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Center Shock: Exploring shock value

By , agencyfaqs! | In | December 30, 2002
The second ad for chewing gum brand Center Shock takes the original idea forward by keeping audiences guessing about the nature of the gum's 'effect'


The agency brief from Perfetti India couldn't have been simpler. Capture the essence of the brand in the simplest possible manner. And make the communication funny and memorable - to the extent that the advertising and the brand come across as 'shockingly different'.

Armed with this brief - and a strongly differentiated product that lived up to its name - O&M created the first Center Shock commercial ('barber shop') some four months ago. The ad was an instant hit, and, to quote AK Dhingra, director, sales & marketing, Perfetti India, "has elicited very favorable consumer and trade response". What was it about the ad that worked? Not only did it introduce consumers to a new brand of liquid-filled chewing gum, it effectively communicated - in a bizarre fashion, though - the punch the product carried in its belly.

Done deal. But the real challenge for the agency lay in taking the idea of 'hilaake rakh de' forward in ads to come. Here was a brand that, in the first 30 seconds of its consumption, gave off a distinct 'fruit-flavoured' acidic taste, which had a mildly shocking effect on the consumer. The problem for O&M: the first 30 seconds of communication for the brand had established this cause-and-effect all too clearly. Future ads could not dream of sustaining audience interest by simply repeating the original gag. So, without diluting the core message, Center Shock ads had to make allowances for small twists in the tale. By leading audiences into cul-de-sacs. By throwing in a few red herrings. By keeping them guessing about the nature of the gum's 'effect'…

The second commercial for Center Shock achieves all of this.

The commercial is about this boy who is presumably making his first visit to his girlfriend's house to seek her father's approval. The girl ushers the boy into the palatial house and rushes off to fetch daddy dear, leaving the boy in the living room. As he waits, the boy gapes at the opulence around him for some time, then struts around the living room. He chances upon a framed photograph of a bald man in uniform, proudly seated on a horse. As he stares at what must be his prospective father-in-law's picture, he takes a Center Shock from his pocket and deftly pops it into his mouth. Next, he picks the photograph up for a closer look…

And the convulsions set in. At that moment, the girl and her father troop into the room. The father stares in bewilderment as the boy shakes wildly in the middle of the room, picture in hand. The convulsions subside.

The boy looks at the photograph, looks at the father and quietly hands him the picture. The father takes the photograph… to discover that he is now lying on his back, thrown off his horse!

What's good about this ad is that the moment Center Shock is revealed and the boy starts convulsing, you think you know the outcome. Red herrings in plenty, here. For one, the boy has a really outlandish hairdo (recall the first Center Shock ad), so you chuckle, 'This guy's now gonna make a royal impression.' He does make one, but not how you imagined it. And even if one applied imagination and felt that this time the joke is going to be on the father, the fact that the father is a skinhead doesn't help. (In fact, the sight of the bald father reinforces the belief that this one will also have something to do with 'hair and hairdos'.)

"The idea was to beat the audience so that they enjoy it even more," says Abhijit Awasthi, creative director, O&M. "What worked the first time was the fact that something unexpected happens to the guy who eats Center Shock. Now, people have figured that one out, so they would be expecting the same thing. And doing that would have been predictable. So we said, let's not limit the gum's effect to the guy who is eating it. That way, we explore new possibilities of 'shock value' and beat the audience."

Another thing that the ad has going for it is the casting - and the incongruity between the casting and the situation. Here's this distinctly down-market boy (his shirt would put Govinda's entire wardrobe to shame) courting this girl living in a colonial house with a father who seems to be a holdover from the days of the Raj. "One of the things that worked last time was the casting, so Prasoon (Pandey) was particular that we have some 'interesting looking' people in this one too," Awasthi smiles.

Going by what Perfetti India says, the first ad for Center Shock has worked very well. "ORG estimates Center Fresh to have 59-per cent market share, and Center Shock to have 10 per cent, in terms of volume," says Dhingra. A 10-per cent share in a market estimated at roughly 1,000 tons (valued at Rs 25 crore). Not bad for a brand that was rolled out nationally only in April-May, 2002. "Center Shock has been faring as per our expectations, both in terms of sales and recall," Dhingra adds. "In fact, we are a trifle short on capacities at the moment, and demand exceeds supply."

It's clear that the 'barber shop' ad packed enough to appeal to Center Shock's key target audience - kids and teenagers in the 5-to-15 years' bracket. The ingredients are in place in the second ad too...

© 2002 agencyfaqs!

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