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AdStand: The Public Service Ads

Tea, detergent and anti-smoking campaigns are three very disconnected categories for socially appealing narratives. Brands should continue to focus on such narration, though, irrespective of the timing of award shows

Delhi | March 2, 2016

Adstand by Naresh Gupta

This week an eleven - minute anti-smoking commercial has been making all the news. There was another ad that caught my eye. It may not have been the internet sensation, but Brooke Bond Tea’s new ad is certainly worth applauding. Surprisingly, this film is not on the brand’s social pages, but has only been uploaded on Kulzy.

The film ( opens on a blank screen with noises that we hear every day in Mumbai, of honking vehicles, trains, and wedding processions. It then shows an old women sipping tea all alone in her rocking chair. The ad extolls people to go and end someone’s loneliness this weekend.

The film is singular in building on the brand plank of ‘Taste of Togetherness’. Brooke Bond has for some years, been building on the plank of bringing people together and this film takes that plank forward in a cheerful way. Old age loneliness is a serious problem in a young country like India. I hope we see more of this from Brooke Bond and do not have to wait till the next award season.

Alok Nath, Sunny Leone and Deepak Dobriyal have an indulgent anti-smoking tale to tell. At almost 3.5 million views in a week, clearly the star appeal of the actors has helped in the film become a super hit.  The comments across online forums suggest a warm welcome being given out to the film.

But, is the film successful in pursuing smokers to kick the stick? The film follows the usual narrative that smoking kills, which is known and most smokers do know it. The claim that cigarette reduces life -  has now jumped to eleven minutes. Where this pious number comes from has not been explained.  Is it two minute? Or four? Now it is eleven minutes. If smokers get into calculating the time left to live, they will laugh out loud.

I think the film misses out on the wider narrative. While netizens have been effusive in praise, there have been very few that have pledged to quit smoking. Just a few have thought of doing so. This is where the film could have had a deeper impact.

Why is the film not ending with a platform that helps people quit the habit? Why is the film not helping them take the first step? Why is the film not connecting those who quit with those who want to quit? This is where the film could have risen to greater heights.

That leads me to the wider question: why do anti-smoking campaigns generally fail? The answer lies in many behavioural studies done across geographies by many academicians. These studies are in public domain and are a wealth of insights. The basic thrust of most of these studies point to one factor. Anti-Smoking campaigns stigmatize smokers.

They may motivate a few to quit smoking, but make the vast majority angry, who resist the message and isolate themselves. This makes them light up the stick rather than quit the habit. Death is not the promise that motivates them to quit. Could the eleven-minute-long format narrative move beyond death and be in a positive space? May be there is a next version coming.

The third TVC that caught my fancy is Ariel’s ‘Share the Load’. A father has a moment of enlightenment when he sees his daughter balance home and office by being at two places at the same time. The father’s decision to correct his own mistake and share the load of housework with his wife is told with sincerity and humility. The brand could have become even more enduring had the final payoff not been just sharing laundry, and had the product integration been a lot more muted.

In its own archive, Ariel has a TVC where the husband does the laundry to win his wife’s love – ‘Kuch pane ke liye kuch dhona padta hai’. This was before social media had become the force that it is today. This commercial was even more sensitive and loveable than the ‘Share the Load’ one.

Tea, detergent and anti-smoking are three very disconnected categories to come across, for socially appealing narratives. Brands should continue to do this, though, irrespective of the timing of award shows.

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