N. Shatrujeet

Tide: 'Stripes' of disruption

The television campaign for detergent brand Tide employs ‘authentic’ clichés from Indian television and movies to communicate the brand’s proposition of ‘surprising whiteness’

What do you do when the brand you are advertising has ‘surprise' as one of its basic brand promises? Create an advertising idea that, through its execution, does exactly what the brand promises to do. Surprise the consumer, that is.

The advertising being alluded to is the latest five-ad television campaign for Proctor & Gamble's (P&G) detergent brand Tide, created by Leo Burnett India. The campaign - which is a continuation of Tide's mnemonic ‘white stripe' idea - exploits the ‘element of surprise' to the fullest, leaving the viewer mildly baffled and… well, surprised. And what helps the advertising achieve its purpose is the treatment of the ads - they don't look like ads, in the first place.

To explain the point, here's one ad from the campaign. The commercial (‘movie trailer') starts out like a television promo for one of those better-made-but-trademark south Indian movies. Fast-paced edits of a comely girl, a laundry-fresh boy and the girl's fuming father quickly establish the overwrought theme of love and parental disapproval. Supers such as ‘Music: Karthik Raaja' and ‘Direction: Priyadarshan' lend authenticity to the ‘promo'. As the trailer hurtles towards a conclusion, we see the girl and the boy at a small temple, ready to buck tradition and exchange garlands. However, just as the girl is about to garland the boy…

…a pack of Tide appears from nowhere and swipes across the white kurta the boy is wearing…

…leaving a pristine ‘white stripe' in its wake!

The boy stares at the ‘stripe' in surprise. So does the girl. So does the viewer.

Slowly, the realization that she's been had dawns on the viewer, as the voiceover smoothly talks about Tide's ‘chaunkaanewaali safedi' (‘whiteness that surprises').

The other ads in the series are ‘soap opera' (a melodramatic scene from popular STAR Plus serial Kyunki Saas Bhi… where one of the clad-in-white protagonists gets ‘swiped' by the Tide pack), ‘karate class', and the most recent one, ‘CID' (where a simulated sequence from Sony TV's popular crime detection serial, CID, gets ‘swiped'). A short duration film (‘boy in park') for Tide's sachet offering rounds off the campaign.

To appreciate the idea better, it is pertinent to understand the genesis of the ‘white stripe' campaign, which was first developed by Leo Burnett, Chile, two years ago to establish Tide's ‘superior whiteness' benefit (interestingly, India is the first country outside Latin America where the mnemonic device is in use). "The brand proposition is, ‘Tide will surprise you with its superior whiteness'," explains Kumuda Rao, creative director, Leo Burnett India. "So, just when a consumer has settled for the kind of whiteness her current detergent offers, Tide's performance surprises her. In keeping with the ‘surprising' part of the brand promise, the ‘white stripe' works as a disruptive element - literally taking people by surprise with its unexpected appearance. It works on two counts - it communicates Tide's superior whiteness compared to the consumer's current detergent, and it also surprises consumers in the way it is executed."

The ‘white stripe' idea was first introduced in India in September 2001 (when Tide was relaunched here) through two ads (‘lady dries linen' and ‘man wears shirt'). Both ads were shot in Chile by Burnett's Mumbai team in tandem with their Chilean counterparts, using the original director and crew. "This was purely to get the groundwork straight - to understand the techniques they used to get the pack to streak across and to get the ‘stripe' right," Rao reveals. A ‘demo' ad explaining how Tide offers superior whiteness followed. "The Tide ‘stripe' registered in consumers' minds, and the stage was set to move into the next phase of the campaign," says Rao. Meaning, this current campaign.

The manner in which the Tide pack makes its entrée - at a critical juncture, just when the viewer is least expecting it - is where the current advertising creates an impact. "To communicate the brand proposition of ‘surprising whiteness', the campaign had to be equally surprising and unexpected," Rao elaborates. "Nothing showcases ‘surprise' better than the obvious, the mundane and the expected - that is, the clichéd. Since television would be the main medium, we decided to exploit existing television clichés in India."

Rao admits that the creative challenge was to create credible ‘clichés' so that viewers would be lulled into believing they were watching a regular television programme. Perfect red herrings for Tide's disruptive entrance. "We first developed a list of television clichés, and short-listed the most popular and the most relevant ones," she says. Soap operas topped the list, followed by movie trailers. "The more authentic the ‘clichés', the harder they would work for us, so we went to great lengths to achieve this."

For the ‘soap opera' ad, the agency spoofed Kyunki Saas Bhi… using the original cast of the serial. "We duplicated the sets, the costumes, the music and even the camera angles… right down to the looped ‘Madras cuts'. The situation and dialogue were typically dramatic," says Rao. And interestingly, for the ‘trailer' ad, the agency got filmmaker Priyadarshan to shoot the ad. "The ad had to look like a new film release of his. We even used a well-known character actor from the south, and got Karthik Raaja (veteran music composer Illaiyaraja's son) to compose the soundtrack."

Similarly, for the ‘CID' ad, the agency worked with Sony TV, BP Singh (the serial's director) and the original cast and crew. "The production was done on the actual sets, and shot in the way the serial is normally shot," Rao says. "The ad also uses the original title graphics and music to make it completely authentic. And where this ad goes even beyond, is in its media placement. The ad actually runs during the real programme, placed as the last ad during the last commercial break, so when viewers think they have returned to the serial, they are actually watching the ad."

Perhaps the nicest thing about the campaign is its repeat value, a fact Rao corroborates. "Even after they've caught on to the spoof, consumers still wait for the pack to make its entry - just to see the look of surprise on the protagonists' faces," she says. "The ads have become as entertaining as the programmes they are spoofing. And from a creative point of view, creating detergent ads has never been so much fun." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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