'Thanda III' - Coke scores on naturalness

By , agencyfaqs! | In | September 30, 2002
The third commercial in the 'Thanda matlab Coca-Cola' series takes the advertising idea of 'thanda' forward in all departments very naturally

It's not often that an agency-client combo chances upon a truly 'campaignable' idea for a brand. Ask Coca-Cola India, which has almost constantly been wrestling with criticism over its inability to chisel a long-playing advertising idea - with mass appeal - for flagship brand Coke. True, the brand has successfully created an association with 'the romance of popular cinema'… but cinema, by itself, cannot be the advertising idea for a carbonated soft drink, and Coke knows as much.

However, some six months ago, actor and Coke-endorser Aamir Khan swaggered into a rundown restaurant and demanded 'thanda'. Things have really looked up for Coke's advertising since then. For with that ad, Coke hit the jackpot - it unearthed a remarkable advertising idea, based on north Indian idiom. More importantly, the 'Thanda matlab Coca-Cola' idea lent itself to growth, both in terms of expression and execution. As the latest 'thanda' ad - the third in the series, so far - bears out.

'Thanda III' is a great example of how the 'Thanda matlab…' idea has evolved in six short months. The first ad ('tapori'), it may be recalled, stressed the thanda-Coke connection pretty strongly. Aamir, in conjunction with the dimwit restaurant owner, literally drummed-in 'Thanda matlab Coca-Cola' in an A-for-apple manner, leaving little room for doubt. The second ad ('Hyderabadi') was different from the first in the way it pitched 'thanda' and Coke. While in the first ad 'thanda' was equated with Coca-Cola (Aamir wants thanda, and finally gets his Coke), the second equated Coke with 'generic thanda' (girl asks for Coca-Cola, but Aamir tells her to simply ask for 'thanda'). Spot the subtle difference? Also, with the second ad, the campaign shed some of its tutorial 'Thanda matlab Coca-Cola' stance, with only one verbal reference (from Aamir) to the phrase.

In 'Thanda III', even that has been dropped. Just that last super, with a whisper in the form of a sated voiceover. So is that why this ad is so good? No. This one's a winner simply because of the way the idea has been taken forward in every department. The situation, the narrative, the execution, the performances… everything about the ad is so natural.

Take the situation and the storytelling. Three young girls stranded under the blazing sun somewhere in rural Punjab, looking for a thirst-quencher. They stumble upon this smooth-talking farmer (Aamir, effortless as usual) and ask him for something cold - maybe just water. The farmer starts yanking a pail out of a well. It turns out that the pail is filled with Coke bottles. Anyone who has been to Punjab knows that farmer dunk buckets filled with mangoes into wells - to keep the mangoes nice and cool. Also notice the subliminally supplanting of 'thanda paani' with Coke? Very clever, indeed.

But what is perhaps most natural about this ad is its dialogues. Sample this: 'Yeh ganne de khet vichh tamaatar kitho?' asks Aamir at the sight of the three girls. And when they reveal that they are thirsty, Aamir quickly says, 'Aji, pyaas de ki gal hai… jab khetaan vichh morni aa gayee hain toh bin badal barsaat karaadeyaan.' Typical Punjabi turn of phrase, very different from the Bollywood inspired dialogues in the 'tapori' ad (although the way Aamir says 'filaverpot' in that ad is brilliant).

Of course, there is a very good reason why the dialogues in 'tapori' ad sound Bollywood-ish. The ad had its genesis in Bollywood. In fact, back then, there was no 'Thanda matlab Coca-Cola.' This is how the story goes.

At that time, the agency (McCann-Erickson), Coke and Aamir were working upon ideas for a new Coke ad. That's when Aamir suggested that they create something along the lines of the tapori Munna, of Rangeela fame. Now once the 'tapori' idea started taking the shape of a script, the tapori dialect became critical, as the essence of the character lay in the way he talked. While writing the script and the dialogues, the agency chanced upon the possibilities hidden in the word 'thanda', which had crept into the dialogue.

"'Thanda' is a very north India-centric phenomenon," says Prasoon Joshi, national creative director, McCann-Erickson India. "Go to any restaurant in the north, and attendants would promptly ask, 'thanda ya garam?' 'Thanda' usually means lassi or nimbu pani, 'garam' is essentially tea. Because the character, in itself, represented a culture, we wanted to equate Coke with 'thanda', since 'thanda' too is part of the popular dialect of the north. Thus making 'thanda' generic for Coca-Cola." With the long-playing possibilities of the 'thanda' idea becoming evident, 'thanda' became the central idea. "Once we decided work on that idea, the creative mind just opened up."

Although the 'tapori' ad spawned the two sequels, Joshi clarifies that the sequels were not consciously based on the success of the 'tapori' ad. "When we settled for the 'thanda' idea, we knew that the idea itself was potent enough to manifest itself in numerous ways. It had the strength to take you places. An idea is like a stream - it finds its own course. So it really was not a conscious effort to plan the sequels. They just happened."

Of course, the fact that locally, north India represents Coke's biggest market (sister cola brand Thums Up fares better in south India) helped, in terms of basing the idea on a regional idiom. However, Joshi brushes aside fears that the campaign is too north India-centric. "In Lagaan, all the characters were from a particular region of a country. However, the movie was a great success across the country. Despite its rural setting and plot, each of us connected with the movie. There was something universal about the story."

Joshi believes the same applies to this campaign as well. "The primary objective of the 'thanda' campaign is to bridge the gap between Coke and 'thanda'. The intention, however, is not corporatize 'Thanda matlab Coca-Cola.' It is not a mere slug. It has a universal appeal cutting across boundaries to embrace all, creating a pan-India image."

Incidentally, Joshi too admits that of the three ads, 'Thanda III' takes the cake. "It is an instant hit," he says about the script, which was one of the 15 he had laboured upon. "The dialogues simply make the character alive. They are so true to the character." Also the layering… "For a split second, one is not sure as to what this farmer is drawing out of the well. It is layered like a mini feature film. There is a plot, which ensures repeat watch." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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