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Ads on Indian TV channels – The nostalgic journey from the ’90s to now!


Old is Gold… like I always say!

Here comes another take (after the Indian TV News Channels evolution blog) on how different television was in the ’90s compared to now! Indeed, we had better TV shows back then, we had a life of normal people with good stories and not the saas-bahu melodrama or Ichadhaari Naagins in prime time but one more major change witnessed is in the advertisements aired on TV.

Jingles all the way…

Earlier they were clear and cute (heart touching is another word for them). Who can forget those amazingly cute ads like Dhara cooking oil where the kid leaves his home and is brought back by bribing a jalebi and right now you can hear his voice saying, ‘Jalebi!!’ We also had several of Cadbury ads, one of my most favourite where a pretty girl in stands prays for his boyfriend’s century, he hits the ball in the air, she prays for help and it’s a sixer, she celebrates with a dance on the cricket ground dodging the security with the song, ‘Kya swaad hai zindagi mein’. This is merely a 41-second ad but very effective and still remembered.

As a kid, I could connect to the ‘Action ka Schooltime’ ad and the jingle yet registered in my mind. Also, the Sundrop kid who jumps and plays on food items like a puri… visually effective ad showing his state of mind looking at the delicious food because it’s cooked in Sundrop. Honestly, I never saw a Sundrop bottle at my place but the ad helps me recollect the brand name.  We had some social message too in Pan Parag where you expect Dowry as a last-minute demand but its ‘Baraatiyo ka swaagat Pan parag se hi kijiyega Samdhiji’. And a few became famous for its slogans like ‘Jo biwi se kare pyar, wo prestige se kaise kare inkaar’ while also woman empowerment leagues with ‘We want revolution, Jaipan!’

And there were some amazing jingles which made an impact on our minds… the most famous would be ‘Jab main chotta bacha tha, badi shararat karta tha…’ it came so many times on TV and showed simply that the Bajaj bulbs is there for so many years (brand value, hah!) Also Vicco Vajradanti (I am sure the song clicked your mind, I need not mention it) and Badshah Masala ad starting with ‘Swaad sugandh ka Raja’, you know all types of Badshah masalas available cause you remember the complete jingle, smart way of showing the product range.

And who could forget Washing Powder Nirma? They further made several ads with Hema, Rekha, Jaya aur Sushma and have maintained the jingle yet cause every Indian can just recollect the brand name with the tune. Similar benefit to Nerolac with the jingle ‘Jab gharki raunak badhani ho…’ & the titan ad with a beautiful Piano tune (Yes…that one!).

There were also short yet to the point concepts like the Fevikwik ad showing the anna fishing and done within seconds thanks to Fevikwik… and the santoor ad, single mother who is always a working woman but looks so young all thanks to santoor and the ad ends with three shocked people saying ‘Mummy??’ Glad they have still maintained the same concept (now we know it’s a Santoor ad, even if we may not buy one).

The changing trends of the Ad World!

Then came a phase of film stars & cricketers in various ads (we always had them for Lux soap though). So you already recollected one, cold drinks anyone? Pepsi, Coke, Fanta… they all had stars in it. The most famous was Sachin who wears his own mask to have a sip of Pepsi. SRK was very much there on Ads too, if you remember Shah Rukh ‘Mayur’ Khan and the Pepsi ads. The one famous was where Shahid kicks a can and appears Rani, SRK and Kajol dancing with him… yes, that was a teenage Shahid Kapur in case you missed that. So was Genelia in Mr. Bachchans Parker pen ad… We have Mr. Bachchan very much there on TV ads till date (Boroplus, Navratna tel and many more).

One more revolutionary celeb was Aamir Khan, who had innovative concepts for TV ads too (Toyota, Samsung, etc.). I am sure he studied and analyzed those scripts too. The initial ones included the coke ad, Aamir and Aishwarya chatting and decide to meet up… well internet chatting was the newest in-thing; people were very excited about it, hats off to the writers to club it in the plot.

The world cup was a huge game changer back then with innovative offers. ‘Britannia khao world cup jao’. As a kid, I actually collected wrappers of bread and biscuits (Swatch Bharat to some extent cause we had to score runs). We also had offers to check the cap of a cold drink bottle for gifts. Then came many such to win gold coins and what not and people believed it too. The further trend of marketing headed to ‘get a chance to meet your favourite star’ offers… sales boosted for sure, that’s all we know! But now they have almost stopped it and we are back to some jingle ads and some story based while also some having none…

You know it’s Ghadi detergent when you hear ‘Pehle istemaal kare fir vishwas kare’ saying as if they gave you a free sample… At least I have to buy one pack to trust them as per their tagline (like forced to buy). And competition with Tide ad, the shirt turns so white, even snow would feel complex, you have the technology why not use it for creating something more innovative and visually appealing? We also have ‘Aaj kuch toofani karte hai’ ones, why would a superstar chase that one bottle of Thums Up risking his life? He can afford a truck full of it. And logic fails completely with fairness cream ads; Yami Gautam is very fair buddy! She always was who doesn’t know it. And then we have Gutka ads, rich and successful people’s choice… duh!

Kids in India win medals at the national level because of Bournvita. Fairness on the face or white clothes lead to self-confidence and qualifies you for a job if you are a woman… and we are racist and demean qualified as well as beautiful dusky women wherever we can, right! Another logic failure is with those hair shampoo ads; earlier it was wigs… now the graphics make it look even more unreal. And you cannot differentiate between a deodorant, a mango juice product and a condom ad cause they all have the same theme… Seduction! One last, if you ask ‘Hum chloromint kyu khaate hai?’ which is a valid question, the seller turns furious and hits you… ‘doobara mat poochna, kyuki mere pass bhi koi jawab nahi hai’ (they forgot to add that in the end).

The annoying ones

Well, we have not just illogical, but also irritating ones, the first one you remember reading that would be Airtel 4G ad. The girl claims so proudly when users are already annoyed with the 3G cause the speed is rarely of 2G. They did not stop and had a series of ads with the same girl despite knowing people’s dislike (negative publicity is also publicity you know). Sadly, the same brand once had one amazing A R Rahman jingle in the past which was a rage and also ‘Har ek friend zaroori hota hai’ ad which was loved so much by the audiences that it was later adapted for a Hindi film song (The jingle was better though!). Well, Airtel deteriorated its level of ads, but we have others too, who never had a good one.

You would hear this often ‘Kya aapne kabhi online hotel search kiya hai?’, and then you change the channel, yes the Trivago ad with the loser-like guy, well he works at a good post in the company itself if you weren’t aware (who else would cast him anyway?). Similar irritation was with ‘Kya aapke toothpaste mein namak hai?’ ads & those Harpic ads when you’re having your dinner and the surprise visit by the anchor. (Of course I don’t wish to see someone’s toilet getting cleaned boss, I believe you and your product, no demos needed)

Teleshopping anyone?

Now comes the worst of all… the teleshopping ones, most movie channels have hour slots for them (especially during night times). If you remember, in the past we had those foreign ads, the people were mostly whites and you hear the dialogues in Hindi… Right the Telebrands ones, Asian sky shop, Ab King Pro, Sweat Slim Belts and that black Air Sofa which they run on a mountainous road pulled by a truck, familiar visuals, aren’t they? Those ads were so badly dubbed & mixed, that you could watch the mouth closed and yet hear the voices. We don’t blame the artists; maybe they didn’t invest much in the dubbing process. And the offers were something like ‘Order now and get this gift worth a thousand on the purchase of our product which costs four hundred.’ Yeah right, I am a fool to believe that one! Well later it became even worse where they shot with the Indian actors, you can see a junior artist or a character actor who has worked in many films playing a common businessman or a Jyotish selling Gems or a religious Yantra.

And we are not done yet, we now have celebs like Jackie Shroff, Dharmendra, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Anu Kapoor, Alok Nath and many more in these ads, yet it’s unbearable. You would also find random people selling cheap mobile phones and sarees or other garments on TV. A low-cost smartphone ad where they are happy saying, “Wah isme toh camera bhi hai Rajesh!” I wonder who buys such product getting influenced by such badly directed ads… they speak faster than normal because they know nobody would watch for more than a minute but still keep on making them. And we also have guys who were short or very slim (neglected by girls for their looks) and became a macho personality in a month with some powders (Ayurvedic ones made from plants of African forests)… of course we believe you, we also believed Fair & Lovely claims bro, then why not yours!

Laughing on them, not with them!

Yet I feel we have some innovative ones and some hilariously entertaining ones too. I loved Nirmal Baba sessions which you realise by the end that it was an ad and the screen flashes the bank account number for donations. They weren’t logical but made me laugh a lot, the solution to most problems was… ‘Samosa ke saath Hari chutney khao, Kripa aani shuru ho jayegi’. If I were there my answer would be, “Even I eat in depression, Kripa should be on the way. Thanks for the motivation uncle!” Well, he gives the easiest and the most cost-effective solutions (10 rupees a plate to be precise). And I like the MDH masale uncle too, let them laugh at me, I will still shoot, my brand, my money… I am sure he had an aspiring model within him but family responsibilities forced him into the spices business. Well better late than never, I like the man’s spirit.

We also have Javed Sahab in his unclear yet cute accent to sell Dr.Ortho for joint pains. Gutsy enough! Besides, who says no to work. Anyway, when actors like Mr. Bachchan can sell Everest chat masala & Ajay Devgan can sell Vimal (with a slogan – Daane daane mein kesar ka dum) then why not writers. These are funny and yet adorable ones but we have a few witty ones too…

Innovation & You

The 5 star Ramesh Suresh ad… it worked so well that they made a series of them, the most famous being, “Masterji, Pitaji ki patloon ek bilang chotti kardo” and the absent-minded busy master does it every time. The idea was that you forget everything happened a few minutes ago when you eat a 5 star, smart ad isn’t it? That reminds the famous ‘Idea ads’ of Abhishek Bachchan, that’s the only time I actually liked seeing him… he chose the right scripts here, ‘What an Idea sirjee!’ And we had one Cadbury ad where the guy at a bus stop says, “Meri maa kehti hai, kuch acha karne se pehle meetha khaana zaroori hai”. Listen to your mom and you are successful in everything, even in impressing a pretty girl!

Those Flipkart ads where kids are shown as adults with manly voices dubbed, it’s unique and it’s different! Talking of kids, we can’t miss those Surf excel ads stating Daag ache hai. Also the Grab a Snicker one where Rocky turns to a heroine because he is hungry (well we all become easily annoyed & throw tantrums when hungry, smart way to sell a chocolate) And fortunately we still have MakeMyTrip people making amazing and fun ads, they’ve invested huge but in the right people… Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt together are just fun to watch… the Gujju couple, the hotel booking discount, Happy Singh ad & Sam Dilli ka hai ones. It’s rare when you actually stop surfing to watch the complete ad, Kudos to them!

Well, I hope ads like MMT keeps entertaining us and sometimes even educating on social issues like the ‘Tu hi tu’ song as the star plus slogan cause we can never get rid of them anyway…apparently, those are the biggest source of revenues for channels. Planning to watch videos on YouTube or Hotstar? Those ads are waiting for you there too…Stay Tuned!

Picture courtesy:

The Times of India




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