Lost in the woods

Lost in the woods


With more than 16 years experience in advertising, Sainath Saraban, executive creative director, Leo Burnett, Delhi, has worked on brands such as Thums Up, Maaza, Samsung, Levi’s, Pizza Hut, Boost, Perfetti, Kingfisher and General Motors.


The new campaign for VIP Skybags by Ogilvy and Mather India shows a bear driving along a long road, completely depressed. He wants to be a star but his suitcase is in such poor shape that it makes him look bad. The bear enters a showroom, buys a skybag and exits as Bollywood hunk John Abraham.

What did you think of the ad campaign?

When it began I sat up and took notice. I mean, how many scripts open to a bear driving a car? You just wait for something brilliant to happen, but then after the first shot it just falls flat. And it stays that way till the end. The before-after thing was just too linear and tame. Sad bear changes bag, becomes John Abraham who, by the way, has no role to play. Music is okay. Production values are pretty good, but that is hygiene these days. If you’re going to be wacky, go all the way.

What does a brand need to keep in mind while using a celebrity endorser?

Celebrities and brands need to be symbiotic. They need to make each other shine and not have the famous star eclipse the brand. Most importantly their personalities need to match. Just using a famous face to break clutter doesn’t work. Viswanathan Anand with NIIT, Akshay Kumar with Thums Up, Aamir Khan in the Coke Paanch campaign, Sachin Tendulkar in the first Adidas TVC and Irrfan Khan in Hutch (now Vodafone) are a few examples of how celebrities and brands complemented each other. Otherwise it’s just going to be a blind spot.

Which brand has managed to get it right in this category?

American Tourister did the Survive Mumbai. Survive the world campaign with a foreign tourist’s suitcase getting a Mumbai local train rigour test. That was fresh and single-minded. Just saw a hoarding from Samsonite which has a visual of a guy in an exotic location with a surfboard, I think, and the line was Step Out. Need to see more on that to comment, but I think they’re going the Miles to go with your Samsonite route.

What’s your favourite celebrity-endorsed campaign?

Snickers with Liza Minnelli and Aretha Franklin is one of my favourites. The insight that we become tantrum-throwing divas when we’re hungry is translated so simply and beautifully in this spot. Now that’s a great use of celebrities. They fit just right. And despite having not one, but two celebrities, you still end up saying, “What a great Snickers ad".

As told to Gouri Shah.