Why it is my best campaign
It’s always difficult to classify anything as “favourite” but I will say that the Fair & Lovely ad is one that I have learnt from a lot. It’s an ad (this came back in the late 90s) which opened up a whole lot of newer thoughts, even controversies. Moreover, the tagline of the ad, “Kaash mera ek beta hota”, made a lot of people sit up, take note and react strongly and sharply. This, in turn, meant that I had to answer a lot of people given that there was quite a bit of controversy that was centered around the ad.
On our part, we were simply targeting the audience, we were not pretending to project something untrue; after all, a lot of people at the time had exactly this sort of thinking where fathers wished for sons rather than daughters (‘Kaash mera beta hota’).
This is one of my most interesting campaigns because it’s real, it’s true and it pushes, really pushes boundaries.
See, advertisements are successful when they are able to connect to audiences. For a commercial to be acceptable is no big deal. Many ads can be acceptable but only few manage to connect with people. The fact that the advertisement shook people (lots of women groups also objected to the ad), gave extreme reactions meant that it had quite an impact.
Client’s brief to agency
Actually, there was no “traditional” client briefing. We knew that Fair & Lovely was genuinely one of the favourite brands and we didn’t need to address that to the target audience. Everyone knew it was a brand to reckon with, it was popular with its consumer base so we needed, what I thought was an “inspirational brief”. And that we got from Vivek Rampal, our client, who was a visionary in his own right. He didn’t tell us what we needed to do, he simply knew that we were all connecting – I had told him a story of a girl who is struggling to carve her own niche in the world. We developed it and carried on from there and we decided to address a deep problem that was entrenched in our society.
Problems/challenges faced during the campaign
The challenges were similar to what I have cited above. We got extreme reactions to the ad just because it sent a strong signal. See, when you need to show something related to ‘anti-dowry’ for instance, you have to show just how it is happening, how it is affecting the lives of many people adversely. But you have to show just what dowry is.
Similarly, to show that a girl can be just as good — even better — than a son, she can be one with both beauty and brains, she can hold strong on her own and manage just as well as any man, we needed to show the “attitude” first of the people and just how regressively they were thinking. But some sections of people thought the ad was offensive.
But we took it positively because somewhere the audiences were connecting and the ads were working just so well. While we knew that the ads we created would have to be edgy (even though we weren’t being edgy for the heck of it) we needed to keep the brand at the centre. No, we were not sending out any “social messages” through the ad. We were just addressing a certain issue, an issue which was a cause of concern in the society.
Like I said, we didn’t take any conventional route. We were allowed to do our own thing by our client. I just narrated a story and it stuck. We decided to address the issue that having aspirations, longing to get noticed, wanting to look pretty and smart was not a bad thing. We knew that the “mindsets” of people (who prefer sons to daughters) couldn’t be changed with just an ad but we decided to address it at the very least.
The fairness cream category had always existed in the market but a lot of advertisements till then were focused on romance, finding careers, female protagonists carving their own niche. With the ‘kaash mera beta hota’ tagline, we were addressing something that already existed in the society. Also, we knew that there was no harm in trying to sell fairness creams! This was a product, a category, like others, which needed to be advertised and sold.
Good, bad, ugly, it made people sit up, take note and ‘react’ to the advertisement. That ‘reaction’ — to my mind — is the biggest successful outcome of the advertisement. I went on a lot of shows, gave my point of view on why the advertisement was critical. In fact, I remember going on a talk show on a news channel and actually questioning the anchor and other guests — “If looking good is a problem, then why has everyone decked up to be on the show? How come I was the only man without makeup on the show?” The ad kept running successfully despite the adverse reactions. To my mind, it is a successful ad.
Will it work today?
No, it cannot. That time was different and it will be less relevant today than before. The thought process is changing and we are seeing far more success stories than ever from women (so many have broken the proverbial glass ceiling). It might just look old-fashioned today.