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Five campaigns that stood out this Diwali and Durga Puja

Piali Dasgupta, Senior Vice-President – Marketing, Columbia Pacific Communities, writes about the five festive season campaigns that that touched hearts and restored our faith in the power of storytelling and outstanding creativity

Piali Dasgupta

The festive season in India sees an avalanche of advertisements every year, many of which concentrate on Durga Puja and Diwali. But how many actually cut through the clutter, fuel conversations, nudge societal shifts and help brands create an indelible bond with their audience? That number is probably not more than a fistful.

Here’s looking at the top five campaigns for Durga Puja and Diwali that managed to do all of the above and more, restoring our faith in the power of storytelling and outstanding creativity.

Durga Pujo

Durga Pujo is the biggest festival of Bengalis. It is also celebrated in other parts of East India. And a significant part of the festival is about celebrating food. This cultural truth was brilliantly leveraged by Zomato in their Pujo showdown campaign that spotlights a man under house arrest during Pujo thanks to a fractured leg, and his friends who are out and about, soaking up the vibe of the city while indulging in Puja delicacies. It’s a food face-off between the man and his friends, as he manages to order everything that his friends are enjoying at the pandals - from Chicken Chaap to Egg Roll and Fish Kobiraji – all from the comfort of his home through Zomato.

The ad is funny, tongue-in-cheek, packs in a punch, and overall delightful, even as it ends with the message, that while Zomato can deliver all the food, it can’t deliver the joy and the magic of pandal hopping.

The length of the film, at 45 seconds, is perfect and is pegged on an important insight. A lot of deep friendships are forged on our shared love for food.  The very Bengali trait of taking pride in our food and being obsessive about food is captured beautifully in the ad.

The Zomato ad film:

Coca-Cola’s Thala Hopping ad film, conceived by Ogilvy, is my other favourite this year. It’s one of those 10/10 ad films, that every Bengali (yours truly included) would have watched on a loop. It’s soaked in nostalgia, taps into the magic of Durga Pujo, and the small things that make the festival so unique and unforgettable – whether it’s riding a Ferris wheel with a lover, or losing one’s shoes in a crowded pandal, and going home wearing someone else’s shoes! The vocals, by the former lead singer of Bengali band, Lokkhichara, Shubhajit Mukherjee, are sheer magic. It’s a potential earworm (always a good thing for an ad jingle), one of the best ad jingles one has heard in recent times and is instantly hummable. Vaibhav More’s brilliant animation brings alive the story of a young college boy pandal hopping and living it up during Pujo. The ad features some typical Bengali nuances, appealing greatly to Bengalis all over the world. The film garnered massive appreciation from the Bengali diaspora audience, particularly those who didn’t return home for the Pujo. It celebrated Bengal’s love for food, underlining the product truth that Coke is the perfect beverage to wash down the great Bengali Pujo meal. This one is sheer magic, and one simply can’t have enough of this film.  

The Coca-Cola film:

Diwali:

In the age of attention economy, where every brand is trying to land a message in a 30-second ad slot, the one campaign that rewrote all the new-age advertising rules is this film by Bodh Entertainment for Amaze, an inverter and battery brand. At over five minutes, this tear-jerker of a Diwali ad yet again proves that there really is no substitute for good storytelling. The film uses tension, emotions, middle-class sentiments and conflicts and highlights the “Sharma ji ka beta” syndrome that every Indian parent of the 80s and 90s is guilty of. It’s relatable to most Indians, gently weaves in the product without making it look like a force-fit and throws up a brilliant insight – the pace at which children grow up is faster than the pace at which parents understand them. It highlights the fact that festivals are a time when a lot of unresolved conflict within families comes to the fore – something we don’t talk enough about in our bid to over-glorify the “one big, happy family” narrative.

Bodh Entertainment film for Amaze:

Bikano is one of India’s leading packed sweets and savoury brands and has been around since 1988. For the sweets and namkeen category, Diwali is one of the most important seasons. This means that around this time, one typically does see a lot of mithai ads, leading to quite a bit of fatigue. What impressed me about Bikano’s #AcchiSochBato Diwali campaign this year was the fact that it broke away from the conventional codes of the category, and focused on a topic that is mired in needless stigma in our country – adoption. The film questions deep-rooted discrimination against children who are adopted. To lend heft to the campaign, the brand urged people to give a missed call to a number and pledged to donate an amount equivalent to the number of missed calls to an orphanage. It’s a great example of using a simple, accessible technology to support a great cause.

Bikano’s Diwali campaign:

And finally, Cadbury’s relentless commitment to supporting small businesses, indirectly augmenting the Government’s #makeinIndia initiative, finds yet another expression in their Diwali campaign this year #GharKiDukaan. The 60-second ad film opens with a middle-aged woman working on her diya orders for Diwali only to discover that her small, home business will now be known by thousands of people across the city, all thanks to the good folks at Cadbury, who are generously promoting small businesses on their packaging. Just a quick scan of the QR code on a Cadbury Celebrations pack leads one to a small business waiting to be big. It’s a wonderful initiative; full marks to Cadbury for lending a helping hand to thousands of small businesses in India with their Diwali campaigns since 2020. As a result of this campaign, Cadbury has seen a tremendous impact on both its brand and business metrics over the last three years; after all a good deed always pays off. 

Cadbury’s #GharKiDukaan film:

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