The Indian Advertising Industry – 2013

indian ads 2013

Looking back at 2013 we can definitely say that this year many companies tried embracing ‘Indian-ness’ through their ads and marketing campaigns. Companies came up with new and unconventional ideas to penetrate the market.

This year Honda adopted a different marketing strategy for its ‘Honda Amaze’ . The ads highlighted the features of Honda Amaze rather than its looks . As far as Honda was concerned, these ads were the first of its kind. The Indian audience could quickly relate to the ads. The ads seemed to target in particular, the Upper Middle Class Indian Executives. Be it the overly courteous son-in-law or the executive showing his friends his new car ,the ad was successful in getting the message through.

While Honda tried to become more Indian, India’s very own ‘Tata Nano’ tried to become more western, so that it could shun the ‘poor mans car’ image and appeal to the youth. The fast paced ad with peppy music definitely got noticed, but unfortunately it did not impact the sales. Trying to re-position itself for the nth time eversince its launch in 2009, with the new ad and various promotional activities including a tie up with music channel MTV, Tata nano is yet to redeem itself.

We saw some companies like Hero Honda coming up with their ‘Hero mileage ads’. The ads require special mention for successfully portraying Indian-ness. India – A country where ‘a little’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘a little’, could easily strike a chord with the Indian audience. Also Tata’s Tanishq Jewellery brand, which has always stood out with its ads had a brilliant concept this year as well, celebrating remarriage. The ad became an instant hit on social media and was appreciated for its boldness.

Idea- Mobile exchange, Tata Docomo -Open up, Vodafone -zoo zoos, Kitkat- Dancing babies, Cadbury 5 star- Ramesh Suresh ads , Old Spice -Mantastic Man and Coca cola- Open happiness campaign got noticed. When these ads were highly acclaimed for their original ideas some ads like the Vodafone ‘Harlem shake’ didn’t create any impact. Inspired from Harlem shake, a video that went viral in 2013, Vodafone launched a similar campaign which failed to impress.

As usual this year also Unilever came up with their ‘Best Ever Fair and Lovely’ cream, Horlicks and Complan came up with their new and improved versions, Kelloggs turned out to be the healthiest breakfast option and Whisper choice sanitary napkins remained the single best motivator for ‘Indian Gals’!

Some campaigns which were highly acclaimed

‘dekh le’ – a social awareness film which was created on woman empowerment.

Dove – Real beauty campaign

Lifebuoy – Help a child reach 5 campaign and The Roti Reminder

Google Search- Reunion

Some campaigns which we wished would be more noticed

Gillette – Soldier for women

Mahindra – ASK campaign

Public service film on Child abuse by ‘Vanitha’ Magazine

Posted in Advertising | Leave a comment

Choices – the more the better?


Do we make better decisions when we are offered with more choices? Most of us would agree to it. But studies have proved that when you give people too many options to choose from they end up choosing none! Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia University has conducted a study on this. According to her people slip into ‘analysis paralysis’ when they are offered with many choices to select from. You are unable to think clearly or make sensible decisions when offered with too many choices.

Now the fact is that all of us love choices. But too many choices can confuse people and cause a delay in the choosing process. Moreover you have to choose from things that are not much different. Prof. Sheena Iyengar says most of us face a ‘choice overload problem’ and we choose not to choose!

Supermarkets which offer different products with limited choices end up with more sales than the ones which offer more choices in the same products. Limit the choices and increase the product range to see how your sales increase. It is widely believed that one reason for the giant Apple Inc. success is because they don’t offer you with a wide range of choices. May it be an iphone, ipod, ipad, a desktop computer or even a laptop you don’t get many options to choose from, and that results in increased sales.

You can find more details on the study conducted  by Sheena Iyengar in the following link

Posted in Marketing | Leave a comment

Kellogs Chocos – A healthy breakfast?


In the new commercial for Kellogg’s Chocos the company has made a rather absurd claim “Chocos has many ‘ROTI-like’ qualities hidden in it”. Our take is even if u put lipstick on a pig it remains to be a pig. Almost all the cereals have big labels “Source of FIBRE” “Made with WHOLE GRAIN” “Fortified with Vitamins and Minerals”. In short there is nothing healthier than a bowl of cereal you could give your child.  Well really? What about the sugar content? A whooping 37gms (6.5 tablespoon) of sugar per 100 gms. According to the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India), a sugar content above 17 per cent is considered to be high — these cereals have double this!

The plot used in the ad is an age-old marketing tactic every junk food company uses to sell their product – Crete a story around what we like to believe and market their product. In case of the cereal industry the story is “there is nothing healthier than a bowl of cereal for your family”. Of course we would love to believe something like that. It takes less than a minute to prepare a cereal. Your child would just gobble it and make no fuss about eating. It is very convenient. You can be happy that your child had a bowl of ‘whole wheat with dietary fiber and fortified minerals’. Feels like heaven. Well people should be out of their senses if they think that such sugary foods serve the nutritional needs of a child. How many of us would give our children an ice-cream as breakfast. If u go by the ‘Kellogs chocos logic’, Ice-cream contains milk which is essential for your kids growth and hence it is an excellent breakfast option.

The working mother – stubborn child duo is being aimed by most of the junk food companies. A working mother might not have enough time to cook a proper healthy breakfast for her kid. Cooking is one task. Making the child eat is an even bigger task. So here are the companies coming up with tall claims about healthy breakfast cereals. The mother is assured that the kid has got all the power nutrients packed in a bowl of cereal. To appeal directly to children they use cartoon characters, lots of vibrant colors on the box, some freebies and place them at the child’s eye level in the supermarket. So what can we do about all this? Make sure that you don’t give such sugary cereals as breakfast. It should be given as a dessert, preferably as a reward for eating the home cooked meal. Cereals should not be given on a daily basis.

What would you do to make sure that your child is eating healthy? We would love to hear from you.

Posted in Advertising | Leave a comment

Those ‘Free’ Gifts


It was just another day of shopping of our daily household goods, as we paid the bill and were ready to take our purchased items, the relatively new super market group had a free gift for us. Two packets of Aloe Vera wet wipes. Back home, just out of curiosity to know about the price of the freebie I read through the pack, much to my dismay I found out that the wet wipes had expired 3 months back!

Another incident; We went to a textile shop and brought clothes for around 8000 rupees. As we paid the bill we heard the cashier saying “Sir a purchase above 7000”. A middle aged man whom she addressed as ‘sir’ came with a bed sheet. It was a free gift. Before giving the double bed sheet he made a short speech on the quality and price of the freebie. We were 100 percent sure that the sheet was definitely nowhere around the quality and price he was boasting about. Our apprehension turned out to be true. First wash itself was like a pool of colours. The sheet was of a very cheap quality, which was given with a lot of hype!

Most of the time you can see that, a lot of things which are given as free gifts are not worth to be given even as free. Is the customer a place to dump the products which are not sold? In that case these shouldn’t be called as gifts. They should be termed as ‘free wastes’. In the first case it would have been better if they didn’t gift us those wet wipes.  In a normal purchase from a supermarket, seldom do you expect a gift. Why should you give something which is either expired or nearing expiry to the customer as a free gift? It would only spoil your reputation. In the second case the man was giving a speech on the quality of the gift he was giving us. Didn’t he realize that we would know about the quality when we use it? You don’t have to dump all the waste on to your customers and speak as if you are giving them something precious. Treating the customers with courtesy and respect are the best free gifts you can give.

Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Only Fair can be Lovely?

Fair and lovely2

We live in a society obsessed with fairness. Young brides and grooms are under social pressure to be fair. Fairness has become synonymous to beautiful. According to a report in The Times Of India, the fairness creams market in India is estimated to be around 1500 crore rupees and is steadily growing at 10-15%. Even when most of us know that skin colour is genetic and fairness creams can’t change a person’s natural skin colour, how come India is witnessing a phenomenal growth for such products? Advertisers are successful in making us believe that the impossible is possible and the wonder creams do make you a ‘Snow White’.

According to the fairness cream ads you have to be fair in order to be happy, successful, confident, attract men/women and even get your dream job. We come across a lot of people using these fairness creams for years without any result. Skin color is genetic. Sometimes due to environmental factors ones skin color may change. These environmental factors can be taken care of by using sunscreens or anti tanning creams. Again there are simple home remedies also which can be done. But if you were born with a dark complexion you can’t become ‘a white fairy’ by applying these fairness creams. Every day you just witness the opposite in ads.

The heroine enters with a black-face makeup (read charcoal paste). Her friend/mother introduces the wonder cream. She uses it and in 4 weeks time ta daa she becomes snow white. Now she is all set ready to chase her dream and once again magic happens. New boyfriends, Dream Job, Success, and what not! Altogether the ad gives a very ‘positive’ message ‘Success will elude you until you use our wonder cream and become fair’.

Two companies which heavily advertise their products are Fair and Lovely (by Hindustan Unilever) and Vivel (by ITC). Vivel fairness cream ad shows a girl who was really shy but as soon as she applied Vivel fairness cream she became a rock star reaching for the skies. Now how stupid does that sound? Fair and lovely have gone a step further claiming that if you don’t see any result after using Fair and Lovely it is because you don’t use the cream ‘properly’, you have to apply it daily. The makers of Fair and lovely (HUL) definitely know that even if you use one full tube of their wonder cream each day, if you were born with a dark complexion you will remain like that. Fair and lovely has come up with another product, Fair and lovely future tube – for a fairer tomorrow. Now who on earth gave it such a name!

If you notice in all the fairness cream ads, Fairness is linked to confidence. The girl has a total personality change after using the fairness creams. If that was the case these fairness creams should be distributed in personality development classes. These ads give off the impression that one is less attractive and desirable if they have a dark complexion. Time and again it has been proven that fairness creams do not make one fair. They might control tanning and they might prevent your skin from getting darker by preventing melanin secretion. Most fairness creams contain bleaching agents and they might do more harm than good. Advertisers make false claims that their products don’t contain bleaching agents and it’s safe to use and skin friendly.

Almost all the fairness creams claim that they have ‘special scientific ingredients’. This is nothing but a marketing technique. By putting ‘sounds-good-but–confusing’ words like “unique fairness vitamins” “enriched with triple sunscreen” “locks in fairness ingredients”, on the product cover they purposefully confuse consumers. They make tall claims like “it contains revolutionary Tri-fair vitamin complex”. Only god knows what revolution this ‘tri- fair vitamin complex’ has caused!

Click here to watch some of the most stupid fairness cream ads

Posted in Marketing | Leave a comment

Top stupid fairness cream ads In India

India’s obsession with fairness has resulted in the humongous growth of the fairness cream market.  In India there are fairness creams available for the face, body and private parts. The ads for these products, claim that people can become several shades lighter in a week to 4 weeks time. The naive public fall for these type of deceptive advertisements, failing to realize that such magic will not happen. According to the fairness cream companies they ‘help women to carve out their destinies that transform their lives’. Such claims can be verified by seeing how realistic the ads of fairness creams are.

See the story of a poor girl who wakes up from an awful dream of missing the train because she was dark! And how she confidently boards into the train after using Fair and Lovely fairness lotion.


Can a fairness cream motivate you to become a doctor? This is the story of a poor village girl who became a doctor because of Fairever fairness Cream!



Height of forgiveness! The girl who was ignored by the guy applies Fairever fairness cream and becomes snow white. On seeing her, the guy asks her to forgive him for his behavior. And our snow white falls for his ‘true’ love.


This is the story of an ordinary man who became a superstar by applying Fair and Lovely Menz Active fairness cream. The twist in this story is that his stardom was achieved in a very cost effective manner. Just 10 rupees!

One question to ponder after seeing all these ads are ‘Should a person’s worth be determined by the colour of their skin?’

Posted in Advertising | Leave a comment

Taller, Sharper, Stronger … and Fatter?

In the months of February and March (exam time) health drinks were heavily advertised. We are looking into the ridiculous claims made by two of the most advertised brands; Horlicks and Complan.

Horlicks claims

Back in the 80’s Horlicks was a drink for the elderly and the sick. In 2003 Horlicks was repositioned as a health drink for children. Two years later the ‘Taller, Sharper, Stronger’ campaign was launched in which GSK (GlaxoSmithKline; Horlicks parent company), claimed to have scientific evidence to back their ‘Taller, Sharper, Stronger’ claim. What is this ‘scientific evidence’ which they keep on asserting in their ads? The company website provides the following information

In 2004 a 14 month research was conducted on 869 school children in a boarding school in Hyderabad. (Please note the number 869.A tactic to convince people in order to make it sound more believable) The children were divided into two groups with one being served Horlicks every day and the other with a different health drink. At the end of the study, the children who drank Horlicks were taller, stronger and sharper than the others.

Some questions we have

• How were ‘Horlicks kids’ proven to be smarter than other kids?
• How much weight did the children gain in this process of drinking Horlicks 2 cups a day?
• Why aren’t the results and other details of this study published yet?
• There are millions of children in India. How can a study conducted on a meager 869 children in a boarding school represent the entire crowd?

Horlicks which started as the ‘great family nourisher’ has a wide variety of drinks now – for Men, Women, Feeding Mothers, Children and Infants. Earlier it was enough to buy one bottle of Horlicks for the family but now going by the ads there should be at least 3 bottles of Horlicks in every home. Moving on to Horlicks biggest competitor and rival Complan.

Complan claims

In the 90’s Complan was advertised as the COMplete PLANned food which growing children need. But for a while Complan has started making some really absurd claims such as it will help your child grow 2x times faster. In most of the ads you can see either a child being made fun of because he is short or an anxious mother worried about her kid’s growth meeting a doctor. Complan also stresses about its ‘scientifically proven’ formula which gives extra growing power. Complan also conducted a research

The research was conducted on more than 800 children in the age group of 7-12yrs over a period of 12 months by Avinashilingam University, Coimbatore in 2008. The study showed that the children who consumed a regular diet + Complan in milk grew twice as faster than those children who were served only a regular diet.

Some questions we have
• What about the weight gained by the children after having Complan 2 times a day?
• How does a child manage to grow exactly 2 times faster after drinking Complan?
• How can this research be trusted considering the fact that this university was paid crores of rupees to conduct a research? How are they going to come out with a negative report anyway?

When it comes to their kids, overly competitive parents just don’t want to leave any stone unturned. The health drink companies take advantage of this. The health drinks for children have turned out to be memory boosters and growth enhancers. An interesting fact is that these companies won’t sell something like this in developed countries like the US and UK. GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of Horlicks is a company based in the UK. Why is it that they don’t want the kids in UK to be taller sharper and stronger? In the UK they sell Horlicks as a bedtime drink to ensure sound sleep. We don’t expect that the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) would take any action against these companies in the near future. What we can do is to be aware of such products and their false claims!

Posted in Marketing | Leave a comment

IKEA – the rat maze

Most of us who have been to an Ikea store might have noticed that, nearly all of Ikea products are flat packed, as compact as possible for transportation and takeaway. They have a play area for children, they offer very cheap hot dogs and ice creams. There is an Ikea restaurant too where Swedish food is available. But is it all?

Ikea the Swedish furniture giant uses the ‘No exit’ marketing strategy. Many people find the Ikea layout confusing. Ikea has these secret exits and failing to find them will make you keep on going in circles in Ikea store. They have layouts similar to a rat maze. The theory is that “while following a zig-zag path through the store, the IKEA customer becomes disorientated and is thus more likely to make impulse purchases”

Is this rat maze design by Ikea deliberate? Professor Alan Penn of University College London, studied the Swedish firm’s north London store and came to the conclusion that “their success, in part, is down to confusing their customers into submission by designing their stores like a maze” According to Professor Penn Ikea’s confusing layout steers a staggering amount of purchases which are impulse buys. He says “the lay-out is so confusing you know you won’t be able to go back and get it later, so you pop it in your trolley as you go past.”

Even though Ikea denied the claims by professor Penn and asserted that their showrooms are ‘innocently designed’ to give customers lots of ‘ideas’. Professor Penn says “It is so well done and so cunningly done that I have little doubt that it is intentional.” Ikea says they have created shortcuts for customers who have a specific shopping list in mind and would like to get in and out quickly. While Penn admitted that the shortcuts do exist, he claims that they are always out of the customer’s field of view. “The way to the exit is always behind you,” he said

I personally feel that Professor Penn has offered some scientific evidence to back up the personal experience of customers. One will realize the importance of looking around and reading signs after visiting the Ikea store, even though the signs are really not guaranteed to help. Ikea says that they give customers inspiration for every room, and their furniture showrooms are designed to give customers lots of ideas for every area of the home including kitchen, bedroom and living room. All these ideas and inspiration influence our buying decisions. And that is the simple reason why we always end up buying a lot of things which we never had in mind. Ikea may not radically differ from other big shopping malls which uses similar techniques – ‘trapping’ the customers in store for as long as they can, making them do impulse purchases. However the home furnishing chain’s mazy layouts are a psychological weapon to part shoppers from their cash, an expert in store design claims.

Posted in Marketing | Leave a comment

The Secret of Her Success


This is the story of my friend ‘Mrs.M.’ who runs an extremely successful beauty parlour chain.’Mrs.M.’ has no degrees to her credit. Today she runs, around a dozen of beauty saloons in India and abroad. She is not a great beautician in fact far from being even classified as a beautician. Then how come she is so successful in this business?

I know a couple of beauticians, some of them are extremely talented yet I have never seen any of them taste success like ‘Mrs.M.’ So what is the secret of her success? When I asked her she told me all she does is to treat her employees well. She gives them the best salary and makes it a point to pay them extra if they have to put in extra working hours. She knows each of her employees personally. She genuinely cares for them. She hires the best and provides them with the best.

‘Mrs.M.’ says she doesn’t mind even if her profit gets reduced by paying her employees more or giving them extra bonus. She says being in the service industry keeping your employees happy will automatically bring you success. A happy employee treats the customer well, the customers feel valued and they come back again. So the simple mantra is ‘Treat your employees well and they will make your business grow’. People in our locality are nothing less than amazed at her success and term it as ‘luck’.

There is a large gap between the wisdom of knowing what is right and the wisdom to do what is right. When most of today’s managers fail to understand or rather conveniently forget the importance of treating their people right here is a lady who has no big degrees or great talent, applying the simple principle of treating the employees well and enjoying success.

Richard Sneed once said “One of the indisputable lessons of life is that we cannot get or keep anything for ourselves alone unless we also get it for others”

Posted in Entrepreneurship | Leave a comment

The Superfast Handwash

A few years back Lifebuoy had come up with its superfast hand wash advertisement. Many people found it irritating and some of them wrote about it as well. In the ad, children were bullying a boy for washing his hand for a minute asking him ‘your soap is slow or what’.

The message lifebuoy wanted to convey was that their hand wash is superfast and it will kill 99% of germs in just 10 seconds! Another variant of the ad was aired later and this time the germ killing took 15 seconds. The ‘15 second germ killing’ version of the ad is given below

Why did so many people feel this ad was lame? The boy (Bunty) who washed his hand for a minute was being made fun of, for using a ‘slow’ hand wash. Washing your hands for a minute won’t hurt! Also one can’t help but notice how Bunty is purposefully being shown as uncool (tucking his napkin into the collar of his shirt, having brown bread etc). And finally HUL’s claim that 99% of germs would be killed with just 10 seconds sounded unbelievable.

Now check another advertisement by lifebuoy in which they try to convey the same message; their hand wash is superfast.

In the ad they say kids are always in a hurry. So if one uses lifebuoy hand wash, it would ensure maximum protection in minimum time. Now these kind of ads make some more sense than their ‘your soap is slow or what’ stupid ad!

Posted in Advertising | Leave a comment