Aishwarya Ramesh

Brooke Bond's new rendition of 'Swad Apnepan Ka' tackles Coronavirus fears

Hindustan Unilever's flagship tea brand has launched a new TVC emphasising the importance of compassion during these difficult times.

Social distancing is not equal to emotional distancing - this is the message that Hindustan Unilever's Brooke Bond Red Label ad attempts to deliver. The ad is by Ogilvy and emphasises on the importance of compassion during these difficult times. Extending the brand's ongoing campaign 'Taste of Togetherness', the new TVC touches upon the passive hostility that we often observe in the society, during this time. The campaign attempts to tackle the stigma that COVID-19 patients tend to suffer from with this message: Being told to 'stay alone' is not the same as being 'left alone'.

The TVC features an overtly precautious man (husband), who warns his wife against any contact with their neighbour, who has just returned from the hospital. The wife goes beyond this line of thinking, integrating the brand's message into the film, by delivering a cup of tea to the neighbour.

Shiva Krishnamurthy, vice president – tea and foods, HUL, says, "'We can be socially connected even while we are physically distant’ is the message that Brooke Bond Red Label would like to convey through this new film. Brooke Bond Red Label’s purpose is to make India more inclusive. We strongly believe that a tasty cup of tea can help overcome prejudices that come in the way of bringing people together. Set in today’s times, this film is yet another execution of our long running 'Swad Apnepan Ka' campaign.”

We caught up with Kainaz Karmakar and Harshad Rajadhyaksha, chief creative officers, Ogilvy India, who elaborated on the campaign. Rajadhyaksha assures us that the film was shot entirely at home and if it looks like it wasn't, he credits the director and crew for the end product.

Karmakar points out that Red Label has always stood for 'Taste of Togetherness', and that while COVID-19 is a big problem in itself, so is the stigma related to it. "There is such a thing as social distancing and physical distancing, but people (tend to) become emotionally distant. They make them (others) feel like outcasts. This has been happening to doctors, relatives of COVID-19 patients and even to those who have recovered from the disease and come back from hospitals. The truth is, we all need extra love and attention when we are unwell," she says.

Kainaz Karmakar
Kainaz Karmakar

Karmakar explains that the agency wanted to use the ‘Taste of Togetherness’ platform to deliver the message that physical distancing is different from emotional distancing. "That’s why the shot of her leaving the tea cup and going away is an important one – we still have to maintain social distancing norms, but we can be there for others while doing so. I think humanity needs to rise above its pettiness and be there for each other, right now," she adds.

Rajadhyaksha adds that for this client, for nearly half-a-decade, the emphasis has always been about tea melting away differences. "It comes from different ideologies and backdrops – but always has tea as the common uniting factor between these two sides. The premise is to start a conversation. When brands have such a defined space to operate in, it gives rise to a sharply defined brief," he says.

Harshad Rajadhyaksha
Harshad Rajadhyaksha

Rajadhyaksha mentions that the agency's team and the client’s team worked as a unit, and rarely operated as two different entities. "In this space, we had been exploring what can be done around COVID-19, and the client's team urged us to communicate that despite social distancing, as a brand, we stand for togetherness. We’re hearing so many instances of people being shunned and ill-treated in the news, we wanted this ad to linger in a person’s mind when they come in contact with these people. It was a sharply designed brief that needed us to tackle the stigma around COVID-19," he says.

Karmakar explains that all good stories that we’ve listened to, from childhood, were able to deliver messages that stayed with us, without being preachy, and that this was important as far as the execution of the film was concerned. "That's the thing... We had to keep in mind that the role of tea in the storyline needs to be organic, and can’t be forced. This has been a filter with us ever since we began our journey with the client in 2014," she says.

Rajadhyaksha opines that a sensible and mature director is needed to pull a story like this one, together. He adds that while dealing with complex emotions, there will always be one character in the story who ends up resolving the tension in a positive manner and there’s a tendency to look at that character as a hero. "In this case, it’s the wife, but it was equally important to do a character sketch of the other person in the ad – the husband. We had to ensure that his character signified cautiousness in thoughts – which is what a lot of people have in their minds right now, but we shouldn’t vilify him. After all, he’s reacting in the same way that most family members are behaving like, right now. We didn’t want black and white characters in terms of outlook, because he is human after all," he explains.

Rajadhyaksha stresses on the importance of delivering a subliminal message with this communication. "The next time you’re faced with a dilemma like this, we’ve structured the film in such a way that the viewer will gravitate towards the actions of the more progressive character. All of this happens in a split second in real life and that’s the impact a story can have, on us," he concludes. Both Karmakar and Rajadhyaksha credit Chinmay Raut and Akshay Seth of Ogilvy Mumbai for scripting the movie and shaping it to its final form.


Agency: Ogilvy

Chief Creative Officers, India: Kainaz Karmakar, Harshad Rajadhyaksha, Sukesh Nayak

Group Creative Director: Akshay Seth

Sr. Creative Director: Chinmay Raut

Sr. VP, Account Management: Nikhil Mohan

Production House: Little Lamb Films

Director: Bauddhayan Mukherji