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REVIEWER:Prathap Suthan

Chief creative officer and managing partner at Bang in the Middle, Prathap Suthan has over 25 years of experience. He is best known as the creative mind behind the India Shining and Incredible India campaigns.

Campaign

Nestlé’s latest Nescafé India ad by McCann Erickson is based on the idea that coffee keeps you going. It opens with a stand-up comedian who stammers on stage. He tells the audience about his journey as a stand-up comic—the challenges he faces and the humour he finds in those situations. His act ends with the words, “Thank God for coffee. Isne mujhe lagaye rakha, aur aapko jagaye rakha (It kept me going, and kept you awake)."

What are your first thoughts on the ad?

I don’t watch advertising like an advertising person. I watch it like anyone else. And when it’s a piece like this, my reaction is spontaneous. Somewhere deep inside me I am thankful that I am still in this business. I love the dialogue, the acting, the stand-up comedy setting, the timing and the actor. I suppose when the larger take-out is a warm feeling, one overlooks small imperfections, if any.

What would you have done differently?

I am not sure if I’d do anything radically different if I ever wrote this. But I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t have thought of this script. Maybe I wouldn’t have spent as much time on the coffee and the red mug. The branding is a few overt frames more than necessary. But I suppose our business is very much driven by brand management and consumer research and other fussy diehards. It will not be in their character to entirely do away with the product. They shouldn’t either.

In such ads the power of the content tends to overpower the brand.

It’s time people in advertising understand that regular coffee, like other generic products, doesn’t have to have new coffee-embedded stories. All that had to be told about product benefits, reason to believe, fresh ingredients, etc., have been told and we have yawned. In these days of one-day commercials, if you don’t have a great story, the audience will zap. Content is everything. Brand connect will happen. Worse, advertising has become mere footage. A mere clip. In the great wilderness of the Web, it competes with one-headed hydras, five-legged ostriches, yawning politicians, man-eating frogs and a zillion other incredible things.

What about the performance of the protagonist?

The film came alive because of him. He was disarming in a very clever way. He and his stammer managed to get past my defences the very first time I watched it. Fantastic actor. The next time I see buffering or listen to someone stammering, I am going to think Nescafé.

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