Benadryl: Song-and-dance solution

By , agencyfaqs! | In | March 09, 2004
The new two-commercial campaign for Benadryl not only effectively communicates the brand message, but does so in a manner that breaks category-induced clutter

Fundamentally, there are two ways of advertising any brand's reason-to-believe: the interesting way, and the boring way. Without wasting time and space discussing the boring way to advertise (let it suffice to say that there are times you wish somebody gave the chaps who came up with the remote control a place in the Hall of Fame), interesting advertising happens when a dry-as-the-Thar USP or reason-to-believe is delivered in a manner that makes the advertising engaging and watchable.

The new two-commercial television campaign for cough syrup brand Benadryl is one that successfully communicates a dull reason-to-believe (RTB, if you must) in an interesting fashion. Client Pfizer and agency Bates India could have made heavy weather of the brand's 'Triple Action Formula' promise by doing the mind-numbing coughing-kid-concerned-mother routine, backing it up with some confusing mnemonic device that no one cares to remember. Instead, the client-agency team has come out with a campaign that not only effectively communicates the Benadryl pitch, but does so in a manner that breaks category-induced clutter.

The commercials - currently, only one of the ads ('school') is on air, with the second film ('orchestra') slated to break later in the year - are about Benadryl's three-way action that work as a remedy for cough, cold and sore throat. With three-way action forming the crux of the communication, it goes without saying that an inbuilt 1-2-3 device is a stipulation of sorts. Here's how the three-way action promise has been tackled in the campaign.

The 'school' film, needless to say, opens in a vast school auditorium, where an authoritarian principal is about to address a gathering of kids. Just as he is about to start his lecturing, the mike he is talking into screeches loudly. A peon rushes to the dais, makes a few quick adjustments on the mike, then tests the mike. 'Testing… testing… One, two, three…'

The moment the peon says, '…three', the pupils jump out of their seats. 'One, Benadryl humme de khaansi se aaraam,' the congregation sings, flapping arms in a silly birdy dance. 'Two, Benadryl humme de zukhaam se aaraam,' they continue, much to the consternation of the principal. 'Three, Benadryl humme de gale ki kharaash se aaraam,' they conclude. 'Sab jaante hain, 1-2-3 yaani Benadryl ka Triple Action Formula,' the voiceover explains. 'Benadryl. Aaraam dilaaye one, two, three.' The 'orchestra' ad follows the same thought, the difference in that one being the Benadryl ditty is sung by members of a symphony orchestra, having taken the 'One, two, three…' cue from their conductor.

Benadryl, it is obvious, is attempting to broadbase its appeal by position itself not just as a remedy for coughs, but as a wider cough-and-cold cure. Interestingly, (JS) Mani, senior vice-president & general manager, Bates India, reveals that Benadryl has always worked as a relief for cough, cold and sore throat, but the consumer has traditionally seen Benadryl only as a cure for cough. "Cough is a manifestation of an infection, which also results in a sore throat, and a blocked nose and cold," he explains. "Benadryl's Triple Action Formula acts on different areas of the infection and provides triple relief. So this is not something new to Benadryl. But yes, the idea of communicating the triple relief to the consumer has been taken forward for the first time."

This is, in fact, only the second time that Benadryl is being advertised in mass media since it was de-listed from the ethical pharma category and became an OTC drug in 1999. The first piece of communication on the brand dates back some four years, and focused primarily on the relief-from-cough aspect of the brand (remember the film where the girl is frightened by the shadow of her father who is coughing?) Even the slug, 'Khaansi ki ho aahat, turant dilaaye raahat', narrow-focused on cough. "The 'shadow' ad reestablished the fact that Benadryl provides quick relief from cough by checking the progress of cough," says Rajeev Raja, executive creative director, Bates India. "That ad did its job, but there was a feeling that the three-way action of Benadryl had to be communicated to consumers, which is why we were commissioned to come up with a new campaign for the brand."

The need to communicate with consumers is understandable, given the fact that the Rs 500-crore category is driven by word-of-mouth and experience-led purchase. And despite the fact that two of the three big brands in the category are prescription drugs (both Corex and Phensydyl are ethical brands, with Benadryl being an OTC), consumption is not strictly prescription-based. Naturally, top-of-mind has a significant role to play. For the record, Benadryl, Corex and Phensydyl account for 34 per cent of category sales, and just to put that in the proper perspective, the category has in excess of 400 brands.

Returning to the current campaign, Raja reveals that with the focus of the communication shifting to 'complete relief', there was a need to communicate Benadryl's three-way action and relief "in as rational and as refreshing a manner as possible". He adds that the client brief was clear that the advertising should focus on all three related problems (khaansi, zukhaam and gale ki kharaash). "The biggest challenge lay in the rendering of the brief," he admits. "Everyone has said 'triple action' before us, and the concept itself has been done to death. The task was to say three-way action in a way that the audience had never seen before, and would enjoy seeing. Arun (Amberkar, executive creative director, Bates India) finally hit upon the 1-2-3 idea."

Amberkar admits that it wasn't easy cracking this one. "It was a challenging brief, and it was taking time," he says. "Then one day I was sitting with a writer, and we started thinking what if someone saying 'one, two, three…' can act as a trigger for expressing the idea. 1-2-3 is something we see being used everywhere - at the start of a race, during a song recording. We thought we could use the 1-2-3 as a starting point for the campaign. The client loved the idea, as it was bang on the brief of saying 1-2-3 upfront, and was at the same time different in its execution."

"The idea is to appropriate 1-2-3 for Benadryl," Raja takes up. "Whenever anyone hears 1-2-3, the Benadryl jingle must come to mind - that is the idea. The good thing is that the use of 1-2-3 as a trigger has endless possibilities in terms of ad executions. We already have four-five more films in place, plus we are looking at non-mainline branding opportunities using 1-2-3."

Specific to the two films, one reason why they make an impact is because of the sheer unexpected nature of the song (not to forget the birdy dance), especially in the context of the situations. "One doesn't anticipate people to break into a funny song in a serious school auditorium or in an opera. The surprise helps in cutting through," agrees Raja, crediting the client (Vivek Kamath and Prasad Banvalikar) for buying the idea. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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