Mumbai: Surf Excel, the detergent brand from Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), is trying to warm consumer hearts with its latest campaign for the festive season. Created by Lowe Lintas, the new campaign focuses on bringing joy to people who continue to work through the festive season, some bound by duty, others by circumstance.

The advertisement, #AbLagRahiDiwali (click here), shot by filmmaker Vasan Bala, looks at life through the eyes of a little boy. His family is gearing up to celebrate Diwali, the house is decked with flowers, a rangoli–the traditional artwork, and harbinger of festivities– is being etched outside their home, sweets are being laid out, new clothes readied. The local dhobi comes by for his daily round, and promises to have the clothes ready by evening, before the celebrations begin.

Later that day, the little boy hops onto his bike and rides to the dhobi’s house to pick up the clothes. He’s surprised that the dhobi’s quarters are a stark contrast to his home, which is full of lights, colour and revelry. He decides to do something about it and rounds up a group of his friends to turn things around. Wondering how to transport the colours there, the little folks lie down in the rangoli, in the hope of carrying it back to the dhobi.

The unsuspecting gent is in for a shock when he sees all these children lying down on the ground in his shop. They turn on the lights with sparklers and bring a smile to his face, as he sees the effort they’ve made to bring colour and festivity to his home. The kids then go about lighting up the neighbourhood with their mission as they celebrate the festival with others such as the vegetable vendor and the watchman. Only to be caught by their mother, who instead of doling out the expected reprimand, hands out a box of sweets and joins in the celebration. The ad ends with the tag line, “Surf Excel. Daag acche hain."

“Diwali is one of our most celebrated festivals with values such as togetherness and sharing being at the heart of it. Surf Excel has a seamless connect with these values. At a time when everyone is busy decorating homes and greeting/meeting family, Surf Excel through its new campaign aims to encourage people to take a moment and look beyond their own home and family to help others also join the festivities and celebrate the festival of lights in its true spirit," said Priya Nair, executive director-home care, HUL.

The challenge for Lowe Lintas, undoubtedly, was to land a creative encore. With a legacy of memorable campaigns, the challenge was to meet high expectations, said Arun Iyer, chief creative officer, Lowe Lintas. Recently, its Ramzan ad (click here) for Surf Excel in Pakistan won it several accolades on social media. The Ramzan campaign is one of Unilever’s most viewed videos globally, and was watched by 60% of Pakistan’s population on Facebook, said Iyer.

“It’s a lovely film. And beautifully connected back to ‘dirt is good’. It also has the right social cues, equality of the festival, and the fact that everyone needs to have brighter moments. However, there are two things that I felt at a gut level," said Prathap Suthan, managing partner and chief creative officer at the agency Bang in the Middle.

“One was the overall fact if the lower rungs of the ladder would feel as though the tone and the message is condescending towards them. It’s not that they won’t celebrate Diwali, however poor they are. I haven’t seen my dhobi walk around with a long face during Diwali. Everyone celebrates it. Regardless of how little they have. My second thought was the fact that the plot itself looked made up. It didn’t come through as natural. And the moment the kid started rolling over the rangoli, I knew it was a Surf film. So the surprise and the feeling of elation that was intended at the end of film sort of petered out for me."

Suthan added: “Perhaps the grammar of the film was very close to the Pakistani Eid film, that became popular a while ago. Maybe I am too soaked in advertising ghee, and hence the reaction. But to the unsuspecting audience, I guess it will be another heart-warming Diwali film."