After Ramadan in Pakistan, Surf Excel launches similar spot for Diwali in India

By Sunit Roy , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | October 19, 2016
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Like in its recent #MadadEkIbadat Ramadan ad, the kids in Surf Excel's new spot #AbLagRahiDiwali help people from a lower socio-economic strata.... and dirty their clothes in the bargain, of course.

Diyas, rangolis, gifts, greetings, food, and family - the right ingredients to make Diwali celebrations truly special, isn't it? However, we often fail to include in our festivities those who make our lives easy, happy, and safe, our support staff such as our domestic help, the 'istriwala' (laundryman), and the watchman in our building.

Highlighting the thought of sharing the Diwali festivities and bringing joy in the lives of the lesser privileged is Surf Excel, the detergent brand from Hindustan Unilever (HUL), in its recently launched ad film '#AbLagRahiDiwali'. The new campaign is an extension of Surf Excel's take on the theme 'Daag Achhe Hain (stains are good)'.

Surf Excel's new ad campaign '#AbLagRahiDiwali'

The over two-and-a-half minute video shows that Diwali celebrations are incomplete without 'rangoli', and therefore, a little boy and his group of friends enjoy the festivities with an 'istriwala' by getting the 'rangoli' design impression on their clothes and going to his (istriwala's) house and lighting the sparklers. In the process, the boy's clothes get stained, but his mother is not offended. She says instead, "Sabka muh nahin mitha karwaoge?"

The background score in Urdu, "noor se uske hai jagmag zameen... beshak hai sajde may utri labon pe hanseen... megho se ho jaise barqat giri...", touches an emotional chord and is meticulously woven into the ad film. In the end, the poetic narrative concludes with "agar daag lagne se kisi ki diwali may rang aur roshni bhar jaaye toh daag acche hai", thus amplifying the theme 'Daag Achhe Hain'.

Arun Iyer

Conceptualised by Arun Iyer, chief creative officer, Lowe Lintas, and his team, the ad film has been produced by Absolute Productions and directed by Vasan Bala (writer of famous Bollywood flicks such as 'Raman Raghav', 'The Lunchbox', and 'Bombay Velvet'). The creative team includes Carlos Pereira, Gandhali Karnik, Virendra Vilankar, and A P Zeth.

Speaking about the ad campaign, Iyer says, "The thought behind the campaign is to express how children can live and enjoy their childhood through stains. In this particular instance, if you were to see the world from the child's point of view, which is rather innocent, when he (the child) notices that somebody around him is unable to celebrate Diwali due to certain reasons, he decides to put 'rangoli' himself. So, in a way, this is a very child-like interpretation of the world."

Surf Excel's '#MadadEkIbadat' ad film launched in June 2016 during Ramzaan

The only-digital ad campaign has a sharp resemblance with Surf Excel's #MadadEkIbadat (Helping is an act of faith) campaign, launched in June this year during the Ramzan celebrations. The '#MadadEkIbadat' ad film showed a little boy help an old 'samosa-wala' sell his Iftar savories, and thus, doing his good deed for the day. However, he stains his clothes in the process, but of course, the mother doesn't get angry.

However, "while #MadadEkIbadat campaign highlighted a child's emotion of helping out someone in need, #AbLagRahiDiwali campaign highlights the child's emotion of including someone in the festivities, someone who visits his home every day, but is not a relative," says Iyer.

The 'Daag Achhe Hain' theme has been a kingpin for the brand Surf Excel for over a decade, and Lowe Lintas has worked upon various campaigns centred upon the thought. "The 'Daag Achhe Hain' theme has lived a life of more than 10 years and I am sure that it has a life going forward as well. I have worked upon this from the very first day and it has been a wonderful experience because it kept evolving with
time," says Iyer.

Expert Speak

We asked our experts if the ad succeeds in conveying the message by creating an emotional bond with the audience. And, was it well executed?

According to Sameer Aasht, founder director, Alma Mater Biz Solutions, although the plot for both the ads done for the same brand is around kids who help others and in the process, dirty their clothes, be it Ramzan or Diwali, the former is a lot more true for a single-minded audience. The Diwali ad, in contrast, adds a rather unnecessary layer of an unreal attempt to bridge class divides and force fits goodness.

Sameer Aasht

Nimesh Shah

Sudhir Nair

"While the Diwali version ticks off all boxes, the potential to create meaning for its target audience gets compromised due to such layering of messaging. Depicting the kid in a fairly isolated and potentially dangerous commute, which most affluent urban Indian moms will not permit, and jumping into a 'rangoli' is going against the cultural code of preserving it. It suggests destruction during a festivite occasion, and is a shortcut of showing 'rangoli' on their clothes instead of making it on the floor. The loss of pattern in a 'rangoli' makes clothes appear more like Holi. Avoiding such cultural misfits could have helped make this ad a lot more effective. Overall, this could have been communicated more believably. I feel such detailing gets missed out in case of a parentless idea or an over rationalised idea," says Aasht.

Nimesh Shah, head maven, Windchimes Communications, says, "The role of kids in the South Asian market is far more accepted and better received than the US, European, or the Australian society. So, to see Surf Excel use them in their communication that is rooted in emotion is understandable. Kids add to the sweetness factor and build bonds just like they have done in this film. The issue for me is that it is very typical and predictable, so the ad will find it difficult to hold attention for a span of 2.4 minutes, especially in the online space."

Shah feels that the core thought of 'Daag Achche Hai' still holds merit, but in order to retain attention, the brand will either have to show unconventional situations or innovative solutions to problems that the protagonist deploys in order to hold the viewer's attention. "It is much like the Fevicol ad, in which the thought of 'Fevicol Ka Majbut Jod Hai' is manifested in a creative manner in every ad to have a captive audience. It would also be exciting to see if the brand could go beyond religious festivals and pick up other occasions to smartly convey the core thought," says Shah.

According to Sudhir Nair, managing director, digital, Omnicom Media Group, the idea captures the essence of both festivals and also acts as a reality check. "Kids enhance the softness and innocence of the ads. Kids may help the needy much more than grown-ups do, and kids do have a universal appeal. If it can lead to some social good it would be awesome. The ad has been shot well, and I liked the casting too, as it looks real. However, there is some amount of exaggeration, like the 'rangoli' patterns coming on the clothes, but it does the job. I would have liked to see more colours/lights and people added to some frames; else it's great," says Nair.

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