Thursday, May 21, 2009

BFF: Critique 8: Energy Drinks

Appeared in the May 2009 edition of the Bangladesh Brand Forum magazine.

It’s a jungle out there! Specially between Tiger, Dark Horse, Shark, it’s a “Wild Brew” (pun of course intended!). Throw in Crown, Big Boss, Mountain Dew, Speed, and the Energy Drink market is really crowded. Being a very profitable segment of the market there is a mini war going on. It’s currently a small-volume-high-margin segment of the drinks market but growing like a runaway cattle high on Red Bull. To be absolutely clear, there are two sub-variants. One being the high-caffeine, sugary, carbonated drink that is the bulk of the segment, and the other being a pseudo beer defined as non-alcoholic malt beverage. Neither, ironically, are what is referred to as energy drinks in the internationally. There it is an isotonic, salt-reinforced, lemon based drink, like those of Gatorade and Locazade. In the local market the spurt of activity recently has seen quite a few TVCs fighting out for consumer’s mindshare.

Tiger: This is the brand that started the battle. Using Ayub Bachchu as the brand endorser, it has proved to be a runaway success.
While the original launch ad lacked the punch and the polish of a good production, the follow up ad took the two best things of the first, namely AB and a catchy song, and did a better mash up. It showed all the correct target audience. It had all the required elements - a good jingle, the youth gathering shots (concert, sports), it even had, what seems to be fast becoming essential, a cricket match shot! On originality of the idea it does nothing for the brand. It doesn’t add on the values of the product too much. But the sheer presence of AB and the massive media buy behind the TVC I am sure will ensure the success of the brand for some time to come.

Production value 6 on 10. Insight: 4. Originality: 2. Execution of the Idea: 3. Overall: 3.5

Speed: After a forgetful and illogical launch ad that showed a jockey having the drink thus making the horse go faster, Akij did a much anticipated re-branding exercise. Grey has given the brand a great do over. With invigorating pack graphics Speed’s new pay-off “Heavy (pronounced HeaBee) Energy”, I believe they positioned the brand for success.
Its use of humour was an attempt to distinguish itself from the rivals. I saw the static executions before the TVC. I was disappointed with the latter. I think they did no justice to the insight. After such a strong footing and a powerful pay-off, the TVC was a let down. It showed a man who has lost his memory being jolted back by a stray carom striker shot from a distance by a Speed drinking protagonist. Phew. A stretch to say the least. Not that reality needs to play any part in it. But come on, you could come up with a much much stronger execution. In the static itself, the broken cement I thought was a great lead in for the TVCs. Could have built on that. Production wise it was well shot, having all the required values. But overall it didn’t leave a lasting impression. I thought even the attempted humour was trying to katu kutu (tickle) you into laughing.

Production value 5 on 10. Insight: 6. Originality: 5. Execution of the Idea: 4. Overall: 4

Wild Brew: another offering from Akij, this is the malt beverage side of the portfolio. The brand name and premise is that it unleashes the “beast inside”. Interesting! The ad was different. It showed various animals in the African jungle running off scared. (Running from, I thought in the first few viewing, the cheetah. But no. Apparently everyone -including the cheetah - was running from the drink). Ok. Did it excite non Animal Planet watching crowd? Not sure it did. Yes, it did set up the brand as this wild untamed man’s drink but then they fizzled out. I would have thought this was only the launch ad and they would follow up with a proper theme ad that showed a macho wild man who drank this brew. Or even a James Bondish suave character who had this wild excitable side. But they left us hanging. I hope not for long though. Grey who handles the brand usually does a more stronger brand-consumer connect.

Production value 5 on 10. Insight: 6. Originality: 5. Execution of the Idea: 5. Overall: 5 (but only as an “intro” TVC. If this is all they have got then I’ll give it a “2”)

Crown: the original big daddy of energy drink. It started off with Azam Khan - the original big daddy of the beer chugging set! But then the follow up had Tinni and Fuad. It was shot during an unflattering phase of Tinni’s life. She didn’t have the sex appeal the director’s intended. Why didn’t they use Mila or Tishma? Fuad, too, seemed an after thought. What was he doing there except saying “khub cheena cheena”? And what did he mean by that?

The TVC showed Tinni stuck in traffic, calls into a Radio show to dedicate a song to Fuad. She crack opens a can of Crown which is carried over the airwaves and starts off a party. A lot of good looking people, drinking shots and a Fuad mixed jingle aimed at appealing to the young. But the ad was so average that it was painful. It had a lot of potential but I bet you a case of Heineken, the powers behind the brand only thought of the communication as a TVC and not as a big picture. This will not get the brand anywhere.

Production value 4 on 10. Insight: 3. Originality: 2. Execution of the Idea: 2. Overall: 2 (our lowest ever!)

Big Boss: I wish we could copyright ideas. This script bears a more than uncanny resemblance to a script I presented to a client a few years back. While I failed in convincing the client, kudos to Expression for being able to take a similar concept forward. Of course I think it’s a good connect with the brand. The ad borrows heavily from the sport of “free running”. Basically it is running a hurdle race where participants, while running, jump over barriers and keep going without slowing down. While the sport is new and has a little but growing following in the west, it has been used in quite a few ads in the region already. Including for a dJuice ad locally. In this particular ad the Big Boss drinker runs off after a thief who just robbed a lady of her handbag. He goes through various obstacles during the chase. Near the end of the pursuit we see him crossing the thief to reach for the Big Boss carrying vehicle. As the others including the perplexed thief look on he opens up a drink and then grabs hold of the purse snatcher to relieve him of the stolen good. Cut to a bar / disco where the macho hero hands the bag back to the rightful owner.

Overall the production by Amit Sen is entertaining. Good mix of music and action. However I thought it failed to create that little bit of suspense. We should have left wondering if the hero could make those jumps or not. And they needed to be slightly more awe inspiring. Instead we got too many gymnastic digbaji (somersault). One thing that I didn’t like at all was the last sequence in the bar. Didn’t think it was required at all. They should have ended the TVC before this. Let me guess. The client insisted on it!

A point to make here is that while this attempt is much better than a stop gap ad that they ran for a few months in the middle, it isn’t good enough to win the Energy Drink war.

Production value 4 on 10. Insight: 5. Originality: 5. Execution of the Idea: 4. Overall: 4

Black Horse: And the winner’s trophy of this war. I think, will go to Black Horse. At the time of writing this piece, the launch ad hasn’t aired as yet. But how do I know this will win? Well it has James as the lead. Who else can epitomise and bring to life the category than James? The biggest, baddest rockstar to walk the Bangladeshi stage. After a big bidding war James signed on and surely that will propel Black Horse to a different stratosphere. I mean how can you go wrong? All you need to do is put him in the ad and do a music video of him! [What I’ll do is when the ad is out, put a review of it on my site. Let’s see, finger’s crossed]

Nazim Farhan Choudhury is the Deputy Managing Director of Adcomm Limited and an ardent fan of edgy advertising. He is of the strong belief that advertising is a medium that can help shape a society and its culture. We can use it for the better good of the nation. Introduce new thought, promote new concepts and eventually change the thinking. And if we are lucky, for the better. If you have comments, feel free to write at or visit his blogsite

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

BFF: Critique 7: Prophylactic

Appeared in the April 2009 edition of the Bangladesh Brand Forum magazine.

One of my most embarrassing moments in advertising occurred when, in the mid 90s, I started out as a junior client executive. I was called in for a meeting with a large contraceptive product client that we handled. They were going to launch a “ribbed” and “dotted” variety of their popular condom brand. In the course of the meeting, between strategizing and conceptualization, Mr. Client turned to me and said “do you know what dotted and ribbed is?” I was dumbfounded. Now most of you don’t know this but my boss also happens to be my mother! Questioned in front of her, well you realize my predicament. What could I say but hem and haw! So Mr. Client grabs into his briefcase and pulls out a few sample. He then goes on to tear the packaging and describe in details the product benefits - its contours and its consumer benefits. I don’t think I’ve ever turned redder in my life!

Well that anecdote aside, I’ve always been fascinated by contraceptive advertising. Especially in a Muslim majority country like Bangladesh, where talking about sex has always been a taboo. How do you sell a product you can not talk about? Now that did not stop us. Between Mr. Reza Ali’s Bitopi handling Raja Condoms and Adcomm with Sensation and Panther, we were doing quite a reasonable job. Condom sales and usage were up and birthrates down. However primary focus of any campaign was on family planning. Hence sex and the reported pleasure from that activity was not spoken about. Rather all conversation was based on the benefits of smaller families. One of the most successful campaigns in Bangladesh’s advertising history was a Vasectomy ad where they first showed a family over run by kids. Man comes home and talks to his wife and they decide that he should visit the local clinic where a “solution” would be provided. Cut to the end-shot of man and wife and their ideal family. Man saying the immortal line “aagay chilam boka, akhon hoilam budhimaan” (Loosely translated, “Was foolish before, now I am much wiser!”). One rather obvious hole in the plot - where did all those extra children before the procedure disappeared to? But that aside I think it got the message across. I am not sure if it got men to agree to get, well, fixed. But it started a conversation.

Advertising that followed later were walking a very tight line to ensure that the discourse continues. But all that changed with the launch of Sensation Condom. For the first time we pushed the envelope. Positioning it on the pleasure principal, the ad showed a couple who were celebrating an occasion and were using the contraceptive to stay safe. And also for the first time the concept of prevention from sexually transmitted disease was mentioned. So the condom came out of the closet. Its role shifted from being only a family planning tool to that of a protector. Albeit still between married couples.

Since then the company in question has evolved the market along. Especially on the Sensation brand, the messaging has moved more towards the pleasure side of the business, over the years adding on pleasure enhancers to the product like contours and even flavours. This growing boldness has often ran right into a wall put up by the staid censors of BTV. But now with the proliferation of local satellite channels, consumers are not shielded from the realities of life. Hey having sex isn’t bad, just make sure you are protected.

In recent days three particular condom ads have caught the attention of viewers. As I’ve directly worked on one of them (Hero), I will not comment on it. But I thought it would be interesting to talk about the other two ads

Panther : This brand operates in a very difficult target market matrix. Aimed at the mid-segment of the consumers who happen not only to be conservative but also budget conscious. It’s difficult to talk about many things with this group. Compounding the problem is this fear that contraceptive will be looked down upon as not being macho enough and reduce the pleasure. I thought the Agency - Mediacom was bang on when they addressed these two issues head on. The story of this ad is simple. A brother in a joint family in a village comes home unexpectedly with a lot of fan fare and announces that he is married. And that too, to a very beautiful cinema heroine. Throughout the rest of the commercial we see how she is utterly besotted by her husband. At the same time this red-blooded-cinema-actress-marrying man’s cousin is intrigued by the secret of his success. Only to rush in and ask him how he does what he does. And on cue comes in the Panther condom pack and the pay off “ashol purush” (real man). The TVC blends in everything - humour, product benefit, virility. In one stroke they tear down the two barriers to purchase, while not needing to resort to the usual product story. Well actually they did talk about the product. It’s intertwined in the plot so ingeniously. All they did, rightly, was not to talk about product attributes.

On the production front, Kislu did a great job as well. Edits were well done. Acting set the mood of the ad and the music highlighted it. The reaction of the cousin was perfect. It brought in the spirit and the intrigue.

Production value I’ll give it a 7 on 10. On originality and insight: 9. Overall: 8.5

Sensation : we no longer handle the brand. Bitopi has taken on the stewardship. Their current offering is, to put it mildly, very bold in its reach. I believe this is another of the watershed ads that Sensation has gifted the advertising industry. In my mind they have now moved from only pleasure to a sexual act itself. Well though not explicitly shown, it explores the fantasy world of role play. The TVC which was produced by Opus Communication out of Kolkatta shows a very sexy woman who is dressing up for a night out in the town. And as she walks down the street she has this feeling that she is being followed. We indeed see that a man in an overcoat, fedora and dark glasses (yes in the evening) stalking her. The music builds the suspense of a cat and mouse situation. The hunter and the hunted. She tries to find refuge in a cafe, only to see him sitting there. Scared, she runs back home. But the man is already there! Cue in drama, suspense, Hindi serial music and boom… she smiles. It’s her husband. And here comes the twist. As they are about to embrace, she takes of a wig. If this isn’t the-stranger-in-the-alley role play fantasy that any Creative Director fantasises about, I’ll give up my subscription to Hugh Hefner’s magazine. Ok the required married couple photographs are in the background but the whole thing is still very spunky.

Unfortunately I am not sure if the consumers picked up on the message. The thinking might be that the sophisticated target for this brand will get it even if others don’t. But I’ve spoken about it with quite a few people. I am not sure they get it. After explaining it, yes everyone loves it. They think it’s feisty and original. But they need to see it repeatedly before getting the message. In today’s fragmented media scenario that is a no-no. It’s a shame that TVC wasn’t smooth enough to capture the nuances of story-line. We saw the man too early, and his attempt to hide too feeble. The girl on the other hand did a bang up job. Her expressions were great. Showed her emotions I thought, quite well. Especially at the end where that faked apprehension turns to the wicked smile of knowing what will come next.

Unfortunately this seems to be an ad that admen like me will love and talk about for years to come, while fall flat with the consumers. But this shouldn’t discourage either the client or the agency. Both, I hope, have embarked on an adventure that will see many such taboo TVCs and topics being discussed. A strong step in that direction indeed.

Production value 4 on 10. On originality: 8 and insight: 6. Overall: 7

Nazim Farhan Choudhury is the Deputy Managing Director of Adcomm Limited and an ardent fan of edgy advertising. He is of the strong belief that advertising is a medium that can help shape a society and its culture. We can use it for the better good of the nation. Introduce new thought, promote new concepts and eventually change the thinking. And if we are lucky, for the better. If you have comments, feel free to write at or visit his blogsite

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