Karthik Srinivasan
Guest Article

...and you thought AC ads are boring!

Our guest author deconstructs ads in the AC segment.

Air conditioner advertising in India has always dabbled in the whimsical and the exaggerated.

Here's Daikin's 'complete silence' communication with one of the three monkeys taking his hands off the ears and wondering about the silent air conditioner, for example:

...and you thought AC ads are boring!
Daikin's 'complete silence' film

Then, there's Haier's 'Remotu Kaka' ad that's more whimsical than exaggerated:

...and you thought AC ads are boring!
Haier's 'Remotu Kaka' ad

Blue Star's exaggerated couple-fighting for 'precision cooling' seems more relatable given the possibly real scenario:

...and you thought AC ads are boring!
Blue Star's 'precision cooling' ad

Or, Blue Star's other campaign, with the monkeys-in-the-room TVC for its 'more people in the room' message:

...and you thought AC ads are boring!
Blue Star's Chimps ad

LG's exaggerated money-saving pitch communication focuses on the ‘money saved on electricity’ pitch instead of the AC’s core feature:

...and you thought AC ads are boring!
LG's Bachat Kumar

General's 'air flow' message here gets exaggerated with the flying moustache:

...and you thought AC ads are boring!
General AC's 'air flow' TVC

Samsung's 'raised hand' communication here exaggerates the non-stop use of the remote control to keep on adjusting the AC:

...and you thought AC ads are boring!
Sansung AC's 'raised hands' TVC

In comparison, Voltas' Mr.Murthy series, Whirlpool's star-powered (featuring Sushant Singh Rajput and Kriti Sanon) TVCs or the ones featuring South African model Carla Dennis (the most popular comment on YouTube for ads featuring her is: 'What is the name of the girl in the ad?'), Lloyd's recent Amitabh Bachchan and Satish Kaushik starrers, and Panasonic's Katrina Kaif starrers seem mild and merely functional.

My favorite, till now, though, is Voltas' 'Gupta Ji' TVC. I laughed out loud when I saw it for the first time; it exaggerates the habit of buying only one AC for the home and gets everyone in that room to save money on electricity:

...and you thought AC ads are boring!
Voltas' 'Gupta Ji' TVC

Voltas eventually went South (literally, not figuratively) with their popular Mr.Murthy series.

So, in the history of exaggerated air conditioner communication, here's perhaps the best one yet - Hitachi's Suraj Chakravarti!”

...and you thought AC ads are boring!
Hitachi's Suraj Chakravarti TVC

Produced by Small Screen Film & Television, and directed by Vishal Chib and team, it's a three-minute film, so television is ruled out (unless you count a severely truncated 30-second version appearing, eventually, on TV). Akin to a superhero origin story, the film takes ample time in setting the premise and introducing Suraj and his pyrokinetic abilities. The minor nuances make for great repeat viewing - Suraj's aunt kissing her son and applying lip balm to cool her burnt lips, Suraj taking a sip out of the glass of juice that his dad was drinking in, and the dad burning his fingers, are some of Suraj's facets that were, thankfully, not explained by the amusing voice-over, letting us discover these through our observations.

The script does overstay its welcome, with needless exposition by people like the neighborhood paan wala (complete, with a pointless connect to the much-maligned Sooryavansham). And the family's solution to 'solve' Suraj's problem is 'marriage'! Treating an adult son's impediment by making it another hapless girl's problem is severely outdated and regressive, but thankfully, in the spirit of the amusing script, this seems like a manageable bargain. These are minor contrivances in an otherwise inspired long-film. The film realises that it needs to be, and is meant to be long, at three minutes. And it goes on to lay the exaggeration thick, far more than any other exaggerated AC communication so far in India!

The launch of this film was preceded by a teaser campaign with the brand wanting people to wonder 'Who is Suraj?', with mysterious clips about random people talking about Suraj's abilities, like the famous Digen Verma teaser which was meant to be for Frooti, but was usurped by The Times of India a day before the big reveal.

(A digression: Back when the Digen Verma teasers were all over the place, in 2001, I was discussing it with a cousin of mine who was in mainline advertising - he is in digital marketing, these days :). He gave me inside scoop that Digen is nothing but 'Digital Generation' and is intended as the launch of Apple Computers in India. I went around mailing all and sundry that I knew what/who Digen Verma was all about... it spread so well, just on email, even back in 2001, that after some 20 odd days, it came back to me as a chain mail!). Thankfully, no other brand swooped in on Suraj and Hitachi went on with its reveal as planned.

The only issue is that when you see the film, with Hitachi as the owner of the YouTube channel, it perhaps takes the punch out of the ending. As soon as the heat-related exaggerations begin in the script, you naturally guess the product as air-conditioner and go with the flow only because the writing is sharp. It's like watching The Sixth Sense on a YouTube handle titled 'Bruce Willis is dead'. I do wonder if Hitachi should have chosen to release the film through other handles that do not reveal the product so explicitly even before the film begins.

For instance, a non-Hitachi YouTube handle showcasing the film may have more people viewing it to know what it’s all about with the requisite curiosity. You could argue that the resultant viewership and traffic doesn't accumulate to Hitachi's own brand handle on YouTube/Facebook (and goes to the collection of non-Hitachi handles that share the video as part of the release cadence).

However, such considerations did not stop Cadbury Bournville from 'giving away' its video to unbranded, unknown handles online in 2013. That campaign, by Ogilvy Mumbai, went all over the world, literally.

The Cadbury branding was very, very subtle in that film. Hitachi's branding is mighty obvious in this film, in the end. But only in the end. Hitachi could have, perhaps, preserved some mystery in the film's pay-off by opting to release it through non-Hitachi handles online.

(The author is an independent communications consultant on digital/social media marketing & PR)