Mumbai: The tagline, “India’s official entry to Cannes," on a traditionally hand-painted film poster for Moochwali should have been a dead give away. That, and the fact that the invitation to the “shortest feature film in the world" was coming from Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and creative director, Ogilvy and Mather (O&M), South Asia. But a lot of people were taken by surprise when the theatre lights dimmed to showcase an 80-second television commercial for adhesive brand Fevicol, to mark 50 years of the brand’s existence.

Click here To view a slideshow of iconic Fevicol ads over the years

The black and white ad film, shot by Prasoon Pandey of Corcoise Films, depicts the life of a little girl who was unable to shake off a moustache pasted on her upper lip during a village play. The film traces her life, through her teenage years, wedding, motherhood, death and finally rebirth, where she is born again with the moustache intact. The ad closes with the tag line “50 Saal Se Champion" (winner for 50 years).

Creative bond: To mark 50 years of Fevicol, Ogilvy and Mather India has created an 80-second ad depicting the life of a girl who was unable to remove a moustache pasted on her upper lip during a village play.

So, five decades and 99 awards (Abby, Cannes, Clio, Asian Ad Awards and many more) in 20 years later, who would have ever thought that Fevicol was once a brand that no one wanted to work with. O&M has been handling Fevicol since the 1970s, but in 1989, when Piyush Pandey moved from client servicing to creative duties at O&M India, the account for the adhesive brand was literally “palmed off" to him to ensure that none of the existing creative guys took offence to his appointment. That, along with the absurd designation of copy chief, Indian languages.

“In those days, it (Pidilite Industries Ltd, the owner of the Fevicol brand) was not a client you would want to work with… as it didn’t have very nice advertising," recalled Pandey, who was asked to translate a radio spot for sub-brand Fevitite as his first assignment. “It was such a crap ad that it wasn’t worth translating into any language, let alone Hindi!" he said. Pandey then came up with the “Dum Laga Ke…" radio spot, which was presented to the client. They liked the ad so much that it was converted into an ad film for Fevitite and then reshot for Fevicol, because the client thought “Fevitite was too small a brand to do justice to the idea".

So, from its first ad for Fevicol to other award-winning ads such as the one with the hen and its unbreakable egg, the overcrowded bus in Rajasthan, the villager who manages to pull fish out of the lake with a few drops of Fevikwik on a stick, to the joint-family ad, there’s been no looking back.

But how did a brand traditionally targeted at carpenters make it’s way into the Indian vocabulary as a generic word for bonding?

“Purely through advertising, it has taken a category that is purely incidental in our lives to something that is of interest to us. A pointer where…through the sheer force of personality, the insignificant becomes significant," said Santosh Desai, managing director and chief executive for Future Brands.

According to Piyush Pandey, the agency was given full freedom to do what it thought was right for the brand. “We were never briefed after that first meeting… So, in a sense, it put more pressure on you." He narrated his experience while working on the award-winning Fevikwik fishing ad. Pandey, actually went to a client meeting armed with a pencil, a glass of water, a one-rupee coin and a tube of Fevikwik. “While the ad was drawing an analogy, we knew there would be someone in the meeting who would say the glue doesn’t work underwater… That’s when I pulled out my special equipment and proved otherwise," he said.

“To be honest, we didn’t have a clue about the brand aspect when we started out... Piyush happened to us, and I would say 1988-1999 was when the big leap happened. Till then, the proposition had been of sticking things together, and then we evolved to saying it ‘builds bonds’," said Madhukar B. Parekh, managing director of Pidilite.