being a launch ad, the stakes are high. It is crucial to ensure that consumers connect with the new product offering especially when all the deo brands offer essentially the same benefit and most of the top players - Rexona, Fa and now Cinthol - are priced the same, at Rs 75. As Santosh Desai, executive vice-president, McCann-Erickson, says, "A brand should be relevant in one's life. If the storyline is rooted in everyday life, it makes sense. But if the action is happening in some far away exotic jungle, how does the brand relate to the consumer?"

Godrej insists the whole concept was backed by a lot of research. "Our research showed that from the communication point of view, the emotional pay off/imagery was more important to the consumer in the deo category, than a rational/ functional pay off, since there is little scope to differentiate on the functional platform," says Press.

It is here that the Rexona ad seems to score a point. Mehernosh Shapoorjee, creative director, FCB Ulka Advertising, Delhi, thinks the Rexona International ad does a better of conveying the product benefit more convincingly. "The premise is that everyone has a smell, and the 24-hour chase clearly brings out the benefit of Rexona deodorant. Now that's smart. In contrast, the Cinthol ad only ends up chasing its own tail..."

The criticism apart, it seems both the companies are miffed with each other. Both claim their idea is original. agencyfaqs! has reason to believe that this is not the end of the deo story - and that the ads might end up fighting on the floors of ASCI than vie for consumer attention in the marketplace. However, both Godrej and Hindustan Lever officials as well as their respective agencies refused to give an official comment on this.

What is certain is that Cinthol is not the one to be deterred by all the flak. "The Cinthol International Deo launch has been very successful - eliciting a great response from the markets where the product has been retailed - both from trade and consumers. The product is witnessing very good offtake and the advertising is delivering its objective," remarks Press confidently. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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