Why are TV ads using old Bollywood songs as jingles?

The beautiful Katrina Kaif walks along a forest path with a young couple and then decides to get naughty. The man is blindfolded and the two girls decide to moisten his lips with mango juice! But our man has good taste.

So he is unimpressed with an ordinary juice the other girl offers him, but is seen thirsting for more after Kaif lets him have a sip of Slice. In the background, a smoky voice belts out the evergreen Kishore Kumar-Asha Bhosle number Haal kaisa hain janaab ka from the 1958 superhit Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. It’s not Kaif’s seductive style that has our attention this time though, but the fact that despite Bollywood producing more hit songs each year than ever before, commercials (TV ads to be precise) are using more and more classic numbers from the 1950s to ’80s to sell products.

Illustration/ Amit Bandre

So we see Priyanka Chopra zooming around in a two-wheeler to the refrains of Salma Agha’s Jhoom jhoom jhoom baba. Or a hassled middle-aged man running from pillar to post for an insurance claim as the Randhir Kapoor-Babita popular number Aap yahaan aaye kis liye from Kal Aaj Aur Kal plays in the background.

Like fine wine
What is it about old Hindi film songs, which prompt ad filmmakers to use them as jingles in commercials? Says adman Rahul Da Cunha, “If there is one thing that genuinely unites all us Indians, it’s old Hindi film songs. Many of these numbers not only had beautiful lyrics but lilting melodies. People, who were not even born when some of these songs were first sung, hum them today! That’s not the case with most present-day songs.”

Lyricist Prasoon Joshi, who also happens to be chairman and CEO of Mckann India, couldn’t agree more. “These songs add immense value to a commercial because they are great compositions. Also they express a certain sentiment that is in sync with the product. Personally I have great love for such old compositions,” he says.

Joshi has used the remix versions of classics like Tum jo mil gaye ho in a Coke ad featuring Imran Khan and Kalki Koechlin, Aaj ki raat kuch hone ko hain in another Coke ad featuring Khan and Mud mud ke na dekh for a TVS Scooty commercial. Explaining the reason for remixing the songs, he says, “The palate of the audience has changed. They need something fresh, at the same time it has to be something that they can relate to immediately. So the idea is to retain the essence of the song but give it a contemporary twist for the new generation.”

Sumanto Chattopadhyay, executive creative director, South Asia, O&M, says it is not just commercials but even Hindi movies and serials that are being named after classics. Case in point are TV serials such as Bade Acche Lagte Hain, Na Bole Tum Na Maine Kuch Kahan, Kuch Toh Log Kahenge and Kya Hua Tera Vaada. “People see a lot of value in classics. They hold universal appeal for the old as well as the young. Of course, sometimes when we use them in advertisements, we rearrange the music to give them a fresh feel,” Chattopadhyay says.

Da Cunha adds that such songs pique the curiosity of youngsters too – another reason for using such old numbers. “A teenager might not know the lyrics of such classics but must have heard these songs before. However, when they hear it in ads, it creates greater curiosity, something that helps the product being advertised,” he says.

Commercials with old Hindi songs also break the clutter, as Joshi says. “Ad filmmakers are looking at different ways to grab peoples’ attention. Music is one of them as it plays a huge role in advertisements.”

The flip side
However, music composer Mikey McCleary who has worked on the recent Slice ad and earlier Coke commercials, confesses that remixing classics can be a tough job, since, apart from battling the fear that they might not turn out to be as good as the original, ad films also tend to go overboard with the visualisation sometimes. “For me, retaining the soul of the song is very important. But sometimes, ads are not done in a tasteful way. There have been instances where the creative team has wanted to change the lyrics and insert the name of the product in the song. In such cases, as a composer, I have to make compromises to suit the clients’ needs but try my level best to do justice to the song,” he confesses.

The usage of classics in commercials also depends upon the demographics of the audience. As Chattopadhyay points out, “Hindi songs are popular in many states but then again, they don’t hold a huge appeal down South. For instance, for a Ponds Dreamflower Talc ad featuring Nargis Fakhri, we had used the popular number Tera hone laga hoon from Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. But we changed the song to suit the sensibilities of the South Indian audience.”

Taking the easy way out
Adman and theatre personality Bharat Dabholkar, however, says the usage of old hit songs in ads is taking an easy way out. “It is a time consuming process to create an original jingle,” he says, adding that usage of film songs as jingles has its benefits and drawbacks. “While using a classic as a jingle, the connectivity with the audience is more and the product is piggybacking on the song’s popularity. But the drawback is that the song overshadows the brand. Whenever people think about the ad later, they remember the song but might forget the brand.”

He asserts that creating a signature jingle is always better in the long run. “Even today people remember the Britannia jingle ‘Ting ting tidin’ or the Mango Frooti fresh and juicy slogan. This is the advantage of a signature jingle. Now the Vicco Vajradanti jingle has been modernised to suit the present day audience’s taste.”

So is this a trend that is for keeps? “As long as demands on creative teams increase and true creativity takes a back seat, it will continue to happen,” says Dabholkar. Joshi, however, sees the brighter side of things. “Times will change but people will keep listening to good, soulful music and such
classics will always attract audiences,” he says.

They have done it too!
Here’s a look at some commercials that have used classic Hindi songs:

Tumsa nahin dekha, sung by Mohammed Rafi in the Shammi Kapoor-starrer by the same name (1957), used in the Chevrolet ad

Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahen, sung by Mohammed Rafi in the Shammi Kapoor-starrer- Junglee (1961), used in the Mentos ad

Aye mere zohra jabeen, tujhe maloom nahin, sung by Manna Dey, in the multi-starrer Waqt (1965), used in the Raymond ad

Aaj kal tere mere pyaar ke charche, sung by Mohammed Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur in the Shammi Kapoor-starrer Brahmachari (1968), used in the Raymond ad

Chakke mein chakka sung by Mohammed Rafi from the Shammi-Kapoor starrer Brahmachari (1968), used in the Nissan Micra ad featuring Ranbir Kapoor

Chala Jaata Hoon, sung by Kishore Kumar from the Rajesh Khanna-starrer Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972), used in the Nissan Micra ad featuring Ranbir Kapoor

Aao na gale lagao na, sung by Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle from the Rajesh Khanna-starrer Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972) used in the Kit Kat ad

Ye jawaani hai deewani, sung by Kishore Kumar-Asha Bhosle in the Randhir Kapoor-Jaya Bhaduri-starrer Jawaani Deewani (1972), used in the Mentos ad

Jaane do na, sung by Shailendra Singh and Asha Bhosle in the Rishi Kapoor-Dimple Kapadia starrer Saagar (1985), used in the TVS scooty ad

Kaate nahin kat ti hai, sung by Kishore Kumar- Alisha Chinoi in the Anil Kapoor-Sridevi starrer Mr India (1987), used in the Kit Kat ad  

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