Aishwarya Ramesh

Surf Excel's cautious new Holi spot takes 'daag acche hai' forward

Lowe Lintas and Surf Excel have teamed up to create a family centric spot with #RangAchheHain.

Surf Excel's new Holi spot adopts a tried and tested formula. A cute kid, a rift in the family, and pristine white clothes that eventually get stained with Holi colours. It's interesting to note that while there are indications of conflict in the film - there is no explanation why. The relation between the two men of the film is established when the child joyfully calls out to his 'Chachu' (uncle) and wishes him and his wife, happy holi. Its possible that the two men aren't on talking terms for a variety of reasons (such as marrying outside the community, property disputes, personal differences, and so on) but none of them are explicity referenced to, in this ad. The content of the ad was paramount in this case - that's what landed the brand in a lot of trouble last year.

A viewing of 2019's Holi spot reveals differences in the way the brand has chosen to communicate with its audience. Last year's ad film caused a stir on social media - attracting the attention of Twitter trolls who caused the #BoycottSurfExcel to trend. The yesteryear ad film played out between a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy and the cause they attempted to associate with, was that of communal harmony.

Reviewing the campaign, Sridhar Ramanujam, chief executive officer and founder, Brand-Comm mentioned in a conversation that a lot of people who use Twitter are unemployed and that they're not necessarily Hindustan Unilever Limited's (HUL) real customers. "We should not view this in isolation as a Surf Excel ad, bur rather as an HUL ad. Look at what HUL has been doing in the advertising space with Brooke Bond tea - they talk about causes. The cause may not be related to the brand, but then they try to link the two," he explains.

Ramanujam Sridhar
Ramanujam Sridhar

Ramanujam opines that the underlying sentiment in the country is a polarised one and in such an environment, brands benefit from taking the higher ground. "You must consider that in small towns and villages, even the act of marrying outside the community can cause tension. The biggest plus point of the ad is that the content is in the context of 'daag acche hai', directly or indirectly," he says. Sridhar adds that a company of HUL's size does not need to advertise that their product removes stains. "In that sense, I'm slightly disappointed with the commercial. On the creative side, a good commercial is one that you either hate or love - but you can't ignore it," he mentions.

KS Chakravarthy (Chax), chief creative officer, Tidal7 Brand and Digital, mentions that he likes the film and its tone. He adds, "One of the challenges in managing a campaign as iconic as Daag Achhe Hain is the temptation to churn out films on a fixed calendar, whether you have a good script or not."

"Last year's Holi film was a good - or rather, not very good - case in point. A Hindu child and a Muslim child don't automatically make a good film - in this particular instance, you had an extremely contrived film that just didn't come together," he said.


Chax added that the new ad film on the other hand, stays simple, and true to what Holi is all about - celebrating with your near, sometimes no-longer-dear ones. "The fact that there is no detailed back story is a plus, in my view. Disagreements happen, siblings fight - and Holi is a great occasion to hug and make up. It's a simple story, the brand easily finds a role, and no one is trying to change the world," he signs off.