Saturday, July 26, 2008

BBF: Ad critique 4 : Humour

The fourth in the series of my ad critique column that appeared on the July 2008 issue of the Bangladesh Brand Forum magazine.

It has been my pet peeve that we do not use humour in advertising that we develop locally. It seems that we believe consumers here are more receptive to tear-jerkers (what was Banglalink thinking using a dead mother in a commercial!?!?) or song-and-dance routines rather than a belly full of giggle. That thought process I believe is wrapped. Given the hardship that most of our consumers go through every day of their lives, would not humour bring some respite? Worldwide the inclination has been towards humorous ads. Be it the Americas, Europe, Latin America or even nearer to home in Thailand or India, funny ads rule. Which one of us has not resisted the temptation of forwarding a belly aching funny ad to everyone in our mailing list? Then why is Bangladesh an exception? Of course we get to see a few ads that end up being funny not by design but rather by accident. A mispronunciation or the sheer khatness of it! But only a handful has used this route to reach out to the consumers.

I usually avoid talking about ads that I’ve played a part in creating in these columns. But I can’t help but bring up two sets of Ads that we had created in order to break this mould. Both were for the carbonated drink Mojo. First was an ad that we call “The Cowboy Offer”. It’s about a man who is taking the Qurbani Goru (Cow) home and the usual interaction that he has on the street. The second was a series of 32 TVCs during the last World Cup Cricket where we gave away things like an aktaara, a singara, a calculator, a bonsai or even a Dhaka-Borga bus ticket. I believe these ads had a mixed reception. A few loved it and a few thought we had lost our minds. Overall I believe we tried to push the envelope. For every success there must be failures as well. How else do you know you’re not playing it safe?

Over the last few months I’m seeing an emerging trend of producing humorous ads. Quite a few of them being produced for Square Toiletries by Mediacom (Amaar naam Mohfiz or the suicide of a shirt) or by humour man himself Shawon of Grey Dhaka.

Danish Mackenzie: I believe they can rightfully claim the title of being Bangladesh’s first viral success. This was when people not only saw the ads online but also forwarded it to friends even before the official media break. What can one say about these ads but that they are close to being perfect as possible? I am going to spend the rest of this review raving about it, so if you disagree, move on to the next one.

The premise is so simple here is a generic type of biscuit (Mackenzie) that is now being made locally. So instead of buying the expensive Malaysian or Taiwanese one, here buy the same tasting local variant. And the creative interpretation of the insight is so magical. One bite and you are transformed into an Englishman! What made this series of ads so grand were the attention to details, the sheer brilliance of the scripting and the par excellence of acting. The only thing debateable here is which of the three ads in one’s favourite.

Mine is the one where the man soon migrating to America goes to a training centre to learn English. It captivates starting from the name of the centre (Hollywood), to the way the teacher is picking his teeth, to the end line where he says, “George Bush I’m coming.” And I love the way they so subtlety put in the price point (Less than Tk. 100). The touches of humour through out the TVC, be it the protagonist suggesting the price was inclusive for ticket and visa cost or the Noakhali accent that was used for characterisation.

A close second was the Dhakiya man in his house whose friend visits him. And how he is surprised by this own transformation into the English speaking person that none of his forefathers were. “Oh my god I’m talking English!” Expressions were spot on.

Needless to say Shawon and his team in Grey Dhaka had their hands all over this. The pay off a fitting “Deshi Made Foreign Taste” was delivered in the trademark Shawon style. These TVCs are amongst Amitabh Reza’s best work. The use of camera angles, framing, the music track, use of background details like Bush’s picture in the background or the IELTS book on the desk all goes on to make this a whole ad. This would not have worked if corners were cut. As I have been saying in the last few articles, we do not give enough importance to the production quality. It works to spend money and time behind making the TVCs come alive. This series is a shinning example of that.

For the series on production value I’ll give it a 9 on 10. On originality and idea a 10 and Overall: a benchmarking 9.

Pran Mr. Mango Candy: the jingle is catchy “I am Mokhles… and I’m not so hopeless”. I’ve been laughing from the ready get set go. Okay, It’s not a rib tickler. But it leaves you with a smile on your face and the foot tapping. The product is a hard candy that is being positioned as a mood upper. When things look down pop in a Mr. Mango and life will be better.

There is usually not much to rationally say about such an impulse purchase product. So best is to touch the consumer emotionally and just leave behind the brand proposition and name. This spot I think succeeded at that endeavour. The client also intelligently avoided the tendency to treat it like a child’s product and not do a “kids-having-fun” sort of a spot. Incidentally Pran with a lot of their products are in this field. Unfortunately I don’t think they pay enough attention to their responsibility as a good corporate citizen and often end up endorsing mischievous behaviour of children. (One day I will rant about my least favourite ad in the world – Pran Masala’s ad where the husband abuses his wife with “Raantay toh janlayna” (“Haven’t even learnt to cook”))

There are two major things I don’t like about the ad. Firstly the obvious caricature of some of the characters. While I will give it to them that a bald Mr. Mohkles ads to the appeal, the tiil (black-head scar) on man getting slapped was not needed. (Bringing me back to why are Pran ads so abusive?). Secondly I didn’t think the MVO (male voice over) cut away near the end to say the brand name was at all needed. Matter of fact it was distracting.

On production value I’ll give it a 5. On idea a 5 and Overall: 5/10

Nazim Farhan Choudhury is an advertising professional (and a closet comedian) with a penchant for at times shooting of his mouth (or his fingers on a keyboard) and critiquing other people’s work. Luckily for him being in the business for 14 years allows him to trump quantity over quality. He hides behind the notion that to be better, one needs to learn where one is going wrong as well. That, dear readers, you can enlighten him at or by visiting his blog site
Also an appeal to know if there is any particular genre or product category one would want him to focus on in the future.

Links to the Ads
Danish Mackenzie Coaching
Danish Mackenzie Dhakaiya
Pran Mr. Mango Candy