Wednesday, July 01, 2009

BFF: Critique 9: Ads that I don't like

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

A criticism of my critique column that I sometimes get is that I hedge my bets. Basically it seems that I don’t come out and say out right that I don’t like a TVC. As a person pointed out to me, I put in a lot of disclaimers! Well it is somewhat true. I guess that is the hazard of working with the people whose work I write about. And that too in an industry where you are only as good as your last work. I cannot honestly put my hand on my heart and say that I make better ads. I don’t. There are far more talented people in our industry than me. Far more. And the aim of these writings is just to put down my own personal opinion about things that I like and I don’t. As with anything where a value judgment needs to be made, the opinions are subjective. As the great bard had said so truly “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” Just because I like Kachchi Biriyani, everybody doesn’t need to. So today I’ll talk about a few recent on-air TVCs that I don’t like at all. Mind you, people who I work with, or for, might even have created few of these. But this is not a reflection on those persons but rather on these works themselves. Did I just put in another disclaimer? Oh well here goes…

Black Horse: Those who read my column regularly (I am told there are one or two out there) will remember that in last month’s column, I had already crowned Black Horse as the tiger of the Energy Drinks with speed that would leave the big boss in a wild brew! (Puns, of course, intended). How could anyone, I argued, go wrong with James in a TVC about a product he was born to sell? All you needed to do is put him in the same 30 seconds as the product and voila we have a winner in our midst. Boy, o’boy was I wrong! I fancy that I am too much of a gentleman to elaborate what WTF! means. But that’s the exact thing that went through my head when I saw the new Black Horse TVC for the first time. Actually come to think of it, it still does every time I see it. Well they did what I had hoped they would do, put James in a macho music video singing the virtues of a product. But the production quality of the ad was so poor that it degraded the whole TVC and the brand into a third grade rubbish. I happen to know how much James was alleged to have been paid for this endorsement and ad. Even if you spent a small part of that amount with a professional director, you would have gotten a great ad. What the brand custodians have done is just like buying a 7 series BMW and then giving it to the apprentice mistiri in a garage in Dholaikhal to ensure it runs smoothly! What a waste.

The TVC started with James emerging from the sea and then through out the rest of the 40 second ad, walking against huge landscapes like a desert or a mountain! In what is obviously a production, shot in a hurry against a green croma screen, James did not have the expressive allure that was needed. He looked tired and not too happy about drinking the product. As a matter of fact while there was a drink shot or two, the product itself wasn’t the hero of this introductory TVC. A big failure when it comes to the communication angle of it all. I thought the jingle was the only redeeming fact of the whole incident.

I believe this TVC was shot in India. Why? The values that it showed was akin to a poor Bangladeshi ad from 5 years back. A local new up-and-coming director would have done a much better job at it. It is evident that our directors have reached a level of maturity that puts them at par with rest of the sub-continent. It only goes to show that just because you’re taking your production to India doesn’t mean that you’ll get a superior product.

A bit of free advice to the client, drop the TVC and just run the jingle on Radio and use static billboards to bring in the James connection, while you re-shoot it using an actual production company and not my fifteen-year-old nephew!

Production value: 0 on 10. (that’s a first!) Insight: 2. Originality: 2. Overall: 1 (Ladies and gentlemen, we have our bottom of the barrel.)

Shagufta Housing: I think I’m loosing my touch. I need someone to explain to me some of the ads that are running on TV both locally and internationally. I just don’t get it. Like these two Shagufta Housing ads that are getting air time these days. Unfortunately no one could explain them to me.

Let me explain each of the ads and let’s see if you can enlighten me on what was going through the mind of the creative director who thought of the script or the client who approved it. The usual plate of Kachchi to the first person who can crack this. The first ad opens with a baby picture of a mother and son, who grows up, marries and has a son of his own. The grandparents are seen seating in the living room while the grandson plays at their feet. Ah bliss you might thing but no wait! Next door the father and the mother are having a heated argument. “What do you want me to do? Abandon my parents?” asks the father. “You stay with your parents!” comes the angry reply as his wife storms out of the room. Absolutely true, I’m not lying! This is what happens. Next scene is the inevitable walkout of the apartment by the elderly couple while the helpless son looks on as the little boy begs his grandparents to stay on. “Not far, keep your parents close” declares the pay-off line. What in the world were they trying to say? That their target group, presumably the husband, is a spineless twit? Or that Shagufta housing makes apartments so small that a family of 5 cannot stay together peacefully? Or maybe you need to buy your wife an apartment so that she has all the space in the world to yell as much as she wants?

The second TVC is just as confusing. It shows a young little girl going through the day missing her busy parents. She is restless and depressed, trying desperately to contact her parents. Even the hapless phone call that she makes to her father goes unanswered. Having only a nanny, albeit a very well attired one, as company, she is miserable. At least her mother calls home but unfortunately doesn’t have the time to talk to her daughter. Poor girl cries herself to sleep. In the evening the parents return carrying gifts for the daughter. “May your daughter grow up with her parents engulfed in love and care!” Huh? What just happened? Did we see parents exhibiting love and care? Maybe the subliminal message was don’t worry if you ignore your child through out the day, you can buy affection with a big teddy bear later! Of course it couldn’t be that Shagufta housing makes apartments that don’t have play area for the child or they are so expensive that both the parents need to work. I am truly confused.

Though it isn’t often followed in our market, scripts should always be pre-tested. After all what we think we are trying to say might not be what a consumer hears. And often we make mistakes in the darnest of small things. I am not sure who the Agency was on this particular campaign – I dare not try to find out. But I am sure they aren’t going to win Bangladesh Brand Forum’s new Effectiveness Award!

Production value 3 on 10. Insight: 0 (I just didn’t get it!). Originality: 5. (well I’ve never seen an ad where the wife shouts at the husband and gets away with it) Overall: 2.5

Pran Masala: I am going to cheat a bit. This particular TVC has recently been changed. But I couldn’t write about ads I don’t like with out mentioning the one I love to hate. We have all seen this one. And till date I’ve not found one person who likes it. And trust me, I’ve looked around.

Yup, I’m talking about the infamous “raantay toh shikhlay na” (“haven’t even learnt to cook”) TVC. A man shows his anger at his wife as he storms of the dining table huffing the above quoted lines! The wife in tears is in the kitchen when a pack comes dancing in and tells her not to worry anymore because the powder is the only thing that will give the taste in the food. The swaying housewife is absolutely in a trance with her new found secret recipe.

Oh, on how many levels do I hate this TVC! Most of all I think it is for berating the target audience. I can’t believe someone thought it was alright to insult the user and then turn her into a speechless, mindless bimbo was a great idea to sell your product. I have an idea for a rival’s TVC. We show the same starting sequence when husband says those lines and tries to walk off. The wife grabs him by the collar and gives a tight slap across his face and then makes him cook. The voice over comes on and says “xyz powder, now anyone can cook!” I hope someone gives me the money to make that one.

Production value 3 on 10. Insight: 1. Originality: 2. Overall: 2

Nazim Farhan Choudhury is the Deputy Managing Director of Adcomm Limited and still doesn’t get some of the ads. He recently heard his hero John Hegarty of BBH say that advertisers are the most creative of the creative people. After all while a musician or an actor could go on creating a particular type of music or playing a type-cast role, in this trade we need to re-invent our idea for each of our creations. We cannot repeat even a single idea. Or I think he said something like this. If you have comments, feel free to write at or visit his blogsite

Links to the Ads
Black Horse
Pran Masala