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Surf Excel: Getting dirty for a cause

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Lalitaji’s Surf has served its company well. When Hindustan Unilever’s (HUL) detergent portfolio was battling cut-throat local competition and price increase a few years back, (yesteryear’s Surf) stayed on course, analysts point out. HUL has lined up this year’s campaign for the detergent brand in tune with its theme for the last eight years-that stains are good (daag achche hain). Replacing iconic campaigns such as the Lalitaji one and Dhoonte reh jaoge (You will keep on searching for stains in vain), this line of creative rendition has the brand advocating that mothers should give their kids the freedom to get dirty and experience life, and rest in the knowledge that Surf Excel will remove those stains. Different situations, invariably involving muck and mud, showed kids not worrying about getting their clothes soiled.

The new campaign shows how his ready wit helps a kid get one up on the senior boys in school. Priya Nair, vice-president, laundry, HUL, says, “Detergent is a category where dirt and stains have always been made out to be bad. We wanted to play on a paradox of dirt being good by showing children doing good deeds and getting dirty in the process.”

In the ad, produced by Footcandles Films, a group of older boys bully a team of kids playing cricket into giving up the pitch. As one of the kids argue with the bullies, another comes along to soothe the frayed nerves. But he is pushed into the muddy ground. Just as the kids’ team and the audience think that the game is lost, the kid who was pushed into the puddle, smears on some more mud and runs after the older children with a proposal to hug and makeup. The bullies flee and the junior lot hug each other triumphantly.

Nair says, “We wanted to occupy the emotional space in a category that has always harped on functional benefits. Only a brand which is confident of its functional attributes can move on to emotional benefits. Our brand tracks have shown mothers instantly connecting with the various executions of the theme we have presented over the years.”

Arun Iyer, national creative director with Lowe Lintas & Partners, who created the campaign says, “In this day and age of rampant violence, we saw merit in depicting righteousness or badappan as it is called in Hindi. The ad shows that not only are stains good but love too is better than violence in conquering challenges.”

Analysts have pointed out that Surf Excel has not been subjected to the same pressures as HUL’s other detergent brands in the last few years. Launched in the 1950s, Surf Excel has undergone several avatars-from the plain vanilla Surf to Surf Excel and its variants. The range now comprises Surf Excel Matic, Surf Excel Quickwash and Surf Excel Blue, which has just been renamed Easywash, according to an HUL spokesperson.

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