Surf Excel attempts tearjerker; launches ad film #ReadyForLife

By Ashee Sharma , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | April 29, 2016
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The detergent brand from the HUL stable highlights the importance of sharing and altruism.

Among the many skills and qualities that make us ready for life, generosity and compassion are the two virtues that make our lives worthwhile, says Hindustan Unilever's detergent brand Surf Excel in a new tear-jerking digital ad. Conceptualised by Lowe Lintas, the ad is an extension of the 'Daag Acche Hain' or 'Dirt is Good' global theme.

'Are your kids #ReadyForLife' asks Surf Excel

The film is a narrative of how a mother urges on her son to pursue his passion for football; how despite initial disappointments, the son (Atharva) perseveres and finally gets selected in the local team. As a reward, he requests his mother for a pair of football shoes. The gift gives wings to his dreams and there is no stopping him now.

Moved by her son's determination, the mother decides to motivate him by paying a surprise visit during one of the matches. However, once there, she finds out that Atharva is not in the team. Instead, he sits cheering for his friend Suraj who is on the grounds playing football in the pair of shoes that she (the mother) had gifted him (Atharva). The befuddled lady questions her son, who replies that since Suraj cannot afford to buy football shoes, he had to help him. He reveals how he would go to the grounds every day, give his shoes to Suraj for the practice sessions, smear himself in dirt, and return home. The proud mother hugs her son, while the ad ends with a voiceover that says, "My son is #ReadyForLife".

As part of the campaign, the brand has also created a microsite 'Ready For Life' - a thought that takes the 'Daag Acche Hain' theme to the next level. Prior to this, Surf Excel had also partnered with mothers and young children to promote the government's popular cleanliness drive, 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan'. The idea behind that campaign was to highlight the fact that though people were particular about keeping their homes clean, they did not hesitate throwing garbage outside. The brand communicated the 'Keep India Clean' message through young foot soldiers in action and a peppy video anthem executed by Jack In The Box Worldwide.

Considering 'Daag Acche Hain' is an Indian version of the global theme 'Dirt is Good', all brand campaigns, across markets, must revolve around it. When the idea is sacrosanct, what makes different ads stand out is the execution. And, that can be quite challenging. We asked industry experts how ingeniously has the brand handled this challenge so far.

Satbir Singh

Joono Simon

Deepak Singh

Satbir Singh, founder and CCO, Thinkstr (ex-chief creative officer, FCB Ulka), remarks, "This one's quite engagingly done. 'Daag achchhe hain' is amongst the most iconic campaigns in India. 'Share' seemed a bit forced though. On a funny note, 'encourage your kid to share the load' could've been hilarious," he suggests.

According to Joono Simon, CEO and chief creative officer, Brave New World, 'Dirt is Good' has been one of the longest-running and successful campaigns for Surf Excel, and he agrees that digging up more 'dirt' for the brand with time must be a challenging task for the agency.

"Dirt as a mark of sacrifice or as the inner goodness of heart is still a fertile space and has a timeless appeal. But, a child's world is a lot more complex today than what it used to be. Issues such as gadget addiction, over-parenting, coping with working parents, and the excesses that guilty parents shower kids with, are all real-world issues that are there for the brand on which to have serious points of view, and make itself (the brand) meaningful and relevant both for the parent, as well as the child," says Simon.

Simon hopes that a "respected brand" like Surf would make an attempt to play a more substantial role as opposed to going back to the same football field of clichés.

Commenting on the execution, he says, "It looks really laboured and one can see the film crawling on its fours, possibly with the dead weight of all the researches and link tests on its shoulders. The lead boy has his 'surf-ish' charm intact, but again, wish they could go beyond the stereotypes and pick a more relatable pan-Indian face."

According to Deepak Singh, chief creative officer, the Social Street, Surf Excel has done a commendable job. "The proposition has been woven in brilliantly keeping the Indian emotional quotient in mind. It's a nice take which gets the point across, while also strengthening the brand connect in the consumer's mind," he says.

"It's an emotional and beautifully written script, in terms of the idea. It left me with a nice feeling. The story is fresh and adds a new dimension to the way Surf Excel has been advertising in the past," he adds, commenting on the execution.

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