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The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: The Latest From Indian Advertising

We pass the verdict on three recent advertising campaigns

Federal Bank, Axis Bank & Airtel’s latest ads: Super duper hit, Bleh, or Cringeworthy?

The Good: Federal Bank 

David Ogilvy famously remarked that a good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself. The best ads we’ve seen speak directly to our heart, but they’re also genuine and shorn of pretence – in short, they are believable.

Federal Bank gets all these elements right in their recent campaign that features a jolly old couple. Medicine has a husband concealing his wife’s tablets in a glass of milk because she doesn’t like taking medicines, little knowing that the wife knows exactly what he’s up to but lovingly plays along. Joke has the wife narrating her oft repeated Santa gag to someone on the phone while the husband provides commentary in the background – but when she narrates the joke again at dinner, the husband laughs uproariously, as if hearing it for the first time. Walk has husband and wife getting ready for a morning walk together, talking about how one walks too fast and the other too slow, both out of loving concern for the other. The best part about the TVCs are the actors  – unlike the designer Dada-Dadis that are becoming the norm these days, this happy duo evokes fond memories of our own grandparents.

What makes a perfect bank? A trusted and reliable partner that will carry on through good times and bad, and what better representation of that than this perfect couple that has evidently spent several happy decades together. A great insight executed with powerful simplicity.

 The Bad: Axis Bank Badhne Ke Kai Naam Hai…

In 2012, Axis Bank unveiled its brand philosophy of Badhti Ka Naam Zindagi or “Progress On” through a series of advertisements that focused on the gutsy and entrepreneurial Indian – a great way to align its brand identity with that of a young and ambitious country. So we greeted the news of Deepika Padukone being featured in its latest campaign of Badhne Ke Kai Naam Hai with a mixture of bemusement and curiosity.

The first advertisement that launched the series had these lines:

Reporter: Deepika, now that you are with Axis Bank, how do you feel?

Deepika: How do I feel? I feel that I am progressing…(hint, Badhti ka naam zindagi, but if you don’t get it, don’t worry : they spell it out )

In short, Bland, Bleh and downright Bakwaas, as Deepika’s Meenamma would shriek.

The next two TVCs in the campaign are equally uninspiring. The advertising strategy appears to have completely forgotten that the bank has a pretty compelling and relevant value proposition, and is instead obsessed with milking the Deepika brand. There is no attempt to develop a credible story, the copy is jaded and it’s no surprise that the actress appears to be completely out of sorts.

It seems Axis Bank is targeting the young, upwardly mobile Indian, but do they really believe that merely getting a star to endorse the brand will have the youth flocking out in millions? Sorry Lowe Lintas, this Pied Piper’s music is hopelessly out of tune.

The Ugly : Airtel Smartphone Network (The Boss)

It’s not easy pretending something you are not, especially when it comes to being a feminist in India. Airtel – which hit bull’s eye in depicting friendship through its Har Ek Friend Zaroori Hota Hai and Jo Tera Hai Woh Mera Hai campaigns – flounders when it comes to portraying a “cool urban relationship” for its smartphone network.

The concept itself is revolutionary in the Indian context – a husband whose manager at work happens to be his wife. Unfortunately, the execution reeks of deeply rooted chauvinism. The husband is forced to burn the midnight oil because of a tight deadline imposed by the boss, who heads home after assigning the work. But as soon as she steps out of office, the boss transforms into the traditional bhartiya naari – asking her husband what he’d like to have for dinner as she is driven home, and then spending the rest of the evening cooking his favourite dishes.

Would a male manager apologize to his team member for giving a stiff deadline, even if that team member was his wife? Would he then rush home to rustle up a lavish meal for her? Did the company bother to run this TVC past the women in their leadership team? Airtel wants us to believe that its smartphone network helps mend strained relationships. Instead, this is what professional women – those that are at the top of the game and those working hard to get there – will end up believing: breaking the glass ceiling at work is a cakewalk compared to changing the patriarchal Indian mindset.

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Image courtesy: Bestmediainfo


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