In just under 15 seconds they can make us cry, laugh, think, procrastinate, or incite anger (not to mention the loosening of our pockets!) whatever the emotions advertisements are an integral part of our lives. And yet what is an advertisement or a TV commercial? Simply a reminder that a product or a brand exists? A brand recall? Or simply a message to create brand loyalty? Well, it used to be just that around 75 years ago when the first TV commercial was launched.  Since then, thanks to the powers that be, and that would be the advertisement gurus, decided that TV commercials can to be much more than well, just ads. 

There are millions of TV commercials that are shot every year in India alone, and yet there are some that leave an indelible impact years after they are taken off-screen.  I am a baby boomer, the Y2K generation, so it goes without saying that I have seen the Indian TV commercial industry from its nascent stages. Technological advances in cinematography and animation have ensured that sky is the limit, and yet I cannot help but remember the TV commercials of the yesteryears that still bring a smile to our faces or a tear in our eyes. 

Whenever I am asked about my all-time favorite ads, one ad always stands out and that is the Bajaj Electricals ad (Jab main chotta ladka tha), with an aging octogenarian talking about the longevity and sturdiness of the product. What made the ad so likable and remembered even after so many years is the fun factor and story like portrayal, and of course, it came out in the age of preservation as opposed to the current age of programmed obsolescence and such a message made absolute sense to the consumer of 1980s.  

Cadburys India has had one of the most successful ads and PR campaigns the Indian ad industry has ever seen (even the worms couldn’t budge its popularity!), and a lot of that credit goes to the ad maestro Piyush Pandey who came up with the “Kuch Khass Hai” campaign. Who can forget the lovely girlfriend gatecrashing the cricket pitch as her boyfriend scores a 100! The ad was nothing if not a simple celebration of life, precious moments and sharing those moments with people we love and that’s the exact message the Cadburys wanted to deliver!  Simple messaging with great panache and style! 

Talking about simple messaging, have you ever noticed how the best commercials are also the simplest in their messaging? It almost makes one think automatically “I could have thought of that!” yeah right? But that’s just the magic of it all or should I say that’s the genius creativity behind a great ad! And sometimes all it takes is a cute kid, Ramu Kaka, and Jalebi to create magic. Have you guessed what I am talking about as yet? If not well, then, I am talking about 1990’s Jalebi ad for Dhara oil. If I am talking about my favorite TV commercials in India, the list cannot be complete without this ad. The ad was a game-changer not just for the brand Dhara but also for all the other cooking oil brands that came afterward. 

And then there are some ads that leave a mark and have the power to bring about a change, it forces people to think and question.  When I think of such an ad in recent times, the one ad that I keep revisiting is the Google India Pakistan ad campaign. The ad campaign brilliantly showcased Google and its utility in our daily lives at its best and hit at the heart of every Indian and Pakistani.  The ad, which showcased the reunion of two friends, separated by war, religion and political boundaries are reunited years after India was divided into India and Pakistan. The ad campaign was a tearjerker, to say the least, and it sent the message that had the power to melt even the toughest of hearts and left the viewer just a little bit melancholy and wondering and questioning about the boundaries that we humans create. 

But not all ads are dramatic or thought-provoking, I think its time now to talk about an ad campaign that did not stir our emotional strings but managed to tickle our funny bones. And I think it would be a gross injustice if I now do not talk about the Imperial Blue Men will be a Men ad campaign. The brand came up with a series of ads that highlighted some of the “childish” and “common” habits of men. From the husband trying to guess the name of flower (his wife’s name!) to the guy trying to buy an appropriate diamond for forgetting his anniversary, or even the guys tucking in the bellies coz there was a woman in the lift, they all made us laugh at the strange and yet funny and adorable  things men do to impress women. 

The advertising industry has changed over the years, not just in India but globally. Gone are the ads, which were just about selling a product and in came advertisements with a message, with a human story. Brands these days don’t want to just be companies that sell products or services, they stand for issues and they want to make their stand be known to their target audience and make them more approachable as brands. There have been some brilliant storylines and ad series that have had an impact on us, enough that we remember them fondly even as years go by. And isn’t that really what a TV commercial is all about? Creating a brand recall and inciting brand loyalty?  But if it can be done by sending us a message, or making us laugh, by making us think, by making us question, by making us react, by making us take action isn’t that a little bit better?  Well, Think about that peeps! Until I come back with another edition about well, What else commercials!