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“People watch news channels on mute”. A friend’s ex (a copywriter) on me being a TV journalist.

Me, “You know people change channels during ads. Right?”

He was zapped, couldn’t thing of a comeback. Bam! I won.  Such an idiot. He could’ve said, “Wrong, there are some ads we don’t change channels to. In fact, we look them up on youtube to watch them again & then share it on Twitter & Facebook.”

We do this, don’t we? Take this one for example,

No, this one is not an Indian ad ( I haven’t started on the list yet). I was just making a point here, that is:

I have always been fascinated with advertisements.


This is because, for me advertisements are:

  1. Dream Sellers: Advertisements don’t sell products, they sell dreams.
  2. Preview of Future: While literature, songs, movie & television delve upon the present, advertisement are always about how tomorrow would be.
  3. Story Tellers: Telling a story in 40 seconds!!! Really how they do that! It always marvels me.

And, this post is dedicated to such ads.


Before I dole out the list. I have a disclaimer:

All the advertisements mentioned here are off air now. It’s not that I am creature of past, or I am giving in to nostalgia here, I have a relevant argument, trust me.

See, every advertisement comes with an expiry date.  In advertising things go stale in 6 months. So, even after 20 years if an ad is fresh & relevant (Yup! That’s how old the topper of the list is) then it truly deserves a place in my blog. Come on, it’s a prestigious place to be on, one needs to earn it.

Top ads 7 which put (used to) a break on my channel changing spree:

7. Hathi Cement

Usually, ads are about plugging the product. It’s there on the screen since first frame, even everything on the set is in the primary colors of the product. But, this one builds up the product. It works so well, because by the time the product comes on screen, it has already become a part of us.

6. Times Of India (Table Pusher)


5. Tata Safari 


At any given time, the car ads are such clones of each other that you can’t tell one from the another. This ad creates a niche for itself & the product too. That’s difficult, because when agencies try to do something ‘hatke’, the brand loses it’s recall value, like the Engage Deo ad which is on TV these days (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLOd4NTuRGY) It’s a beautiful ad. It is, but it fails to create a brand value for its product. I think, now I’ve made it clear that on what kind of thin line the Tata Safari guys were walking on.

4. Times Of India

3. Silent National Anthem

Whether it is a commercial or not that’s debatable but it is one of the most beautiful things on the screen ever.

I am not thrilled by the idea of National Anthem being played in movie theatres. And then there are the advertisements on our TV that have national jingoism or ‘zabardasti ke cute’ bachche, I hate them. It’s like they’re desperately trying to play on my emotions to make money out of it.

This Silent National Anthem, I just love it. It touches me in a visceral way. It makes me proud, makes me smile & leaves me teary eyed.

2. Pepsi Mask Ad

When during a World Cup Coca Cola was made the official drink, there was panic in the Pepsi camp. At that time a junior copywriter came up with the line “Pepsi…nothing official about it.” And it killed Coca Cola, because more people were out of the stadium than inside it. Plus it was rebellious so obviously more appealing. That’s why people say that it was the best Pepsi campaign in India.

I disagree, for me this Sachin mask ad qualifies for that spot. Here’s the reason why:

During a World Cup, Coke & Pepsi both were doing World Cup theme advertisements. Genesis suggested this one. The client turned them down.

Genesis: But we really want to do it.

Client: We don’t have money

Genesis: Give us whatever you’ve.

With this go ahead, they spent 3 months looking for the perfect stunted tree. Prahlad Kakkar says, “I don’t know why. It’s just that whenever I closed my eyes & visualized this ad I saw this stunted tree.”

Finally, they found that tree & a bunch of kids playing cricket under it. Client wasn’t happy with the kids, they wanted ‘rich looking’ kids because they were their target buyers.

Genesis: Trust us.

Client: Okay don’t make them look dirty.

Genesis: We’ll give them a bath.

So they went ahead with the ad. Requested Sachin to come for half an hour. The ‘basti’ kids didn’t know that Sachin was coming. When the shoot started Sachin was asked to sneak out of the van with his mask on & mingle with the kids. Imagine the poor cameraman, he just had one second & one chance to capture the expressions of the surprise on the kids’ faces!

This ad opened a whole new market for Pepsi, new target buyers. It sold new dreams to a new set of buyers. As for the kids in the ad? This ad was their Cinderella story. They kept touching the sleeves of Sachin’s shirt to ensure that he is for real.

And the #1 ad on my list is

1. Cadbury’s Kya Swaad Hai Zindagi Mein

Cute, adorable & still so fresh even after 20 years. That’s this advertisement on the surface. Now let’s dig deep. Step by step, based on three points that I had mentioned in the beginning of this post.

Dreams: We are talking about India 20 years back. This carefree girl, struck a chord with all the Indian women. They were this girl at heart. Nobody knew this other than them, but they were this girl. They wanted to be this girl. She was a maverick to them, like ‘The Angry Young Man’ was to the men. It gave a dream to the Indian woman. A dream of self expression, of loving & living without apprehensions.

The Story:

A cute love story we all saw on the screen. But imagine the story of the creative (young Piyush Pandey) who sold this idea to the client, who were British. Imagine, how that young boy (who by the way spoke Hindi as first language) must’ve sold this idea to those Britishers:

“So there’ll be a boy, cricket match in a stadium. There’s girl sitting on the stand eating dairy milk. He hits a shot, she runs to him dancing. Yes, in the gentleman’s game.”

I doubt, if this concept would’ve sounded a master piece in that room. And then he would’ve added,

“Oh and let’s give a Hindi jingle. A jingle that has nothing to do with how yummy Cadbury is. It says, kuch khaas hai zindagi mein.”

Like really how he did that? Maybe, I should take an appointment with Piyush Pande to ask him this.

The Future:

Cadbury was introducing chocolate. A food not part of Indian culture, except for the Christian minority. It would’ve always been a ‘Their’s food’ not ‘Our food’. But with the cricket & Hindi tagline saying, “Cadbury’s Dairy Milk…asli swaad zindagi ka” it touched the Indian heart. Made it closer to our plate. It paved way to their future campaign “Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye” & now, 20 years hence, it has become such an intricate part of our culture that no Rakhi or Diwali hamper is complete without Cadbury!