The picture of a young couple sharing a laugh in different settings - reading a Polish joke book in the living room, on the beach, in the rain - with the tagline, 'Made for each other', hung from prominent street corners through the 1960s to the 1990s, till tobacco advertising came to a grinding halt in 2004.
ITC launched the campaign, 'Made for each other', in 1965, for Wills (Navy Cut), to mark a paradigm shift in product development - a filter that enhanced taste. Filter-tip cigarettes were meant to be "safer": They were the tobacco companies' response to medical studies waking up to the negatives of smoking. And, it is said that the product description given to its advertising agency, Hindustan Thompson Associates (HTA), mentioned how the filter was a perfect match for a good smoke.
As the story goes, such clues led Shiben Dutt, one of the noted copywriters on HTA's legendary chief Subhas Ghoshal's team, to scribble the famous lines on the back of an envelope. The 'Made for each other' campaign went on to become one of the longest-running ones. As brand marketing consultant Counselage India's managing partner, Suhel Seth, says, "It's timeless, rewarding and relevant."
The copy used to read: 'Made for each other; Like Wills Filter; Filter and tobacco perfectly matched…' Advertising veteran Sujit Sanyal (who worked with Clarion from 1976 onwards) recalls it was widely known that Ghoshal masterminded the campaign, while Dutt crafted the tagline.
The campaign not only scored high on brand recall, it was successful in its objective, as Wills Filter, or Filter Wills for most, became interchangeable.
To leverage the campaign, ITC created many properties around it, the most famous being the Wills 'Made for each other' contest to select the perfectly-matched couple. It was as celebrated as the beauty pageants of today; tennis player and Davis Cupper, Premjit Lall and his first wife, were once the winners from Calcutta. The contest was launched in the late-60s and lived through the 80s, with a seven-year pause in the interim.
The changes in the Wills campaign were mostly cosmetic, getting more contemporary by the day. The punchline and theme of a perfect match stayed till the very end.
The curtains on the iconic print and outdoor campaign came down in 2004 when the government wielded the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, to protect public health by imposing restrictions on advertising and banning sponsorships.
At that time, according to reports, the Wills brand was estimated to be worth Rs 1,500 crore, second only to Gold Flake (from ITC, worth Rs 2,500 crore).
For all tobacco companies, it was a challenge. ITC, of course, had read the writing on the wall, what with mounting attacks on cigarette companies the world over. It had started, in 1990-2000s, diversifying into readymade apparel, matchsticks, stationery and packaged food such as biscuits.
"Wills" was quickly distanced from Navy Cut. ITC wanted to dissociate the brand from the cigarettes business so that the apparel retail venture, Wills Lifestyle, could be promoted without any charge of surrogate advertising. It was evident from the cigarette pack where Wills became inconspicuous and the product name was changed to Navy Cut. ITC had to rely, from 2004 onwards, on point-of-sale promotions.
For advertising agencies, however, the ramifications were even bigger. The cigarette advertising pie at that time was around Rs 350 crore and ITC accounted for almost half of it. In outdoor advertising, tobacco spends accounted for 10 per cent. Veterans say the ban was a major reason why the sun set on Calcutta's (now Kolkata) advertising hub. "ITC was not just the mainstay for advertising agencies in Kolkata, but it was one of the biggest advertisers in the country," Seth says.
ITC's Gold Flake Filter Kings ad in the 80s with actor, Vijayendra Ghatge, and the tagline, 'For the gracious people' is memorable. As is, India Kings' 'Rule your world'. Or, Wills Classic's 'Discover a passion'. But none could match 'Made for each other', which managed to linger as a catchphrase, long after its time.