Aishwarya Ramesh

Here's how Surf Excel's 'daag' and 'rang' have evolved over the last few years

The words may have evolved, but the message of staining clothes for goodness' sake, has stayed the same.

Surf Excel, the brand that’s been known to tug at our heartstrings (and is occasionally trolled on social media for it), has released another ad. The latest ad is part of a bigger 360-degree campaign that urges people to keep their inner child alive.

The film starts with a little girl playing with her friends, as her aunt looks on. When the girl asks her aunt to join, the latter refuses politely, implying that she’s too old to play. Unwilling to take no for an answer, the girl hugs her aunt, while stained with Holi colours, to ask if she can now join them. The aunt pauses, smiles, and begins playing and dancing with the children.

Last year's ad depicted Holi celebrated slightly differently – in a socially distanced way. Prabha Narasimhan, of Hindustan Unilever (HUL), told us then that it was an extension of the 'Daag Acche Hai' campaign – which showed children doing good deeds, as long as they're willing to get their hands dirty.

The quarantine version of the Surf Excel ad first came out in March 2020 – shortly after the first nationwide COVID-induced lockdown was imposed. At that time, the tagline 'Daag Acche Hai' was modified to read ‘Daag Ghar Pe Rahenge’. This was a time when many brands were asking the consumers to stay home and stay safe, and used similar messaging to keep the brands top of mind for the consumers, who weren't buying much then.

Before the lockdown was imposed, Lowe Lintas released another Holi-themed ad (in February 2020, before the lockdown was imposed). It showed a conflict between two men (presumably brothers) and how a child comes forward to reunite them both. It is interesting to note that this ad had no markers of religion whatsoever and attempted to keep the conversation neutral, even when it came to addressing conflict.

The reason this 2020 ad was so cautious is because in 2019, the company released an ad which was heavily criticised on social media. The ad in question carried forward the 'Daag Acche Hai' proposition that the brand has been working with consistently over the years.

It attempted to promote Hindu-Muslim harmony, but social media reacted adversely and, soon, the hashtags #BoycottSurfExcel started trending. The ad is topical to Holi and the brand has come up with similar campaigns in the past. In 2017, Lowe Lintas Mumbai created a similar campaign for the Pakistan leg of the brand, titled #NekiEkIbadat.

Here are some other ad films that the brand has created in the past for Ramadan, Holi and Diwali.

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