Why it is my best campaign
I consider Emami’s Dard mein bhee kuch baat hai as my best work so far. It’s timeless, and a refreshing idea in the category. The campaign became an instant hit and continued to stay on air for more than five years.
At that time, Emami had 10 of Bollywood’s top stars signed on with the brand which was a firm believer in the endorsement ad’ concept. Working on this account got me branded as the celebrity’ writer in Ambience because even as just a copy supervisor, I had written and shot ad films with Shah Rukh Khan, Sourav Ganguly, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Sunny Deol, Govinda and Madhuri Dixit, to name some. I began disliking working with celebrities, as these would just be endorsement TVCs that would never add to my show-reel. This particular campaign changed all that.
Brief to the agency
Well, the brief was as simple, or as complex, as “Amitabh ke saath TVC karna hai (We want a TVC with Amitabh)”. The whole agency was excited. Stories of AB’s hard work, struggle, pain, and his accident during the shoot of Coolie, had clouded the brief. We were also shown earlier films of Fast Relief to get direction. One had a bowler about to bowl to the batsman, sprains his elbow… cut to the product window, now pain has gone… he completes the action and clean bowls the batsman! Tagline: Dard mitaye chutki mein.
This only made me want to run in the opposite direction.
Problems and challenges
This brand had been very small, and dependent on before-after problem-solving 10-15 second films. Second, the competition was way ahead. “Dard mitaye chutki mein” was the core of this brand, given that the research told us that people in pain looked for quick relief. Imagine the pressure to repeat history stating all of the above.
Various situations were thought of where the need for relief is of utmost importance, but they were all just situations. A cricket game. A movie shoot. A stunt scene.
The route chosen and why
Ambience had a terrace, which had a bamboo bush. We used to call it bodhi vriksha or an ideation adda by day and a bar by night for us creative folks. Frustrated with trying to write situations, one night I sat there thinking about Amitabh instead of Fast Relief. I thought of Harivanshrai Bachchan’s Madhushala, Amitabh’s educational background, his theatre days, the Kolkata connection, and realised that he is not just a superstar.
He is also the son of one of India’s greatest poets. We couldn’t make this man sell a balm like a street peddler. I then began thinking of how he would look at pain? As a planner, or a businessman, or a copywriter? No. He would surely see pain differently. He would probably see it as Dard mein bhee kuch baat hai’.
I went home quite late that night. I returned early the next morning to check if the poet under the influence of the terrace madhushala still made sense in broad daylight. And it did. I walked into my then NCD Pushpinder Singh’s office and recited my piece. He immediately called a few seniors to hear me recite it again. Unanimously, this was the campaign’.
I went to Bachchan’s home Jalsa with adman Prahlad Kakkar, who was the director of this film. But instead of presenting the film, I just recited the copy. In the next 30 minutes, the three of us wrote the TVC. We shot it the week after.
All through this, the client worried that the film would be a hit, but no one would remember the product benefit. Prahlad then came up with the brilliant idea of a product window as an integral part of the film. When we finished editing the film, we ended it with a new positioning line, which said taaki dard, dard na rahe’.
In retrospect, Emami really trusted us with this innovative and bold positioning. In no time, the brand recall was at its highest. The last I heard was that it had grown fivefold in two years. We shot many more films on this same brand thereafter, but none aired beyond a month or two before they got back to this very film.
Will it work today?
Advertising works best when viewers see it as their story and not as the story of a brand. The film reflects this simple insight. As soon as the lyrics are that of a product rather that a song full of soul, it will work even when off air. It worked back then and it still works as products or features become obsolete but not the human connect.
Founder, Basecamp India