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Thanda matlab Prasoon Joshi

Ace adman came up with the hottest catchphrase of 2003

Parvathy Ullatil & Gouri Shukla  |  Mumbai 

The Aamir Khan-starrer "Thanda matlab Coca Cola" ad campaign has made the presumed rural word for soft drinks a hot catchphrase.
It has also brought the otherwise low-profile Prasoon Joshi, national creative director, McCann Erickson India, into the limelight.
For Joshi, who is in his mid-30s, advertising is just one passion. He is also a poet, lyricist, composer and a trained vocalist.
Like many top admen in the industry, Joshi spent a large part of his formative years in the profession at Ogilvy and Mather and left when he felt he couldn't get any further.
But it was the Aamir Khan series that really caught the public's attention this year. The last in the Coca Cola series where Bengali Babu Aamir Khan "tests" pesticide in Coke was made in record time.
This particular ad, which is an attempt at putting the cola-pesticide controversy to rest, uses the newly formulated 'desi' brand of humour to laugh off the issue.
Is this ad a deliberate attempt at trivialising the controversy? "No, on the contrary, we got Aamir""our brand ambassador""to question the quality of the drink. This was a serious step. The ad is in keeping with Coke's tone and manner of communication," says Joshi.
The ad industry however is not charitable in its praise. Some believes that it was the Aamir Khan and film maker Ashutosh Gowariker connection that made the Thanda campaign work.
Joshi dismisses suggestions that the Coke ads have worked only because of the Aamir Khan-Ashutosh Gowarikar chemistry.
"The Bengali ad was not directed by Ashutosh and Aamir has been endorsing Coke for nearly six years but none of the ads caught on in the way this series has," he explains.
Ad film maker Prahlad Kakkar asserts: "Prasoon is far beyond any single campaign success. His writing and poetry will immortalise him in the years to come."
Says Shripad Nadkarni, vice-president, marketing, Coca Cola India, "What sets Prasoon apart in the make-believe world of advertising, is his ability to connect to the masses through his understanding of the Indian psyche - he thinks Indian".
Like his mentor Piyush Pandey, Joshi too wears the 'Proud to be Indian' badge. " I think in Hindi. Why wouldn't I ? I am a Hindi poet from Lucknow," says Joshi. It's not just speaking the language of the that keeps Joshi connected to the masses.
"I don't think brands should be built on the aspirational value of products. What cannot be believed is not what works. Today, India has the confidence to take on the world. Reality sells," says Joshi.
This ability to think in Hindi has given him the ability to connect with the masses much like the other small-town admen -the Pandey brothers.
Born in Lucknow, Joshi went on to earn his management degree from IMT Ghaziabad before landing in the Mecca of Indian advertising - Mumbai, as a client servicing summer trainee at ad agency Grey (then Trikaya Grey).
However, the writer in him took him into copywriting. Moving to Ogilvy & Mather (O&M), for what was to be a decade long stint saw him rising up the ranks to become a creative director. In 2002, Joshi shifted to McCann Erickson as the
Joshi the lyricist has just finished composing the songs for Aditya Chopra's Hum Tum. He is now working on Revathi's new film where his poem will be used. He also has a couple of other projects in the pipeline.
"I am constantly reinventing myself, working with different genres is one way of doing that. I don't want to get too comfortable with anything," says Joshi.
A published poet at the age of 17, he has three published collections of poems to his credit till date, the fourth one being in the pipeline.
While Joshi the writer was creating copy at O&M, the narrator in him was also lending his voice to the commercials.
What followed were soulful voiceovers in the Nokia radio spots, the much-acclaimed cricket commentary in the "A day in a government office" campaign for the Times of India and similar ones, the erstwhile rain commercial for Asian Paints- "Chalak chalak jaaye mausam" or the more recent campaign for Chloromint - "Dubaara mat poonchna".
Apart from films, Joshi immensely enjoys touching people's consciences through social awareness campaigns for foundations like the Cancer Patients Association and (foundation for the underprivileged girl child) and causes like polio awareness.
The print ad for awareness of child abuse for Amitasha, which shows a young, underprivileged girl and a possible victim with her mouth stitched, won industry acclaim. "Emotions cannot only build brands in India but also awaken mass conscience," he explains.
Are there personal differences between him and his mentor "According to the ancient Indian academic tradition, after the disciple grows, the teacher allows the disciple to go ahead and conduct his own concert," he says. "That's the best way to describe our equation. I am performing in my own concert now."

First Published: Wed, December 31 2003. 00:00 IST