Let’s face it, advertising needs clichés.
The anxious teenager with pimples. The diapered baby with dimples. The housewife overcome by stains and her husband overcome by strain. Clichés are the familiar telegraphic ingredients in a 30-second spot.
Unfortunately, their very familiarity can be irritating and make you want to hurl something at your TV screen.
Two recent examples—both for financial services—come to mind.
One has a decrepit father who wakes up at 3am to fetch a cab for his son. His long-suffering expression makes one want to give him a drink and say, “Relax mate…it’s not the end of the world”.
In another, mama’s darling buys things for everyone except himself. And even puts his house in his wife’s name. Not only is the situation terribly clichéd, the voice-over is dripping with so much emotion you feel they want viewers to start weeping into their remote control.
On the other hand, there are two commercials that took clichés, but handled them in a way that make them a viewer’s delight.
One is for Reliance (Big TV) DTH that came on air some time back. It built on a simple cliché—that there are lines of movie dialogue we never forget. Clint Eastwood saying, “Go ahead. Make my day, punk” in Dirty Harry. Don Corleone saying, “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca saying, “Here’s looking at you, kid” to Ingrid Bergman. And, of course, “Mere paas maa hai” (I have mother) from Deewar.
An entire generation grew up on that line. But it took a loony genius to turn that line into a mantra that the guy repeats in the most absurd situations. All that changes thanks to the brand, leaving the loyal son saying, “Reliance DTH ne toh mera dialogue hi badal daala”(Reliance DTH has changed my dialogue). Delightful play of dialogue on dialogue, and a cliché turns to magic!
Then there’s the new television commercial for Cadbury 5star. The premise is that a person “gets lost” when he eats it, and needs help. But what brings it alive is the use of the hackneyed familiarity of the line, Hum choron ke bhi kuch usool hote hain (Even we thieves have some principles). Making it a television commercial you enjoy repeatedly.
Clichés help to convey a lot in a moment…but it takes a twist to them to ensure an ad stays with you long after the moment is over.
Anand Halve is co-founder of brand consultancy Chlorophyll Brand and Communications Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.
As told to Anushree Chandran.