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Ads that we savoured like fine wine in 2023

That piece when the observers of advertising reveal the ones that tickled their fancy.

Phew! It’s been a minute since the last round-up of the team’s favourite ads of the year. 

This ritual at afaqs! gets us to reflect on all the good, meh, and wait, what! ads that we watched during the year. And this year we were spoilt for choice — both good and bad.

In a year where Shah Rukh Khan made a comeback, you will notice that his Everest Masala ads don’t feature in our picks. Remember Google's Yeh kisne dhoonda outdoor ads? That too lost out to other witty ads. 

Oh, this was the year for OOH ads. How could we forget doodh mangoge, doodh denge and kheer mangoge, kheer denge from Blinkit and Zomato that was all the rage in early 2023? Those ads single-handedly got brands to reimagine OOH advertising. 

Don’t be surprised when you see that GenAI ads did not leave a lasting impression on the connoisseurs of advertising this year. Every brand worth its salt toyed with video personalisation and GenAI in 2023 but we are nowhere close to replacing Shah Rukh Khan’s Not a Cadbury Ad from our list of all-time favourite ads.

This year is bound to go down in history as the year that witnessed the most craze for computer-generated ads. Yes, those, ads that looked too good to be true and surprise, they were not true. The charm lasted a week but the trend lasted a year.

Memes and influencers also managed to get our attention during the year with their viral gimmicks. None made it to the favourites list, though.

Ads that made it to the favourites list are the ones that made us rethink our actions, provoked us, made us feel warm and cosy, and made us laugh out loud. 

The ads that were just looking like a wow in 2023 are: 

Aakriti Kochhar

Coca-Cola | The Real Magic Of Pujo

The Coca-Cola India Pujo ad struck a chord with me for its authentic portrayal of the magic embedded in the Durga Pujo festivities. Crafted by Ogilvy, the video beautifully captures the essence of this cherished journey, weaving together nostalgic moments and the creation of new memories. 

As Coca-Cola becomes a companion throughout the celebrations, the ad cleverly associates the brand with the joy of Pujo, illustrating how Coke not only quenches thirst but also symbolises the spirit of celebration right down to the last drop. The genuine depiction of cultural traditions, coupled with the refreshing and festive vibe, made this ad stand out in connecting with the emotions and experiences of the audience during the Pujo season.

Akshit Pushkarna

Acko | Health Insurance ki Subah ho gayi Maamu

General insurance company Acko and creative agency Leo Burnett decided to experiment with a marriage of two cultural phenomena — cricket and the Munna Bhai Circuit duo — during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. During ad breaks crores of fans eagerly wait for the cricketing action to resume. But this year, seeing Munna Bhai and Circuit on screen was a rather refreshing sight. 

Bollywood’s most loved gangsters Munna Bhai (Sanjay Dutt) and Circuit (Arshad Warsi) re-enacted several memorable moments from the Munna Bhai franchise for Acko. The two actors slipped right back into their characters like no time had passed at all since the last film came out (Lage Raho Munna Bhai came out in 2006). The ad film like the two blockbusters was also directed by Rajkumar Hirani. 

The brand used iconic scenes from the movies and connected them to the brand proposition and the value ads that Acko gives consumers.  

Ankita Madan

Zomato | ZoMaato or ZoMaito

Zomato's ad campaign, humorously titled ZoMaito or ZoMaato, was a witty take on the common mispronunciation of the food delivery giant's name. 

The way the brand tackles the mispronunciation of its name is quite clever. The scenarios the ad depicts, like news anchors and cricketers having playful debates, brought a smile to my face.

What's nice is the unexpected twist towards the end. Instead of straightforwardly correcting the pronunciation, the ad leaves viewers with a light-hearted message. It's a departure from the usual ad format. The cameo appearances by Harbhajan Singh and S. Sreesanth added an extra touch of fun.

The ad's relatability is its charm. We've all been in situations where people can't agree on how to pronounce a brand's name, and Zomato turned that into something funny and memorable.  

Thumbs up, Zomato! (or is it ZoMaito?)

Benita Chacko

Ariel | See The Signs & #ShareTheLoad

After eight years of urging its consumers to Share the Load, Ariel's sixth edition of the campaign took it a notch higher by addressing the long-term impact of chore inequality on relationships.

The ad by BBDO India showcases the story of an elderly couple and how the partners have drifted apart over time. It is the daughter who points out to her father that the relationship is crumbling because the mother performs a larger share of home chores. Realising how he has been taking his wife for granted, he vows to share the load.

Portraying an elderly couple in the film is a smart choice as it targets both the older generation and young couples. It alerts young couples to early signs of inequality and the impact it's having on their relationships.

The film calls this situation that the couple finds themselves in a 'silent separation'. Coined by the makers, it is a heart-breaking term for a marriage that has survived many decades. The film leaves the viewers with a thought-provoking question- “Are you growing together or apart?”

Cheenu Agarwal

Dream11 | 3 Idiots ka Press Conference... Cricket Pe?!?!

Cricket in India isn't just a sport, it's the nation's symphony where every boundary echoes like a melody. As cricket reigns supreme, cricketers score big in the world of ads. To humorously counter this, Aamir Khan, R Madhavan and Sharman Joshi reprised their roles from the movie 3 Idiots and held a press conference, dressed as cricketers.

In the 91-second-long ad, the actors talk about cricketers dominating the world of brand endorsements. Joshi even mocks Dream11 ads featuring cricketers where the sportsmen make tall claims. 

In conclusion, the actors announce that they will play cricket from now on as cricketers are ‘very busy’ with acting. They openly challenge the cricketers for a match which is accepted by several cricketers.

The set-up of the ad made everyone believe that a sequel to 3 Idiots is in the offing. Even Kareena Kapoor Khan, Boman Irani and Jaaved Jaaferi took to their social media handles to complain about not being informed about the sequel.

The playful clash between actors and cricketers was an entertaining spectacle and that's why this is my favourite ad.

Nisha Qureshi


Ads that we savoured like fine wine in 2023

The entire world turned pink in the summer of 2023. 

Barbie broke all the rules and definitions we knew about movie marketing. The marketing of the movie managed to turn the movie into a pop culture phenomenon while being unapologetically ‘girly’. 

Warner Bros. collaborated with a staggering number of brands, with many introducing their version of ‘Barbiecore’ products. Not to forget building a real Barbie dream house in Los Angeles. 

According to several reports, the studio spent $150 million on marketing the movie. Despite ‘Barbie’ being everywhere, the studio managed to keep the theme, message and overall tone of the film under wraps. This eventually led millions of people dressed in pink into theatres.

Barbie going up against Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer triggered Barbenheimer which further boosted footfall for both movies in theatres. 

Google Pixel vs Apple iPhone

One of the best creative works to come out of 2023 was the Google Pixel vs iPhone ad series. The Pixel vs iPhone comparisons were refreshing to see. While comparative advertising is usually a risk and can be perceived negatively by audiences, these ads managed to keep up the taste despite taking digs at a rival brand.

The ads were released throughout the year with each of them highlighting the Pixel’s cutting-edge features that the iPhone lacks.

Ruchika Jha

Heineken | The Best Driver (2023)

During social gatherings and at clubs, it is frequently observed that individuals opt to accept rides from those who have consumed alcohol. Their rationale for this choice may include trusting the person’s ability to control themselves, having more driving experience, enjoying driving, and primarily, volunteering for the role.

The Heineken team joined forces with Max Verstappen, a Belgian-Dutch Formula One racing driver who secured the World Championship titles in 2021, 2022, and 2023. The collaboration aimed to engage and empower consumers to make informed choices. 

The highlight of the advertisement occurs towards the end, where Verstappen, is picked to drive every single time because he is the “best driver”. As the night wanes he is tired of driving his friends around and excuses himself from the next drive claiming he has been drinking. A sober friend picks up the keys, and drives off, only for Verstappen to reveal that he was drinking a non-alcoholic beer. 

In my view, this ad was crafted distinctively to convey the central message — the only person who should drive is the one who is not drinking. But of course, Unless it is Heineken 0.0 beer, then one can drink and drive. The brand’s decision to feature Verstappen was spot-on, given the huge fan base that looks up to him.

Shane John

Zomato | What happens when Santa is late

I liked Zomato's Christmas ad campaign because it brilliantly taps into the universal anticipation of Santa Claus, delivering a delightful narrative that transcends age. Though the ad is only 90 seconds long, it skillfully tells a story that portrays the disappointment caused by Santa's delay, only to be transformed into joy and festive cheer by Zomato's timely food deliveries.

The emotional rollercoaster of reactions from diverse characters, coupled with a surprise twist involving a Zomato delivery partner and Santa, adds a layer of humour, warmth, and the spirit of giving. The ad effectively captures the magic of Christmas, blending relatable moments with a touch of sweetness, making it a standout and memorable festive campaign.

Shreyas Kulkarni 

Bumble | Kindness is Sexy

There is nothing sexier than a decent vocabulary, goes the modern adage, and if I may add to it – thanks, Bumble, for reminding me - kindness.

Seeing Troy Hawke – a stand-up comic whose real name is Milo McCabe – spit out compliments with deadly and effortless ease, and the smile on the people’s faces when they receive them is priceless; it is a reminder of the power words possess, and the value kind words hold in today’s hate-filled time.

Bumble’s Kindness is Sexy positioning traces itself to a US-only survey from May 2023, where 83% of respondents rated kindness as more important than physical attributes in a potential partner. 

The app could not have chosen a better cheerleader.

Shubhankar Sen

Swiggy | Khushir Bahon Swiggy

Swiggy's Khushir Bahon Swiggy campaign stood out to me in 2023 as it managed to evoke a positive and relatable emotional response by tapping into cultural nostalgia and reshaping traditional Pujo narratives. 

The campaign seamlessly integrates Pujo nostalgia into Swiggy's brand ethos, blending a classic Bengali fable with the festive motif of bahons (vehicle). 

What sets this ad apart is its departure from the common tropes of visually enticing dishes found in Pujo-themed ads, opting instead for a focused portrayal of Swiggy's core essence as a food delivery company. 

The ad introduces Dulal Chandro, a Swiggy delivery partner, as an enigmatic khushir bahon, embodying the essence of joy and happiness. The narrative emphasises the integral role played by delivery partners, humanising the process and expressing Swiggy's affection for its hard-working team.

Ubaid Zargar

Royal Enfield | Bullet Meri Jaan

Royal Enfield's ad for the new Bullet 350 is my top pick this year. The 'Bullet Meri Jaan' campaign unfolds the legacy of the iconic motorcycle series, spanning a captivating seven-minute film. The ad masterfully blends nostalgia with anticipation, showcasing the evolution of Bullet designs. The visceral and 'brute' essence mirrors the bike's raw power, accompanied by the distinctive roar of the Bullet engine. I found the ad to be fairly descriptive, elaborate and largely creative in its aesthetics, making it my favourite of the year.

Yash Bhatia 

Colgate | The Sweet Truth

In the words of William Benbanch, good advertising doesn’t just circulate information, but it penetrates the public mind with desires and beliefs.

Colgate’s The Sweet Truth is an intriguing oxymoron, challenging the conventional notion that truth is always hard and difficult to digest. In this case, the truth presented here is surprisingly sweet.

Crafted by WPP@CP, this 60-second ad spot doesn’t rely on celebrity endorsements or a complex storyline. Instead, it delivers a compelling message that sparks a behavioural shift among Indian consumers, encouraging them to adopt the habit of brushing at night for cavity protection.

What sets this ad apart is its ability to effect a change in habits without overtly promoting the product. It urges viewers to not make desserts the last thing in their mouths but to follow that up with a toothbrush and toothpaste.

This ad was so effective that I have incorporated bedtime brushing into my routine.

The ad concludes with a powerful statement on its last slide: Millions of Indians end their night with sugar. Not Toothpaste.

This line serves as a compelling call to action, urging Indians to prioritise oral health by reaching for their toothbrushes before bedtime.

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