D Ramakrishna
Guest Article

"Well done, Pampers": Decoding P&G's Virat Kohli inspired spot

Humorous analysis of Pampers' recent 'moment marketing' outing. A guest essay...

Every nation has a metaphor muse. For India it's cricket. The game and its cliche spewing commentators have given us an arsenal of ready-to-use expressions for every occasion. From budget speeches to marriage proposals. Boardroom presentations to bedroom murmurings.

The ever retweetable Shashi Tharoor once critiqued a budget by saying, '..instead of bold boundaries we expected in this first budget after the elections, what we have are unnecessarily defensive strokes, dropped catches and quite a few no balls and wides...'

The delicious Swiggy ads (with Harsha Bhogle perfectly cast as the VO artist) talk about batsmen (two oldies ordering food) taking a risk, cricketers (lazy room mates) showing very little intent, and a player (diabetic old man sneaking in a laddoo) taking a quick single . A great example of cricket providing the vocabulary for our lives.

So is it any wonder that any brand manager worth her latest hashtag would hate to miss a mouka pe chowka? After all, as the mic happy commentator will always tell you, 'that ball was right in the slot, but it still needed to be put away'.

Years ago, campaigns had gestation periods as long as Virat and Anushka's baby had. These days of course, we are in the throes of moment marketing. Every fleeting meme has brands jumping in with a 'me, me'. For a handful of likes and a few nanoseconds of digital fame.

Sure enough, Anushka's baby had people in a memetic fit. Comedians, columnists, influencers, tea-stall regulars... they all had a quip, comment, or wisecrack. Come to think of it, most brands had months to plan how they could own the moment. Especially the brands Virat and Anushka endorse, singly or together. So, when the big day arrived, wasn't it a real surprise when a non-Virushka-roster brand ran away with the honours. Like a substitute fielder taking a stunning catch that wins a match.

D Ramakrishna (Ramki)
D Ramakrishna (Ramki)

Well done, Pampers.

Indulge me in some creative visualisation here. Think of all the things that people give some hoots about in life. Like cricket, Bollywood, cricket-Bollywood romances, babies born out of them, gender equality, LGBTQ rights, the environment, stray dogs, cute cats, news anchor dramatics, farmer protests, woke this, woke that, left this, right that... Now visualise these things as hula hoops being tossed into the air by scores of people performing in a stadium.

And sitting along the edges of the ground, hordes of moment-marketers watching the hoop throwers. Hoping to shoot arrows through appropriate hoops when an opportunity presents itself. The really skillful moment-seizers, however, play a more challenging game. They watch out for the fleeting venn diagrams being made in the sky when hoops intersect, when seen at particular angles.

Well, the sharp shooters at Pampers saw one such intersection when a bunch of hoops overlapped for an instant. And they were so ready for it, they fired a single missile right through all the relevant hoops. Cricket, check. Bollywood, check. Celeb baby, check. Woke Dad, check. Share the load, check. Meme lovers, check.

Here's an action replay of the events. You all know how babies are made, so I won't go that far back. Fast forward to when Virat applies for leave to get back in time for his baby's birth. 'Abandoning' a high profile, high-stakes series against a famous adversary. A divided nation simultaneously applauds and pans him. But as the man who launched half a billion beards, he is secure in his masculinity, and he heads home after the first test.

The clever folks at Pampers recognise that Virat has proudly signalled his woke creds. He's going to be a diaper-changing-Dad! But there's a hitch. He isn't their ambassador. No problemo, they cannily realise. Sirf naam hi kaafi hai. Virat, like Sachin, can only refer to one man in this frenzied country of idol worshippers. The compendium of cricket cliches is reached for. The script of diverse Dads advising Virat on how to raise babies writes itself. Hashtag DadsForVirat. And the ad is birthed at the same time as the celeb baby.

Sure, I wish the script was more nuanced, the casting more meticulous, the production more polished, the Dad-baby situations more insightful. But I can take nothing away from the agility displayed in producing a full blown commercial rather than a mere post, and the ingenuity of ticking so many boxes with one piece of work.

Like commentators love to say, it doesn't matter how the runs come, as long as they come. That the scoreboard doesn't know the difference between an inside edge that runs away to the boundary and an exquisite square cut. Well, this well-timed shot, even if it doesn't have the sublime beauty of a lofted Yuvi drive, sure cleared the rope and landed among the fans.

The author is CEO, Cartwheel Creative Consultancy.