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Business News/ Industry / 70 years of Indian advertising

70 years of Indian advertising

Indian advertising has evolved over the course of the last 70 years, reflecting the change that the country's economy as well as society has undergone. Here's a list of 70 popular ads that stood the test of time

70 years of Indian advertising

Indian advertising has evolved over the course of the last 70 years, reflecting the change that the country’s economy as well as society has undergone. From attacking social stereotypes to promoting national integration, some iconic campaigns have done more than just sell products. Here is a list of 70 such ads across television, print, outdoor and digital media that stood the test of time and connected with their audience.


Agency: J. Walter Thompson (JWT)

Year: 1941 onwards

Ever since Leela Chitnis appeared in the first Lux print ad in 1941, an endorsement deal with the soap brand became the benchmark of success for movie actresses. Shah Rukh Khan and Abhishek Bachchan are the only two male actors who have endorsed the brand.


Agency: Hindustan Thompson Associates (now JWT)

Year: 1946

Bobby Kooka, the then commercial director of the airline, and Umesh Rao, an artist with HTA, created the iconic Maharaja mascot which appeared in a series of print and outdoor ads.


Agency: National Advertising

Year: 1960s

The cute and chubby toddler became immensely popular as the Murphy baby in print ads that were run throughout the 1970s and 1980s.


Agency: FCB Ulka

Year: 1960

The brand, which created a tie culture in the country, used a bearded Zodiac man (the first model, Dhanji Rana, was none other than the creative director of ad agency Ulka Kolkata) to create a market for ready-made shirts. Like the Rasna and Liril girls, the Zodiac man went on to become one of the most recalled brand icons through a series of print ads.


Agency: Lowe Lintas

Year: 1964

The pulsating jingle ‘Tandurusti ki raksha karta hai Lifebuoy, Lifebuoy hai jahan tandurusti hai wahan’ (Lifebuoy protects health, wherever there is Lifebuoy, there is health) promised health and hygiene to consumers through television as well as radio spots.


Agency: Hindustan Thompson Associates (now JWT)

Year: 1965

Created to promote Wills Navy Cut filter cigarettes, the print ad ‘Made for each other’ featured a happily married couple reading a Polish joke book. The idea was to highlight how tobacco and filter were perfectly matched in the brand’s cigarette.


Agency: Advertising Sales and Promotion (ASP)

Year: 1966

A unique advertising experiment, Amul billboards are topical, tongue-in-cheek, and occasionally controversial. The ads feature the Amul butter girl created by Sylvester da Cunha and Eustace Fernandes.


Agency: Films Division of India

Year: 1974

An animated short educational film titled ‘Ek chidiya, anek chidiyan’ (One bird, many birds) was released on public broadcaster Doordarshan. The film, intended to teach the values of unity and teamwork to children, became immensely popular.


Agency: Lowe Lintas

Year: 1975

Instead of known Bollywood faces, Liril chose Karen Lunel dressed in a green bikini under a waterfall in its campaign. Lunel, who was the first Liril girl, became an icon, and years later, Preity Zinta also shot to fame with the Liril girl tag.


Agency: Lowe Lintas

Year: 1976

Probably for the first time, a biscuit brand targeting kids used popular Bollywood villain, Gabbar Singh, from the movie Sholay. The ad played on the original film dialogue to create a memorable tagline ‘…Britannia Glucose-D biscuits, Gabbar ki asli pasand’ (Britannia Glucose-D biscuits, Gabbar’s real choice)


Agency: Lowe Lintas

Year: 1977

Back in the day when cigarette advertising was legal, Four Square, India’s first king-size cigarette brand, promoted itself heavily through a series of print ads featuring celebrities. ‘Live life, kingsize’ was the slogan.


Agency: Purnima Advertising

Year: 1980s

The peppy ‘Hema, Rekha, Jaya aur Sushma, sabki pasand Nirma’ (Hema, Rekha, Jaya and Sushma, everyone likes Nirma) jingle along with the Nirma twirling girl mascot helped the Ahmedabad based detergent brand gain market share.


Agency: Mudra Communications

Year: Mid-1980s

The Rasna girl’s ‘I love you, Rasna’ became an iconic tagline, making the soft drink extremely popular across the country.


Agency: Mudra Communications

Year: 1980s

The campaign series for the Reliance-owned brand, created by Mudra Communications, revolutionized fabric marketing in the country.


Agency: Chaitra Advertising (now Leo Burnett)

Year: 1980s

The ad campaign in the early 1980s changed the way child nutrition was perceived and promoted in the country. The commercial, recalled for its popular tagline ‘I’m a Complan boy and I’m a Complan girl’ featured future Bollywood actors Shahid Kapoor and Ayesha Takia.


Agency: Enterprise

Year: Mid-1980s

Created for the National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC), the ad with the memorable tagline ‘Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khao ande’ (Whether its Sunday or Monday, eat eggs everyday) urged Indians to include eggs in their daily diet.


Agency: Hindustan Thompson Associates, Delhi (now JWT)

Year: 1980s

The two-minute promise by the Maggi mom to her kids catapulted the Nestle-owned noodle brand into an overnight success story, making it the ultimate comfort food.


Agency: JWT

Year: 1980s

At a time when brands were latching on to western-style themes to plug themselves, the ‘Wah Taj’ campaign featuring tabla maestro Zakir Hussain gave an Indian feel to the premium tea brand.


Agency: Sista’s Advertising (later bought by Saatchi)

Year: 1980s

The ad made Abdullah Fazalbhoy’s camera brand HotShot a household name in India, promising that anyone could become a photographer thanks to the camera’s ease of use.


Agency: Contract Advertising

Year: 1980s

Under the ‘The Spirit of Freedom’ series of print ads, Vazir Sultan Tobacco’s cigarette brand Charms used every possible pop culture prop—a distinct denim soft pack to leather-jacketed models riding bikes—to appeal to the younger generation. Ad guru Mohammad Khan’s tagline ‘Charms is the spirit of freedom. Charms is the way you are’ became a unique selling point.


Agency: Advertising Avenues

Year: 1982

A green-horned devil with very long fingernails (played by model coordinator David Whitbread) became a huge draw for the television brand with the killer tagline ‘Neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride’.


Agency: MAA Communications

Year: 1982

The ad agency executed the ad with the memorable tagline ‘Jo biwi se kare pyar, woh Prestige se kaise kare inkaar’ (One who loves his wife cannot say no to Prestige) equating a man’s love for his wife with the brand, urging a newly married couple to buy the brand’s pressure cooker.


Agency: Everest Advertising

Year: 1982

The agency created a wedding themed ad for its Kanpur-based pan masala brand Pan Parag. The spot, featuring actors Shammi Kapoor and Ashok Kumar, subtly highlighted the dowry menace. The tobacco ad was run on government-run channels.


Agency: Ambience (now Publicis Ambience)

Year: 1982

The iconic jingle ‘Vicks ki goli lo, khich khich door karo’ (Take a Vicks cough drop and get rid of itchy throat) featuring the then young actor Jayant Kripalani helped sell Vicks cough drops.


Agency: Lowe Lintas

Year: 1984

In this ad, Lalitaji, a tough bargain hunter, explained to viewers the difference between sasti cheez (cheap product) and achchi cheez (value for money product). The ad was meant to fight rival Nirma, which was available at a lower price.


Agency: FCB Ulka

Year: 1984

The ‘Fill it. Shut it. Forget it’ campaign asked Indian men to get off their scooters and heavy bikes to ride the 100cc CD 100 bike which promised a mileage of 65-70km per litre.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 1984-85

The ad, with the tagline ‘Chal meri Luna’ (Let’s go, my Luna), made the 50cc moped category aspirational, urging the Indian consumer to graduate from a cycle to a scooter.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 1985

The massively popular public service campaign ‘The Torch of Freedom’ instilled a sense of pride in every Indian, showing celebrated athletes running with a flaming torch.


Agency: Rediffusion Y&R

Year: 1986

Launched by Parle’s Ramesh Chauhan after Coca-Cola exited India in the 1970s, Gold Spot became one of India’s three iconic soft drink brands along with Limca and Thums Up. The Gold Spot ad, which targeted adolescents, popularized the drink with its catchy jingle ‘the zing thing’. The brand was eventually sold to Coca-Cola in 1993.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 1988

Conceptualized by veteran adman, the late Suresh Mullick, ‘Mile sur mera tumhara’, penned by Piyush Pandey, became a cult national integration song. The video highlighted the country’s diversity, featuring iconic artists from fields such as the arts, films and sports.


Agency: Ambience

Year: 1988

The series of print ads, in which models are seen covering themselves with drapes, redefined the traditional Indian saree. The ads featured three consecutive Miss Indias—Namrata Shirodkar (1992), Madhu Sapre (1993) and Aishwarya Rai (1994).


Agency: FCB Ulka

Year: 1989

The ad that featured a cart-wheeling kid wading through giant food items cooked in Sundrop oil helped establish sunflower oil at a time when the market was dominated by groundnut oil brands.


Agency: Lowe Lintas

Year: 1989

The campaign, ‘Hamara Bajaj’ (Our Bajaj), became a roaring success, featuring people across religions, communities and occupations riding a Bajaj scooter.


Agency: Rediffusion Y&R

Year: Early 1990s

Battery ads were never synonymous with edge and energy, a notion the Rediffusion campaign changed with the catchy tagline ‘Give me red’.


Agency: Lowe Lintas

Year: 1991

Kamasutra gave Indians an alternative to government condom brand Nirodh, through a sizzling and controversial print ad featuring Pooja Bedi and Marc Robinson.


Agency: Nexus Equity

Year: 1992

The founder of Nexus Equity, Rajiv Agarwal, created ‘Raymond -The Complete Man,’ positioning him as an urbane, caring, family man in a series of ad campaigns.


Agency: Trikaya Grey

Year: 1993

The highly awarded print ad with the headline ‘Nude Models Wanted’ dominated newspaper pages. The agency was looking for infants between eight and 12 months.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 1994

The ‘Asli Swad Zindagi Ka’ (real taste of life) campaign helped the chocolate brand go beyond the children’s category. The spot featured a young woman breaking into a spontaneous dance as she runs on the cricket ground to hug her batsman friend with a Cadbury chocolate in her hand.


Agency: Publicis Red Lion

Year: 1995

The controversial print campaign, which featured two nude models (Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre) with a python, ended up at the centre of one of the longest cases fought in Mumbai courts.


Agency: Mudra Communications

Year: 1996

The television spot combined the magic of piping hot jalebis with an adorable little boy played by Parzaan Dastur. The boy, who wants to run away from home, is lured back by trusted postman Ramu Kaka with the promise of hot jalebis.


Agency: Leo Burnett

Year: 1996

The ad which depicts a model bungee-jumping to pick up a bottle of Thums Up was withdrawn after a nine-year- old boy in Kolkata died trying to imitate the stunt.


Agency: J. Walter Thompson

Year: 1996

Coca-Cola bagged the official sponsorship rights to the 1997 Cricket World Cup, but it was Pepsi’s cheeky ambush marketing campaign ‘Nothing Official About It’ which stole the limelight.


Agency: Nexus Advertising

Year: 1996

The ad featured a middle-aged man in a restaurant mistaking words spoken by a woman to a surprisingly small Ericsson phone as an invitation to him. The commercial went on to win a Film Lion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 1998

The witty ad featured an angler being disturbed while fishing by a loud man. The latter puts three drops of Fevi Kwik on a piece of wood that he dips into the water, pulling out four fish stuck to it.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 1998

The hilarious ad conveyed the adhesive power of the brand without showing its actual use. The spot featured a man failing to break an egg laid by a hen which is being fed from a Fevicol jar.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 2001

A powerful award-winning print ad called ‘Second-hand smoke kills’ showed a rodeo with a dead horse lying on the ground, subtly hinting at the perils of passive smoking.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 2002

The wacky ad is a perfect visual demonstration of what Center Shock can do to you. The spot features a man entering a barber shop and asking for an Afro hairdo. The barber stuffs his mouth with the sour gum and sees the customer writhe in shock-like spasms that leave him with an Afro-like hairdo.


Agency: Lowe Lintas

Year: 2002

The first-ever mass media AIDS awareness campaign was created for Population Services International, India, using the character Balbir Pasha by Lowe Lintas. The objective was to increase the perception of risk among migrant workers in metros.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 2002

Conceptualized by V. Sunil of Ogilvy & Mather and Amitabh Kant, joint secretary, ministry of tourism, the campaign successfully established India as a high-end tourist destination in international markets.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 2002

Har ghar chup chap se yeh kehta hai, ki andar isme kaun rehta hai’ (Every house silently speaks about who lives inside it), the poetic discourse penned by ad guru Piyush Pandey, made the paint company’s commercial personal and memorable.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 2002

Amitabh Bachchan leveraged his past image as the angry young man of Indian movies, yelling at people for not taking their children to a polio booth, in the TV spot. The call-to-action with the tagline ‘Do boond zindagi ke’ (Two drops of life), helped in making India polio-free by February 2014.


Agency: McCann-Erickson

Year: 2002

For the first time, the global cola giant spoke to the masses by featuring actor Aamir Khan using a desi tagline ‘Thanda Matlab Coca-Cola’ (A cold beverage means Coca-Cola), which was an instant hit.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 2003

O&M came up with the killer line ‘Wherever you go, the network follows you’ in a spot featuring a pug following a young boy through the day. Although Vodafone bought out Hutchison later, the pug stayed in its future ad campaigns.


Agency: Euro RSCG (now Havas Worldwide)

Year: 2004

The shoe polish brand revived its decade-old advertising campaign featuring a Charlie Chaplin look-alike which worked wonders for the brand.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 2004

The heartwarming insurance ad featured an elderly man gifting his 60 plus wife a diamond on Valentine’s Day with a moving message ‘Heere ko kya pata tumhari umar’(A diamond does not know your age).


Agency: Dentsu Communications

Year: 2005

A simple thought of linking financial independence with self-respect made this life insurance campaign memorable. ‘Sar utha ke jiyo’ (Live your life with your head held high) was an apt tagline to convey the thought.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 2005

The wacky ad with the popular ‘Dimag ki batti jala de’ (Switches on the light in your brain) tagline featured a young college student fooling his professor by back-walking into the class.


Agency: Lowe Lintas

Year: 2005

The detergent ad boldly propagated ‘Daag acche hain’ (Dirt is good) through the charming story of a young brother who gets his white uniform muddied to make his sister smile.


Agency: McCann Erickson

Year: 2006

The outlandish campaign set in a dystopian bygone India showed men lighting up an entire palace with their shiny teeth after chewing Happydent gum. The ad broke new grounds in terms of its larger-than-life execution.


Agency: J. Walter Thompson

Year: 2007

An international sports brand articulated its brand essence through street cricket in an ad that resonated with every Indian.


Agency: Mullen Lintas

Year: 2007

A decade-long ‘Jaago Re’ (Wake up) campaign stirred the collective conscience of the country by taking a strong anti-corruption stance, telling consumers to be aware of their rights.


Agency: Lowe Lintas

Year: 2007

Unlike its competitors, Idea Cellular chose to stick to socially conscious advertising with brand ambassador Abhishek Bachchan using the power of telephony to resolve issues like literacy and marital discord, among others. ‘What an Idea sirji’ became a hugely popular tagline.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 2009

Ogilvy gave India the adorable alien-like, egg-headed creatures called Zoozoos which went on to become Vodafone’s most memorable mascots in a series of Indian Premier League (IPL) campaigns.


Agency: Publicis Capital

Year: 2010

The ‘Kitna deti hai’ (How much does it give) series was a set of hilarious television ads which highlighted the obsession Indians have for mileage when it comes to making purchase decisions on automobiles.


Agency: Taproot

Year: 2011

The campaign, aimed at portraying Airtel as a youthful brand, featured a foot-tapping jingle, ‘Har ek friend zaroori hota hai’ (Each friend is important), to say that every young Indian needs a whole variety of friends.


Agency: Lowe Lintas

Year: 2013

The campaign broke several stereotypes attached to marriage and women in India. The spot featured a dusky bride, who has a young daughter, getting married for the second time, surrounded by friends and family, with traditional Hindu rituals.


Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Year: 2013

The ad that went viral narrated the story of the reunion of two aged friends separated by the geographical boundaries of India and Pakistan. It promoted the Internet search giant in an emotional way.


Agency: Orchard Advertising

Year: 2015

The e-commerce giant hit the jackpot playing on Indian consumers’ love for variety through a series of campaigns titled ‘Aur Dikhao’ (Show me more) with the underlying thought ‘Barqarar rakho chunnein ka maza’ (Keep enjoying the option of choosing).


Agency: BBDO India

Year: 2015

The ‘Touch the pickle’ ad urged women to defy menstrual taboos through the simple act of touching a bottle of pickle, which, according to superstition, will rot if is touched by a menstruating woman. BBDO India ended up winning the Grand Prix at Cannes 2015.


Agency: Karishma Lintas

Year: 2015

Penned and narrated by lyricist Gulzar, with the theme centered around ‘Malgudi Days’, the brand’s first television ad took nostalgic viewers back to their childhood memories of paper boats and kites to plug the beverage brand.

At 70, India has come a long way from the country the British exited in 1947, and which they believed (and hoped) would not survive in its then form. India has since evolved into a vibrant constitutional democracy and made rapid strides in several domains (although there is a lot of work still to be done). To mark the 70th anniversary of India’s independence, Mint is profiling 70 milestones across the years, and across domains—politics, business, entertainment and sport. Put together by Mint’s reporters and editors, these entirely subjective listings are far from comprehensive, as is only to be expected when one is dealing with the seven-decade-old post-independence history of a country as large and complex as India.

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Updated: 21 Aug 2017, 05:53 AM IST
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