It is not India-Pak LOC, but Twitter that is the hottest war zone right now. And after Balakot, the josh is so high that my twitter timeline is filled with the proponents & opponents waging their solo battle for or against anything & everything. Including a harmless commercial for a detergent powder. While I have nothing against Hindustan Unilever (HUL) & have been an admirer of its marketing skills, a critical viewing of the new Surf Excel TVC (https://youtu.be/Zq7mN8oi8ds) made me see all that is wrong in the ad. So, here I go...
Firstly, the tagline - Daag achhe hain. My kid loved this tagline when it was introduced & would merrily tell this to her mom. But no longer, after discovering that it had a short shelf life as an antidote to the scolding she receives after dirtying her clothes. Yes, this tagline sounded good the first few times. But now it sounds like a lame excuse for a sub standard product. Come on HUL, after all these years couldn't you come up with a product that would remove all stains? The kids would love it & you would have a loyal customer base in the next generation too.
Moreover, these topical ads no longer have any novelty value as there are many other advertisers who come out with TVCs focused on a particular event or theme. Tata Tea still manages to recycle its ads during election season & it works every time (for our netas, or their politics, is never going to change). But detergent is not such a product. A Holi-themed commercial would have worked well had HUL launched a detergent that specifically removes the holi colours. But it is selling the same old detergent. This is not even a case of old wine in new bottle. In this age when all the information in the world is freely available on Google, you cannot fool anyone for the shortest period of time.
I also do not like the empty street shown in the ad. Holi is one festival where everyone is outside the house. At least the kids are, for no self respecting mom likes her home dirty with holi colours. It is a festival celebrated outdoors & one comes inside only after every one has run out of colours & water. Here we find the young kids safely barricaded on the first floor & an empty street below. During my younger days, we would have thrown a water balloon back at the boys above. Even at the risk of not being seen around this house for the next week till aunty had forgotten all. It appears the creative director has never played holi the way it should be.
What I disliked the most about this ad was the girl on the bicycle wearing no safety gear. Kids should mandatorily be made to wear not just the helmet, but elbow caps & knee caps too while riding. Yes, this doesn't happen in India, but shouldn't a socially responsible advertiser show a properly geared rider? Watch any ad for a car & you will find front seat occupants wearing the seat belts. Now watch the cars on the road & you will find very few doing so. But the car manufacturer/marketer has done its job & it is for the society and law enforcing agencies to do their bit. If you have watched the Edelweiss Tokio Life advert, the girl learning the bicycle is also properly decked up. If Edleweiss can, why can't HUL? I find the ad, while aiming to be socially meaningful, simply promoting a chalta hai attitude towards road safety. Which is a major cause of accidents on our roads. HUL, you are not responsible enough.
But these should not give rise to the kind of protests that HUL is facing. And I wondered why. For the answer I turned to a dear friend who is actively involved with a political party of a particular hue. What he disclosed really stumped me. In the ad, the little girl eggs on the boys by saying "fenk ke dikha na". And this is what pissed off the devotees, for there is only one person with the divine right to fenkofy. Hence the battle cry #BoycottSurfExcel.
Surf Excel ad.: https://trak.in/tags/business/2019/03/11/after-kumbh-ad-hindustan-unilever-faces-backlash-over-holi-ad-for-surf-excel-boycottsurfexcel/
Edelweiss Tokio Life ad: https://www.zeebiz.com/companies/news-edelweiss-tokio-life-insurance-launches-its-tv-commercials-directed-by-noted-bollywood-director-shoojit-sircar-86596