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Storyboard18 | Ad Safari: Surf Excel, Magicpin, 5 Star, Thums Up & HDFC Life - spot on or not?

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March 06, 2022 / 02:40 PM IST
Surf Excel's new Holi ad is a lovely commercial that invokes the inner child.

Surf Excel's new Holi ad is a lovely commercial that invokes the inner child.

Pat On Your Back

February was the month of Valentine's. A beautiful season fertile for romance, and all its innocence and stories soaked in mush. But then, in a country that's ready to do tandav on anything that's culturally suspect, most marketers stayed away from getting their hearts hauled over coals. Effectively not capitalizing on related business and employment opportunities. Sad, but this is how we are depriving the economy of much needed oxygen.

Cadbury 5 Star

Quite the zag that goes against the zig, and the black sheep that stands out in a world of bleating white lambs, this is a commercial that bravely tried something very new. In the few attempts made to make hay from roses, the 5-star idea of the Valentine’s Day Alibi, and the getaway island that hosted My Cousin’s Wedding, was worth 7 stars. It surely gave the laggards in romance a brilliant escape. Both physically and emotionally. Though I wonder how it worked.

I have always found that really brave ideas are often bought by marketers in charge of products that make up the impulsive purchase category. The lower the unit price, the bolder are the advertising ideas. Of course, this isn’t from the book of advertising. But more from common sense.

At the typical checkout counter, as a regular customer, you’d be faced with all sorts of brands vying for your wallet. With packaging, pictures, placement, and the power of their advertising. With all things being equal, it’s the vestige of their advertising money alone that will coax your tongue to deliver the purchase order. Hopefully, it made cash tills sing.

Surf Excel

A couple of years back, Surf Excel ran into the zealots of India. While I do know that most people in advertising gave it a raucous applause, the political pawn on the street with nothing to do in life got himself a juicy bone. And we all know just how that panned out for Levers.

Considering the dirt that exists in our gasoline-soaked social milieu, addressing it and hoping to cleanse a bit of that is a perfect fit for a detergent brand. But with India moulting into an audience that gets very icky with faith and its advertising conservatism, Surf played its 2022 Holi card within an antiseptic construct. Including making sure that it was a little girl that hugged an older aunt, and not an older uncle.

Lovely commercial with the inner child getting invoked. One that reminds the older lot to give in to their childhood. Despite a societal framework that almost banishes them to the shadows of life.


This is a beautiful piece of work. Inspiring, most certainly. Almost waiting to be made. The last two years have been a bane to students. Most of them have gone through most of their last two years without being around friends.

They have missed out on fun, camaraderie, mischief, and memories. It’s been horrid, horrific, and horrible. Along with the tragedies that have wrecked many thousands of student homes across India. And to go through the ask of our country’s tough academic layers with tears in their eyes and cries in their minds would have been excruciating.

Well done Burnett for making this tribute to the brave students of the Covid Batch. And to HDFC Life for keeping the commercialism subtle.


Across the last two weeks of cricket, I bumped into Magicpin commercials. One has a cross between an armoured vehicle and a tank clattering through the city, with Vijay Raaz popping out of it in a business suit. The second one has him beating up a taxi driver and going apeshit over the car in the middle of the street.

Ouch. That had nothing to do with magic. That wasn’t any kind of magic. Wrong copy. It was pure hooliganism. While the mutant tank made me smile, the street fight made me grimace. I get the whole setup and the magic of the hyperlocal context, but the bashing up of the taxi driver was violent and scummy.

I am discounting the argument that people will see through the advertising veneer and laugh it off. Because there’ll be a few out there who’d love it for glorifying their lust for blood. We should never overlook the impact advertising delivers. It’s also a brand's responsibility to foster responsible citizenry. Come to think of it, magic is such a beautiful word, with so many positive, surprising, and lateral ways to interpret it. It certainly doesn’t have to veer towards bloody vandalism.

Thums Up

If anyone had any reason to suspect if SRK was over the hill, this is one resounding conquest of the top of the mountain all over again. What a commercial! What a storm! What a man! So wonderfully executed, and so beautifully chiselled down to the one word that this legendary brand is all about. Toofan. The brand and the brand ambassador and the script are all in delightful sync. I have always liked the grown-up adult angle of Thums Up, considering that I grew up on this brand and Rums Up.

This commercial ensures that the brand just blew away all the kids and encroachers from the mountain and hoisted its flag and foisted its dominion. However, there’s just one niggly doubt that’s creeping in. Is Toofan now getting bigger than Thums Up? Will we see a rebel brand called Toofan swirl in to challenge Thums Up? Because I don’t think I heard the brand name anywhere. Maybe I was too caught up in all the action.

Prathap Suthan is co-founder and CCO, Bang In The Middle. Views are personal.
first published: Mar 6, 2022 02:37 pm