This article was first published on June 14, 2013. Business Standard is republishing this article as Alyque Padamsee passed away on November 17, 2018
Advertising doyen Alyque Padamsee on six decades of brand marketing.
Advertising has come a long way and also gone back a long way. In the 1970s, brands were more focused and did more research. Some of the greatest campaigns of those times, like soap brand Liril, were born out of research.
But today there's research paralysis nothing moves unless research is done. After doing research, they say let's do more research, and then a little more research! Now, research is becoming a crutch for not doing a campaign.
I entered advertising in the late 1950s. At that time the big brand was Burmah Shell. Another memorable brand was the insecticide, Tata Fison. [Its advertising] had invented two Laurel-Hardy type characters, Mr Tata and Mr Fison.
While their dialogues amused and entertained, they also gave information about the product. But Burmah Shell had a breakthrough campaign.
In those days there was a feeling that we should kick multi-national companies out of India. So MNCs were trying to be more Indian than Indians. Burmah Shell had an interesting slogan, "In India's life and part of it" with visuals showcasing Indian festivals and celebrations.
As we went into the 1960s advertising became more sharp centred. At that time, "Lightning strikes with Rin. Whitening strikes with Rin" and "Safedikichamkaar, bar bar, lagatar" While advertising for Hindustan Lever (HLL) we were very conscious of languages and the fact that we were not angrezisaabs. Take the case of Dalda, which is an Indian brand.
For many years, people complained about its taste. Finally, we did a campaign that was emotional rather than rational. We seemed to have won the battle, when the Hindi creative chief at Lintas, Balwant Tandon, coined the line, "Mamta ki kasauti par khara, Dalda" (tested on the touchstone of mother's love).
In the 1970s we developed Indian campaigns for multinational type products. The most memorable brand till, possibly, today was Liril soap. We studied the Indian housewife to find out what she thought about when she got 10 minutes to herself.
HLL's research came up with an amazing answer that she dreams of escape from a life of drudgery and responsibility. Her thoughts begin to drift as she begins her bath. She hums a tune from a popular Bollywood film and the most popular fantasy of all was Amitabh Bachchan riding on a white horse and carrying her away from work...work...work...
We decided on a freshness soap based on these findings. The soap would refresh the housewife as she escapes into her bath. On the basis of that was invented the girl in the waterfall. The la-la-la jingle became the theme song for young people in India. The ad was partly inspired by Raj Kapoor's movies and largely by Tarzan and Jane.
In the 1980s there was the big fight between Nirma and Surf. Nirma had started attracting consumers through its promise of a cheaper detergent. That's when Lalitaji, the housewife, stole the limelight from Nirma with her line, "Surf ki kharidharimein hi samajdhari hai".
I believe that MNCs taking over 90 per cent of India's bigger advertising agencies has hurt advertising. MNCs are more interested in international campaigns. As a result, Indian creativity gets into a straitjacket. Most ads today focus on creativity rather than sell the brand. People hanging from chandeliers, a north Indian boy recollecting his past life as south Indian consumers love those ads. But do they recollect the brands?
The greatest ads are the ones that create the greatest sales. A good ad man is a good salesman. I am a great believer of research in the early stages. After that, you have to rely on the creative teams in the agency to do the right things. Two years back, Emami launched Fair and Handsome.
There was a lot of resistance to the brand's name. But research showed that Indian consumers relate to the word "handsome". As a result, it has become part of the brand's signature. Within six months of launch, it became a Rs 500 million fairness cream brand. The whole point of advertising is to sell goods. I believe in that very sincerely.