Five iconic ad campaigns that scripted the 'era of change' in India

May 21, 2016, 17:47 IST | Jane Borges

One look at the cover of ad veteran Ambi Parameswaran's new book, 'Nawab, Nudes, Noodles,' and a sense of nostalgia creeps in

One look at the cover of ad veteran Ambi Parameswaran's new book, 'Nawab, Nudes, Noodles,' and a sense of nostalgia creeps in. A doodle of the now discontinued Gold Spot soft drink flashes alongside the 'anti-bacterial' health soap — Lifebuoy. Somewhere in this mélange of illustrations, there is also the Amul girl, Dalda Vanaspati and the VIP 'chaddi-banyan' brand — all staples on television and print hoardings for decades.

In 'Nawab, Nudes, Noodles,' Ambi Parameswaran writes of how India changed through 50 years of advertising
In 'Nawab, Nudes, Noodles,' Ambi Parameswaran writes of how India changed through 50 years of advertising

There is no denying that this book is going to take you back in time, to when advertisements were watched with great relish. But Parameswaran's Nawab, Nudes, Noodles is more than that. The book tells us how India changed through 50 years of advertising. “India has been a country in transition for the last few decades,” says the writer. “In some cases, advertising catalysed the change, and in some cases advertisers have reflected that change,” adds Parameswaran, who spent a large part of his 35-year marketing, sales and advertising career in helping build FCB Ulka into one of India's biggest ad agencies. While the book examines over 300 different ads that helped “script this change,” we shortlisted five iconic ads, and asked Parameswaran to give us the back story. Here's what he had to say:

1) Emergence of the new Indian woman (Surf’s Lalitaji ad of 1984)
"The ad was created for Surf to show that the product was a far more sensible purchase, when compared to other washing powder brands. To promote the brand, Hindustan Unilever Ltd. introduced Lalitaji, who not only became the embodiment of the brand, but also became a role model for the new Indian woman. This was probably one of the earliest ads, where a middle-class woman was interacting with the crowds in the street, and talking back to the camera. She was portrayed as someone, who was no longer hiding behind her husband, and could face the society and engage in debate. The story is that the ad almost did not run (despite being so popular), because Lalitaji came across as being too aggressive. HUL had to soften the image of Lalitaji"

2) Chocolate for grown-ups (Cadbury Dairy Milk's 'Real Taste of Life' ad of 1994)
"This ad by Ogilvy & Mather suddenly made chocolate-eating ‘cool’ for adults. Until then, chocolates were usually marketed for kids. But in this ad, you have a woman, who bites into a piece of chocolate while watching a game of cricket, gets a sugar rush, goes berserk, runs into the field and breaks into a dance. Another social commentary around this film was that the woman doesn’t behave like a stiff, upper class elite; instead she swings around like a child. Today, it’s normal to see women dance on the cricket field (thanks to IPL). In a way, it was a precursor to what was to happen to the sport."

3) Milk is the new cola (Amul Operation Flood's Doodh ad of 1995)
"This is the time when the Cola wars (Pepsi Versus Coca Cola) had just begun. Research showed that children across India were saying no to milk, and instead sipping on cola morning, evening and night. There was an urgent need for a more fun depiction of milk. That's when FCB Ulka stepped in. The interesting thing about the ad was that it used a Reggae tune, and it was probably the first ad film to use Hindi and English in equal measure in its jingle. In the end, it served its purpose of getting children to sing and dance to the song of milk. Also, milk no longer seemed boring."

4) No job, don't fear ('s Hari Sadu ad of 2006)
"This ad changed the way Indians thought about jobs. For many years, Indians had this belief that the boss is God, and that since getting a job is difficult, one should stick it out. But the ad started addressing a new audience, and highlighted that any job was not okay, and that you should take a job that you enjoy. In the ad, the employee actually spells out his boss’ name as ‘Hitler. Arrogant. Rascal. Idiot’ (Hari). It propagated the thought that people don’t quit jobs, but they quit their bosses. The ad was a remarkable success story."

5) The nude controversy (Tuff Shoe ad of 1995)
"There are some ads that can go the wrong way and one such example was the Tuff shoe ad where supermodels Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre posed nude, along with a python, for a print advertisement. The ad came out at time when India was becoming more prudish. But to be honest, had the ad come out today, it would suffer the same fate (This ad was banned soon after its release and the models were dragged to court. The case went on for over 20 years). A lot of people felt that nudity had nothing to do with shoes, hence, the opposition. Advertisement has to find a balance between grabbing people’s attention and not upsetting sentiments."

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