Lately, it seems like Bollywood is getting a little obsessed with real-life inspired stories. A deluge of biopics - The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Paan Singh Tomar, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Dangal, Mary Kom, Rustom, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story and others brought the lives of real-life legends onto the silver screen, giving the audience goosebumps with gripping storylines and awe-inspiring narratives.
As films inspired by real-life characters and incidents continue growing, the trend seems to be also be slipping into adland.
Sample this: Mountain Dew, the beverage brand from the house of PepsiCo, has released it's first-ever real life-inspired ad film based on the journey of a real-life hero, Arjun Vajpai (the third-youngest Indian to climb Mount Everest; having achieved this feat at the age of 16 years) through its 'Risk Takers of India' campaign.
Hrithik Roshan, Mountain Dew's brand ambassador, has essayed the role of the 24-year-old mountaineer and captures his attempt at climbing Mt. Cho Oyu - one of the most difficult summits to conquer.
Conceptualised and created by J. Walter Thompson (JWT), the ad film resonates with Mountain Dew's philosophy of pushing boundaries, celebrating courage and showcasing real-life heroes.
Senthil Kumar, chief creative officer, JWT India says, "This year we are bringing in a brand new format in the form of a biopic TVC with the story of (Arjun) Vajpai. This also reflects popular culture of the recent biopics in Indian cinema. The film captures the epic terrain, vulnerability and the determination of the hero as he conquers the mountain within."
The brand has also collaborated with VICE India to develop a series on Vajpai's journey. Each of the episodes, produced in association with VICE India, will feature different chapters of Vajpai's adventures and will be interspersed with his interviews.
"The 30-second TVC gave us a chance to set the context for Arjun's story, while the long-format VICE India videos will give consumers a more detailed insight into his story and bring to fore his grit, determination and relentless spirit," informs Naseeb Puri, associate director - Mountain Dew, PepsiCo India.
The new ad from Mountain Dew doesn't feature Vajpai. Also, the narrative of the hero being in trouble and taking a sip of the beverage for courage is not new and has been used many times before - most recently by Thums Up. We asked the experts why soft drink brands aren't able to move forward from this tried and tested formula of narrative and if it's sort of a shallow tribute paid by the brand to a real hero.
According to Bikram Bindra, vice-president and strategic planning head, Grey Group Delhi, the ad is executed powerfully and the key message that it is trying to deliver comes out well. "Both these brands - Thums Up and Mountain Dew - remain large players with a strong, young, male audience and they have built their considerable equity on the back of a consistent communication strategy. If this is working for them, why should they move to newer territory, especially since this space could be further leveraged," says Bindra.
He, however, maintains, "If the brand really wanted to pay tribute to the star mountaineer, there could have been some way to walk the talk. Using their existing brand ambassador to leverage someone else's heroic feat does seem like an opportunistic move."
Agreeing with Bindra, Saji Abraham, executive director, Lowe Lintas, says "The intent to salute (Arjun) Vajpai is noble. However, the brand does it in an extremely inauthentic way. To portray Hrithik Roshan as Vajpai takes away credibility immediately and makes it an ad."
He adds, "The clichéd product shot defies logic. Simply put, in those sub-zero temperatures, how has the mountain dew not frozen?! Going a little deeper, does Arjun Vajpai take a swig of mountain dew before attempting to scale a peak? On any count you look at it, it seems incredulous."
Abraham further says, "The need to stay in the action-oriented world seems to have got these brands repeating clichés. A good example of energy is Red Bull and their interpretation of what the drink can do. Most authentic. However, most of the other cola ads seem to fall back on inauthentic hyperbole, unfortunately."