K.V. Sridhar, aka Pops
National creative director, Leo Burnett India
Who do you turn to when faced with the following: a) Tight deadlines; b) Tight budgets; c) Lack of genuine ideas; d) Lack of a mind that can think of genuine ideas?
Well, you turn to advertising’s oldest friend: the cliché. If you are the first to use it in your category, you are smart. If you are the second, you are lazy. If, however, you are the third or the fourth or the 30th, you are shameless.
Some ad clichés, based on categories, in recent times:
Detergents: “This is white? You are wrong” Just when you thought your clothes were white, there comes along a detergent, accompanied by a demo expert, to prove you wrong. For a common consumer, there is white. For advertisers, there is white, whiter and whitest.
Brands: Rin, Ariel, Tide, etc.
Deodorants: “Nothing attracts the opposite sex like the way you smell” You may be a Nobel Prize winner but, if you are looking to attract the opposite sex, you need a deodorant. Side effects may include a stampede, changing partners, or paintings that come alive.
Brands: Axe, Zatak, Fa
Face creams: “Opens the doors to success” Blame it on the peephole, but doors to successful careers open only if your skin glows.
Brands: Fair and Lovely, Fairever, Fair and Handsome
Channels: “We are No. 1” Every channel is No. 1. Don’t believe it? Read the graphs, TRP ratings, show timings and the asterix with ‘conditions apply’ written in the minutest font. Dear consumer, sadly, you are No. 2 now.
Brands: Times Now, NDTV, CNN-IBN, INX Media
Banking and finance: “Kids can explain best” How can systematic investment in an open-ended equity plan help you achieve your financial goals? Turn to a 10-year-old. A cute smile, cute dialogues, and a cute voice, and you have the eighth habit of highly successful people: watching ads on television.
Brands: Bank of India, Aviva, Tata AIG, LIC
Automobiles: “Best in its class” Thanks to a superior engine, comfortable seats, microchip sensors and fine print, every car is the best in its class. Is it the best car for you? Best leave that question unanswered.
Brands: Skoda, Maruti Suzuki
Consumer durables: “25% more effective/efficient” Cooler air conditioners, clearer television sets, louder music systems, same advertising. For every product, there comes along a better working competitor. Wish we could say the same about their advertising.
Brands: Hitachi, LG, Voltas
Clichés that work:
Clichés can, and do, work when used intelligently. The most recent example is HappyDent. The cliché ‘as white as’, used in a new category, in a fresh and exciting way, and you have teeth that light up like fluorescent bulbs. A detergent promising the same with your clothes? ‘Yaarana’ (a popular Bollywood movie in which Amitabh Bachchan sports a dress with light bulbs in one song sequence), here we come again.
Chairman and national creative director, BBDO India
Clichés are often seen in ads related to the men’s fashion industryand its range of ready-made clothing. You mostly see foreign models with wooden looks trying to exude some stiff attitude. Why this blind obsession with foreigners? Is it the only way to add value to the brand? What about that thing called an idea? There is very little innovation in the communication—even though the products are highly innovative and differentiated. The designers are doing a better job than the advertising agencies.
Another huge cliché, across many categories (especially in personal care), is the “lab coat syndrome”. The advertising industry would come crashing down if there were no lab coats. There is the cliché of the lab coat scientist and the lab coat dentist, the lab coat doctor and the lab coat beautician. They are the scientific crusaders of brand value and credibility. Almost every brand of toothpaste, face cream and other personal care products has kept the lab coat alive.
Clichés that work:
Two categories where ad clichés seem to be working well are the banking and insurance and beauty industries. The insight of “husband appreciation” has been around for a long time—for as long as there have been husbands. It is still at play in the communication of various beauty brands. The most recent being Pond’s Age Miracle anti-ageing cream.
In the banking and insurance sector, cliché hooks such as “security”, “self-reliance” and “the value of money” are still working wonderfully well. These are never changing values that seem to have a perennial quality about them—as long as the execution is kept fresh and contemporary.
Chairman and chief creative officer, Lowe India
Mint candy: Mintrox, Chlormint—all have over-the-top humour; that strange, desperately-trying-to-be-funny, voice. Only Centerfruit stands out because of the idea.
Cars: Verna, Audi, Honda, Ford, etc. All these ads have the same kind of car shots, are colour-corrected similarly and are without a concept or idea.
Movie trailers: All edited and ramped up to look and masquerade as hip for want of content.
Clichés that work:
Ads for beauty product firms, such as Garnier, L’Oreal, Olay, all look and feel the same. They work due to a very high degree of relevance and involvement and because, after years, we see international cosmetic products flooding a starved country, almost as if the wait for beauty is over!
Executive chairman, McCann Worldgroup India, and regional executive creative director, Asia Pacific
Mostly seen in ads for foods, personal care, etc. Rohan and Rahul are names most often used for the male protagonist.
Other clichés: the husband ‘mockingly’ scared of wife; and demo window of computer graphics—the ‘gehrayee tak jaaye’ (goes deep inside) kind of comeback shots.
Clichés that work: Most clichés work; that’s why you repeat them. ‘I love you’ may be the biggest cliché, but it almost always works.
As told to Marion Arathoon. Feedback at email@example.com