It was almost as if the winds of change sweeping through Hindustan Lever (HLL) had somehow, silently bypassed Vim.
By 'winds of change', we are obviously alluding to Levers' opening-up to the power of the creative idea, across the board. And by Vim, we mean the advertising for Vim over the past two-three years.
Not to suggest that the advertising for HLL's flagship dishwash brand has been downright bad these last few years. It hasn't. But it hasn't been terribly exciting either. Hardworking, yes. Effective, perhaps. Exciting, most certainly not. Mildly interesting, at best. Nowhere in the league of a Surf Excel, a Pepsodent, a Sunsilk, a Clinic or a Close-up, creativity-wise. And while it can be argued that that's the kind of advertising the brand required, it just wasn't reflective enough of Levers' desire to do engaging advertising.
Well, all that has just changed.
Sample the latest television commercial for the brand created by Lowe, Mumbai. The ad, shot entirely in black-and-white, opens on a bride and a groom on their 'first night'. Seated on a bed, the two exchange tentative smiles, not quite sure how to take things forward. A gharana-kind-of music plays in the background, setting the mood for the evening.
Just as the two are about to break their shy silence, a loud scraping noise splits the night. Taken aback, the bride and groom look around them. The scraping stops. The two are about to strike up a conversation when the noise starts again. Cut to a close-up of huge saucepan being scrubbed. Back in the bedroom, the bride seems a trifle irritated by the sound. The scraping soon becomes incessant.
Cut to the shot of a man (one of the caterer's helpers) vigorously scouring utensils in the open, close to the bedroom window. Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. Ash, pieces of brick… the man uses everything to get rid of stubborn grease. Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. Unable to put up with the racket, the bride suddenly gets up, goes to the window and hurls something out.
A bar of Vim lands near the man's feet. 'Khar-Khar Ka Muh Tod Jawab' reads the super.
Cut to the shot of the bedroom. In the much-welcome silence, the bride and groom smile at one another. However, the silence is short-lived, as an off-key voice starts trilling enthusiastically. The man outside, of course… thrilled at the ease with which his scouring is coming along.
Just the kind of 'leap' Vim's advertising needed. Almost a 'Surf Excel hai na!' sort of leap.
"In some ways, there is an exact parallel to Surf Excel," says Balki (R. Balakrishnan), executive creative director, Lowe. "Of course, unlike Surf Excel, which was all about 'testimonial advertising', Vim's advertising was about vivid demonstrations." Demonstrations of how Vim scours the best, peaking with last year's Vim Challenge and the 'travelogue' campaign.
The latter, it may be recalled, had a Vim representative taking the Vim Challenge to different parts of the country by challenging everyone from Punjabi matrons to Tamil restaurant owners to pit 'their scourer' against Vim and decide for themselves. "The 'travelogue' campaign was highly successful as it gave consumers a chance to see how Vim works," says Balki. "Of course, the product was living up to its promise damn well, and we were quite happy with the campaign."
So if it ain't broke, why fix it? "We believe we had achieved the maximum from vivid demonstrations," Balki explains. "We had shown a restaurant owner admitting that Vim was superior - that is an ultimate. How much more can you do with vivid demonstrations? So we had to move on to something that symbolized ease of wash on the toughest of stains."
And that something is noise. "In washing and cleaning, noise is symbolic of many things," says Ramki (D. Ramakrishna), creative director, Lowe. "Noise suggests a great deal of physical effort and difficulty in cleaning. So the moment we say 'Khar-Khar Ka Muh Tod Jawab', we are implying that Vim is a silent, effective and easy way out. We highlighted the scraping sound and the irritation it generates to draw attention to the sheer grind involved in scouring without Vim."
The very use of the term 'khar-khar' - and the images of the man using ash and pieces of brick in the ad - clearly suggests that Vim is addressing consumers who habitually use 'free' homemade scourers (charcoal, ash or even the aluminum foil of medicine strips). And such consumers constitute some 70 per cent of the market. "Being the market leader, the onus of conversion rests on Vim," says Ramki. "Fighting the competition isn't the only thing - although Vim is already close to being generic in the dishwash bar market. We have to get in new converts."
Incidentally, HLL claims that Vim bar has a 60-per cent market share in the Rs 400-crore branded dishwash market. And while competition from national brands such as Odopic, Nip and Nirma Bartan (and regional brands such as Sabena, in the south) is always there, consumers often 'double' detergent brands (such as Rin, Wheel or Nirma) as dishwash scourers.
Ramki admits that the challenge for Lowe was to get new users into the fold without alienating the existing top-end users. "When you start addressing the lower SECs, your existing base might feel the need to disassociate. We had to be sure that our advertising would appeal to all classes. With this ad, we have managed it. While we are clearly talking to non-users, our existing users also find the ad appealing as it tells an interesting story."
One thing's for sure. There's no going back to the 'vivid demonstration-travelogue' Vim advertising of yore - "not as long as we are alive," as Balki puts it. "'Noise-free wash' is the area in which Vim's advertising will now function."
That being the idea, one can expect more involving advertising from Vim.
Agency : Lowe, Mumbai
The Team :
HLL Representative : Sanjay Behl
Creative : Ramki, Shriram Iyer
Servicing : Dinesh Menon, Sabyasachi Mishra
Filmmaker : Shivendra Dungarpur
Cinematographer : Santosh Tundil
Soundtrack : Raghubir Yadav
Music : Rajat Dhaulakia
Models : Rajpal Yadav (cleaner), Rimi Sen (bride)
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