"We made people laugh at the time of recession"

Last Updated: Mon, Mar 11, 2013 04:29 hrs

Why it is my favourite campaign
I have done quite a few advertisements in my career and met some wonderful people in the industry, including superstars, who have been extremely down-to-earth and very encouraging. The collaborative effort of colleagues, actors and other team members ensured that my work didn't go unnoticed.

My work for brand Samsung got me recognition in the industry (I did the Guru series of advertisements, including the Aamir Khan one), but if I am to pick an absolute favourite advertisement that I have worked on, it will have to be the one for Pepsi starring Amitabh Bachchan and Arshad Warsi when I was working working at JWT. The reasons are aplenty. For one, it allowed me to work with a premium brand. Second, it helped me gain confidence and put me in the big league. Above all, this particular advertisement made my father smile - he thought it was a complete winner.

Sometimes, the best thoughts come to you unannounced and that is exactly what happened with this campaign. I had a grain of an idea and when we were sitting with the think-tank of Pepsi, I rattled off my script to the client. It was an instant hit, everyone unanimously decided to go ahead with it and in no time, we were chalking in the details of the television commercial.

Arshad Warsi had become hugely successful after his role as Circuit in Raj Kumar Hirani's hit film Munnabhai MBBS. Amitabh Bachchan is a legend. Getting the two in the same frame as a couple of cheerful rustics and giving them a script that played up their superb comic timing gave us our winning formula. It turned out to be among the most memorable Pepsi commercials.

The brief from the client
Though an extremely popular brand, Pepsi's objective with this ad was to increase brand recall. Also, it wanted to specifically reach out to the rural Indian consumer. The idea was to create something specifically for the rural audience while keeping the brand's focus on the youth intact.

As I said, Pepsi wanted to do something that would give it top-of-the-mind recall, especially among rural audiences. We wanted to tick boxes - star power, fresh story, entertainment quotient. With this commercial, we did all of that.

Challenges faced
You know, many people might feel that getting two well-known actors would mean an advertisement riddled with difficulties. I had been fed many stories of actors who alter scripts, come late to the sets, give advertising people a tough time.

My experience was totally different and the real challenge, to be honest, rested at my doors. It was to deliver my best even though I was fairly new to the profession. Also, this was during the time when the global recession had reared its ugly head and the mood of the consumers was sombre. We needed to create an impact, get audiences to laugh and connect with the brand.

Route chosen
We decided to create a conventional TVC with the aim of reaching out to a large base of audience. I knew that I had to offer a light-hearted script, which would allow audiences to sit back and enjoy the TVC. Not just that, I wanted people to actually have conversations about the ad, wait for it and remember it. So we took the humour route with the clear aim of making audiences smile. There was nothing serious about the storytelling, we were not sending out any deep message as such. Neither were we subtle in our storytelling.

Both the actors were given a rustic touch (Warsi as this over-confident, wannabe young man and Bachchan as the boatman who wants a Pepsi to quench his thirst) and I think selecting this route of light-heartedness and humour worked well for us.

For me, personally and professionally, this advertisement was a milestone. For Pepsi, I'm sure the sales surged, especially in the rural markets. Overall, the biggest impact of the ad was that its appeal cut across age groups - it wasn't a favourite of just the youth. There was no 'wannabe' element in the ad in that it told a story very effectively. For me, it opened professional opportunities in a huge way.

Will it work today
A good script and good storytelling always works. It will work even 10 years from now.

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