REVIEWER: PRATHAP SUTHAN
Prathap Suthan is chief explorer at brand consulting firm The Advisory and chief creative officer at iYogi, a technical support provider for computers. With around 23 years experience in advertising, Suthan is best known for the India Shining campaign, among others.
The new ad for Center Fresh gum by Ogilvy and Mather Indiashows a bank being robbed. When the thief takes off, the staff starts screaming for security. To their surprise, the thief runs back in. He is the security guard.
Not funny: Basing an ad on crime corrodes the brand from inside.
What did you think of the campaign?
If I’d seen this film years ago, I’d have fallen down, broken my crown and come tumbling after. The production’s all right. The cast’s all right. And the acting, direction, grading, lighting and music is at par. It made me smile. But that was it. It didn’t make me ooze laughter. And it didn’t make me watch it online till I got sick.
I personally have an issue with crime as a brand core. Especially when crime is north-bound. Kidnappings. Heists. Scams. At a deeper level, it corrodes the brand from inside. Innocent fun is one thing. Making crass cool is arsenic. Of course, I’m not the defined target audience. But I happen to be more than a moron who watches television.
Do you think this strategy works for the brand?
It does to a certain level. Beyond that, this is just generic. Even a hard-boiled sweet can keep my mouth zipped. And that’s the trap they’re springing for themselves. Moreover, humour is no longer distinguishing. Everyone in the category is peddling it. Barring the tag line, I wasn’t sure if I was watching Mentos, Orbit, Sour Something or Sweet Nothing.
Whatever happened to product differentiation? I have no idea what this product is about. Especially if I am a potential chewer. However, the advertising idea is rich. There’s brilliance within. But this particular execution is plebeian. Very expected. It didn’t give me a new high. It confirmed the earlier films were better. Especially the one that elbowed into our weakness for jabbering more and working less. That was a large thought. I wonder why they dithered. The brand seems to have stunted itself.
How can a brand stand out in such a crowded segment?
Complete overhaul. Look at it this way. The lot who grew up watching the brand probably feels this brand was edgier years ago. And the newly hatched lot possibly feels this brand doesn’t have enough venom—as their digital lives are anyway exposed to wilder stuff. If the brand has to cut with both, then this thinking isn’t potent. If the brand has to lead ahead as aspirational gum, it needs to import a dose of quality madness. Both in terms of scripts, engagement and participation. It’s a threshold that calls for a great new idea. It’s a great new opportunity. Impulse purchase products have to be more exciting than the latest device. The brand has to grope for the wallet at the check-out counter. Otherwise, Jill won’t be bothered to tumble after Jack.
As told to Gouri Shah.