Pfizer: A dose of realistic humour

By , agencyfaqs! | In
Last updated : June 10, 2002
The latest two-ad image-building campaign for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is a refreshing example of how humour can be used in corporate advertising

Mention 'image-building exercise', and the advertising mind usually undergoes a strange sort of transformation. Deep inside, those bright, colourful party lights get switched off, the funky music stops playing and suddenly everyone sits upright and starts looking serious. Why? Because it's an image-building exercise, for Christ's sake!

Don't get me wrong - it's not as if image-building exercises by Indian agencies have not been creative. Quite a few have been - Kotak Mahindra's rich 'Zindagi ka hisaab-kitaab' campaign and Hamaara Bajaj are two good examples. But, in most cases, a strong, almost subconscious 'seriousness' creeps into the agency thinking when approaching corporate advertising. A you've-got-to-be-serious-to-be-taken-seriously thinking. And this reflects in the output.

Yes, for the advertiser the stakes are undoubtedly high, but that applies to brand advertising as well. And if brand advertising can be 'relevantly entertaining', why not extend that to corporate advertising?

Which is why pharmaceutical giant Pfizer's first India-specific 'awareness' campaign deserves mention. Created by O&M, Mumbai, this two-ad campaign is… well, let's first go through the ads briefly.

The first ad ('morning walk') is about three old men - all friends - taking a morning walk. One of them suddenly addresses another, "Kyon be ganje… report card aayee?" "Haan," comes the reply. "BP mein kitne aaye?" is the next question. "First class first… aur tera cholesterol?" it's now the other's turn to question. "Distinction," is the proud reply. "Abe ja, cheating kiya hoga," the second man snorts playfully, to which the first man counters, "Ja be lallu…"

All this while, the third gent walks silently between the other two, a hangdog statement on his face. Noticing this, the first man asks him, "Tu kyon aise muh latkake ghoom raha hai?" "Are yaar, main fail ho gaya," the third man is crestfallen. "Fail ho gaya? Kaise?" the other two are concerned. It transpires that this man had offered to take the nurse out for a movie, "aur usne mana kar diya". The other two friends are sympathetic, and gently pat him on the back as they walk away. 'Dhadakte dilon ko dil ke rog se bachaayen - Pfizer,' says the voiceover.

The second commercial ('seafront') again has two old men sitting on an embankment and chatting. Suddenly, one asks the other, "Are yaar, woh Basanti yaad hai tujhe?" "Basanti? Krishna Menon, 1942, Lahore College…" the other man's mind reaches back to his youth. "Badi sahi thi woh," he recollects with a naughty smile. His friend immediately starts pulling his leg, "Is liye din bhar uske peechhe makkhi ki tarah ghoomta rehta tha." The second old man then lets the first into a secret. "Scene almost ban gaya tha…" he says, but reveals that things didn't 'work out' because Basanti dropped out of sight for two months during the summer vacations. "Varna kheench leta," he adds confidently.

It's now the other's turn to share a secret. Basanti had been taking tennis lessons at Mussoorie that summer, he informs. Surprised, his friend immediately wants to know how he knows this. "Kyonki… use main sikha raha tha," reveals the other, eyes sparkling in delight. The friends push and shove one another in jest, laughing at life's subtle twists. 'Is hasee par depression ki aanch na aane dein. Pfizer,' says the voiceover. 'Life is our life's work' reads the global tagline.

Nothing outrageously funny or incredibly wacky; just a healthy dose of everyday humour told in a simple, captivating manner. And the best part is the humour is not misplaced. The fact that Pfizer has solutions for heart ailments and depression - or at least that Pfizer is a significant player in pharmaceuticals - comes through clearly.

"Pfizer is this large pharma company that has never talked about itself in India, so there is low awareness among consumers," says Piyush Pandey, group president & national creative director, O&M. "This is the first attempt at correcting that, using mass media." These two ads obviously work towards highlighting Pfizer's contributions in the area of heart disease and depression, though individual Pfizer brands are not being promoted. "The purpose is purely image driven, as the fact that Pfizer is actively into drug manufacture is not very well known," says Piyush. "Pfizer has a lot of solutions for heart ailments, and the company is putting in lots of effort into finding cures for depression."

Talking about the creative idea, Piyush reveals that the idea stemmed from Pfizer's global tagline. "Life is all about time well spent, free of disease, worry and anxiety," he says. "And the role of a pharmaceutical company is to see that you lead your life to the fullest, that your life is a celebration. This communication brings to life this idea. Here are old people who are thoroughly enjoying life. And when you see such old people, you always say, when I am old I want to be like them - young at heart. That was our creative backdrop."

The scripts, quite evidently, draw from real life and Piyush admits as much. "For instance, when we were kids, there was a lot of anxiousness about report cards and comparing scores," he recounts. "And this idea actually came from the time some six of us - including Prasoon (Pandey), Sonal (Dabral), Mahesh (Mathai) and I - went for a medical checkup. Once we returned, we were actually saying, 'Main isme pass ho gaya, main usme pass ho gaya'."

These ads would not have been half the ads they are were it not for the dialogues and the performances. And Prasoon Pandey, who directed these films (incidentally, these are the first films out of Corcoise), reveals that he wanted great performers once he heard the scripts. "With such nice scripts, I wanted to play it real, so I got some really talented artists. And once I had them, I just needed to press the right buttons." Prasoon apparently got the actors to narrate some of the pranks they had been party to in their youth. "This was off camera, so their performances were natural," he says. "I caught those expressions, and when we actually began shooting I told them to mouth these dialogues, but keep those images in mind. And with a little reminding I got what I wanted."

In all this, one mustn't forget the client who bought this idea (remember, for an image-building campaign, that too in the 'dry' pharmaceutical category). And Piyush gives full credit here. "This would not have been possible without the client's support, and I thank them."

Agency : O&M, Mumbai
The Team :
Creative : Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Pandey, Abhijit Awasthi
Servicing : Lakshmi Goyal, Sharon, Triveni
Filmmaker : Prasoon Pandey
Production House : Corcoise Films
Models : Dinkar Patkar, Hemu Adhikari, Jayant Savarkar ('morning walk'); Pratap Ojha, Daji Bhatwadekar ('seafront')

© 2002 agencyfaqs!

First Published : June 10, 2002
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© 2002 agencyfaqs!