Ashee Sharma

"Red Label is our warmth brand": Shiva Krishnamurthy, HUL

The new Brooke Bond Red Label TVC puts forward the unconventional in a seamless blend of modernity and tradition. It talks about tea, togetherness and warming up to surprises.

Tea has played a very important and 'decisive' role in Indian marriages, next only to the 'would be mother-in-law'. The latest Red Label ad, conceptualised by Ogilvy India, lives up to this tradition. Even as it uses the concept of live-in-relationship, the credibility often associated with arranged marriages is brought in by the magical cup of Red Label tea.

The ad shows a live-in couple being paid a surprise visit by the guy's parents, who are taken aback on learning the nature of their son's relationship. However, to ease the situation, the girl makes them some Red Label tea, customising it for the diabetic father, and the sugar and 'elaichi' loving mom. When asked how she liked the tea, the amazed mother (played by Himani Shivpuri) replies, "Buri Nahi Hai", in tacit acceptance of the taste and also of the relationship.

"Red Label is our warmth brand": Shiva Krishnamurthy, HUL
Speaking about the television-led, 360-degree campaign, that will run countrywide, Shiva Krishnamurthy, general manager, beverages, HUL, says, "Brooke Bond Red Label tea has always been about 'brewing togetherness.' This advertisement is part of a larger campaign that brings alive the idea of 'Swad Apnepan Ka' by representing people from various walks of life coming together over tea. We have aimed to depict a real-life situation that could have been potentially stress ridden, but was defused by reaching out to a person's heart in a touching manner, with India's national beverage - a garma garam cup of chai."
"Red Label is our warmth brand": Shiva Krishnamurthy, HUL
In its last campaign, the brand talked about overcoming inhibitions based on religious prejudices over a cup of Red Label tea. Taking the thought forward, this light and heartwarming commercial shows the beverage helping a sensitive cultural issue find place in the evolving, but traditional, Indian family. By adopting such communication, is it trying to influence cultural change?

Krishnamurthy responds, "Great brands need to stand for a purpose and have a point of view. Red Label is about bringing people together and believes that a tasty cup of tea can play a role in doing so."

However, he simultaneously denies that the brand is trying to advocate any particular form of relationship. "The concept of 'live-in relationship' is definitely not pivotal to the Red Label proposition," he says, adding that it is merely one execution in a series of many, reflecting a slice-of-life moment where a cup of tea has the potential to ease out tension.

Out of the three popular tea brands in the company's portfolio, Taj Mahal and Taaza represent the 'elite' and 'fresh' propositions, with taglines 'Wah Taj' and 'Taaza Ho Le', respectively. Red Label, on the other hand, has played with many, including 'swaad' and 'sehat'. However, in doing so, it has been singularly positioned as the bond holding people together. "It is our warmth brand. All our messages, including ones on the inherent goodness of tea, have been delivered with warmth," Krishnamurthy explains.

Keeping with the communication objective, this ad, executed by Breathless Films under the direction of Vinil Mathew, also brings out the age-old tradition of relaxing and bonding over tea, to melt down the awkwardness of situations.

Brooke Bond Red Label is part of Hindustan Unilever's tea portfolio, along with three other brands, Taj Mahal, Taaza and 3 Roses. The company's main competitor in the tea segment is Tata Global, which markets tea brands like Tata Tea and Tetley. Other players in the market include Wagh Bakri, Godrej, Pataka, Society and Duncan, to name a few.

'Warmly' Welcomed?

"Red Label is our warmth brand": Shiva Krishnamurthy, HUL
"Red Label is our warmth brand": Shiva Krishnamurthy, HUL
Suman Srivastava, chief strategy officer, FCB Ulka, thinks that the ad is a fresh take on the old storyline - 'girl wins over mother-in-law's heart by making great tea, food or with some other household skill'. Speaking about the execution, he says, "This ad looks like it is all about breaking societal norms, but is actually quite rooted in tradition. Notice the girl grabbing her dupatta, making the tea, etc. So, it is the old 'traditional cloud with a modern lining' trick. Modern without ruffling too many feathers."

But, he is quick in expressing his suspicion on whether girls will warm up to this ad. "In previous research, they have tended to be dismissive of ads that show women doing traditional things, while appearing to be modern. Having said that, it is great that tea advertising is tentatively entering the 21st century," Srivastava comments.

Sharing a similar view is Huzefa Roowala, director, content and creative, What's Your Problem. He is also of the opinion that the idea is fresh and comes from a real space which makes it more relatable. "The film brings to light the reality of life and opens the viewers mind to it. It gives them a choice to make their own perceptions," he says.

According to him the ad is not at all offensive, preachy or desensitising any values or traditions, even though it uses the socially divergent concept of live-in-relationships. "It's nice to see that advertising is playing an active role in providing the masses with different perceptions to a changing, ever-evolving culture of India," Roowala observes.

He is also impressed with the casting and thinks it helped in expressing the emotional journey of the film better.