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Ad Stand: 2016, The Year of Do Good

Ads with socially relevant messages were the order of the day in 2016. Some managed to make an impact but not all were winners though

Delhi | December 27, 2016

Adstand by Naresh Gupta

This is the last Ad Stand of 2016, and this has been a roller coaster year. The year started with the promise of being an extremely good year for advertising. Ecom wars truly came to India. Flipkart and Amazon fought a pitched battle, Myntra gobbled up Jabong, more fashion start-ups were launched. The classified listing sites continued to push new messages. The year ended in a whimper with money going out of circulation. Demonetization was more than a bump, it was like a pause. What happened as fashion though were brands latching on to socially relevant messages in a big way.

Ariel’s Share the Load campaign is now part of advertising folklore. The Dad’s take on how he should have taught his son about sharing the load of household work was crafted very well and the message delivered with impact. Ariel has done campaigns earlier with similar messages, especially the one where the husband does laundry for his wife (kuch paane ke liye kuch dhona padta hai) but somehow the brands moved away from husband-wife bonding and stayed in the functional washing cleanest zone. This campaign seems to have sparked a whole trend of brands creating more purposeful communication that go beyond mere functional messages. Not all were winners though.


Earlier this year Bournvita’s #ExamKiTayyari hit all the right notes in a marks-obsessed exam-totting country. For a brand that was about excellence in studies too (Tan Ki Shakti, Man Ki Shakti), this was a remarkable departure. For a brand to use the School Principal as the protagonist and debunk the culture of marks is breaking many moulds. This was even more path-breaking than Ariel’s Share the Load campaign. The million plus views on YT alone tell you that the world sat up and clapped at the ad. For a brand built on loads of scientific babel about ADA and vitamins, this is a welcome departure. Bournvita has a winner.


Hero Motors did a salute the soldiers’ ad immediately after the PoK strike was built on the emotion of the moment. The ad is about a biker helping a soldier catch the bus by racing ahead of it and stopping it. At almost two million views, the ad was liked for the context it leveraged. It could have been much better crafted. While it leveraged the mood of the nation and had a relevant social message, its script was flawed and could have been far more realistic. For brands to be riding the wave of purposeful messages, it is necessary to go beyond symbolism to create the relevant connect with the brand.


By the end of the year, Amazon released an ad that was dripping with goodness and was sugary sweet in its execution. While the message was socially relevant with the right insight, its execution was way too filmy, or way too TV serialish to be impactful. This is often the issue with messages that need to be socially relevant, they need to go execute the message with certain class and intrigue. Amazon’s own Priest and Imam ad rises many notches up in craft and messaging. They broke through the goodness trap by building anticipation and heightening drama.


While there are brands that used large socially relevant messages, some did ride on to the wider societal issues without being only about goodness in brand messaging.

Nescafe in India did a second commercial after the famous stand-up comic featuring an out-of-work cartoonist. They tapped into the wider issue of diminishing readership of newspapers and the cartoonist becoming an Internet sensation. Kohinoor Rice created a story about an Indian boy and Pakistani girl who do not agree upon anything. The differences in both countries are played out in the stereotypical way and predictably they agree that Kohinoor is the best rice. The commercial refuses to rise above the ordinary narrative, despite having an international set-up and aimed at global audiences.


In staying with socially relevant messages, Tea-A-Me did the Tea for Trump stunt by sending Donald Trump, the presidential candidate, four years worth of Green Tea supply for him to drink green tea and soak in the goodness. Tea-A-Me is an unknown tea brand and despite the stunt has remained an unknown tea brand. The stunt though will be remembered for some time, more so because Trump won the elections.

In creating the messages that latch on to social goodness, brands need to start from the wider societal issue but then craft the appeal that makes its own able by the brand. This is a fairly challenging task and often the cause becomes bigger than the brand. Brands need to be intrusive in messaging, and by just remaining focused more on goodness, they can lose the ability to create the impact. For brands to truly leverage the goodness quotient, they need to do more than just create a broadcast message.

This is not the easiest thing to do.

(Naresh Gupta is Managing Partner and CSO of Bang in the Middle. The views expressed are personal.)


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