In the advertising industry, timing is everything. Which is why, around five months back, when Pepsi's 'bhook hadtal' spot (see screenshot below) became popular, consumers were quick to associate it with the student strike at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), a hot one at the time.
Senthil Kumar, chief creative officer, JWT, the agency that created the film, told us, back then, that it was a mere coincidence. "There are probably over a hundred strikes/protests going on in colleges across the country right now, but people are relating the ad to the FTII strike because it is on the top of their minds. The resemblance is not at all intentional," he said.
Now, months later, the brand appears to be re-running the same ad. The ongoing student row at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) gives the spot a new burst of relevance.
An input from the brand team at PepsiCo couldn't be sourced at the point of filing this report. Given the sensitive nature of the JNU matter, we understand why the brand wouldn't want to seen as opportunistic in this case.
If it is a strategic move, well done PepsiCo. If it's not, well, that's one hell of a coincidence.
Arunava Sengupta, founder-director, Scarecrow Communications, opines, "It is obvious that they are timing the campaign (in line) with the ongoing event. A 'youth brand' should always try and be part of its core audience segment (FTII and JNU, in this case) and should try and take advantage of whatever is going on in the 'youth scenario' in the country. Pepsi's campaign usually starts during the summer. So, the timing is good. It is (based on) a topical event.... they are supposed to do that."
Products distracting people from their hunger strikes is a popular theme in ad-land. A look at a couple of ads based on this.