REVIEWERS: RAGHU BHAT & MANISH BHATT
With about 13 years’ experience, Raghu Bhat and Manish Bhatt, founder-directors of Scarecrow Communications Ltd, have worked on brands such as Asian Paints, Religare and Vaseline.
The new ad for Greenlam laminates by McCann Erickson India shows an old man contemplating life. On one of his walks, he passes by a coffin shop. He stops to admire one of the coffins, covered with a pink laminate. He goes home, ponders, and decides to convert so that he can be buried in that coffin.
What did you think of the ad?
The brief would have been—great-looking laminates in attractive colours. The creative idea seems to be—laminates (are) so good-looking people will go to any lengths to acquire or experience them. The first thing that strikes you is the brilliance of the cinematographer. Surely, no ad film for laminates has looked better. The restrained direction and the casting are spot on. The sound design is outstanding. It’s a sure-fire clutter-breaker. As a visual, the pink coffin is, to put it mildly, unforgettable. The negatives? The storyline, for one.
Garbled message: There’s a collision of stimuli in this ad.
Does this campaign work for the brand?
This ad shows extreme behaviour to depict the product benefit. A man changing religion so that he can sample a brand is the height of hyperbole. Is it funny? Or is it downright offensive? Well, this is a classic case of advertising that exists in a vacuum, oblivious to the society that is supposed to consume it. In advertising, many a times, humour is achieved through suspension of disbelief. When people go to a Sajid Khan movie, people are preprogrammed to suspend logical faculties for 2 hours. There is no such preprogramming while watching an ad. This is the reason people sometimes take advertising literally. The chances of that happening increase dramatically because 1) it deals with religion, a topic Indians aren’t too comfortable joking about, and 2) There is an external context of religious conversions that interferes with the storyline, leading to a collision of stimuli, resulting in garbled messaging.
Does dark humour work in this context?
Dark humour is essentially a Western concept. Dark humour extracts comedy out of a tragedy. Western societies don’t have a concept of shubh (auspicious) and ashubh (inauspicious). But in India, we have a strong sense of the “auspicious”. Our culture has its behaviour codes for various occasions. Dark humour is a violation of these codes. Which is why dark humour doesn’t have mass acceptance. It’s a niche concept because it’s essentially not the typical way a human being responds. Brands like Kookai, Diesel and many gaming softwares use dark humour extensively to differentiate themselves. Brands that celebrate the “anti” way of doing things can use dark humour. Can a mass brand that has carpenters, furniture-wallahs and millions of middle-class Indians build a brand using dark humour? You decide.
As told to Gouri Shah.