The good, bad and ugly of automotive ads
Cars and motorcycles are by nature, aspirational products. Stuff that generates a feeling of awe followed by a rush of the adrenalin. It is natural then, for their advertisements to try and heighten those emotions.
Over the years, there are a number of ads that have been so successful that they are etched in our minds forever. Take the famous Maruti line for example with a cute surdy boy peevishly saying “ki kara, petrol khatam hi nahin hounda,” or the Hero Honda’s now world famous tagline for the Splendor, “fill it, shut it, forget it.” And it does not end with these. Bajaj struck gold in 2002 with the Pulsar and its hugely catchy “definitely male” tagline and who can ever forget Tata Safari’s “reclaim your life” ads.
But not all every ad is as legendary and there are quite a few of them that are an embarrassment. Both to the companies and hence the cars, as also the teams that made the ads. Here is my list of the good and the bad apples in the business.
Maruti corporate ad
Maruti has always bragged, and rightly so, about the high fuel economy of their cars. And their ads have always harped upon this subject to good effect. The current series of ads finds on one hand, an Indian general enquiring “kitna deti hai” regarding a tank being hard sold by Germans, to an obviously plump and rich Vijay Mallya lookalike asking the same question and stumping a sales executive of a luxury yatch.
The cars themselves do not feature in these ads, but perhaps they are not required. With so many Maruti cars on the roads anyway, you do not necessarily want to see them on TV again. The ads always end with a voice over proclaiming that the Maruti Suzuki makes the most fuel efficient cars in the country. It underlines that this Maruti philosophy has infact percolated in our lives beyond mere cars and we all value everything on these terms….kitna deti hai. Smart and legendary….as always.
If ever there was an ad with a high recall value, the Nissan Sunny caaaaarr ad, would figure right on top. Or maybe, near the top. Some people find it irritating and illogical but for a company that is late into India and desperate to get its share of action,it had to do something out of the box. And the ad does just that.
From my mother, to the guard at my apartment gate to the peon in the office, who are all illiterates as far as recognising cars is concerned, Sunny was easy to spot. They will never be able to say that its a Sunny…..all they say is…thats a CAAAAARRR. Well done guys.
Hero corporate ad
It is never easy to establish yourself after breaking away from a 25 year old successful partnership–one that has doled out vehicles that have become household names. But Hero MotoCorp, the new avatar of Hero Honda, seems to have managed that well. Roping in the legendary A R Rahman was at best a gamble considering that he delivered a dud with the Commonwealth Games theme song and could not work his magic with another automotive brand Toyota Etios either.
But maybe the law of averages caught up and everything in Hero’s new brand campaign has worked like a dream. Being streamed continuously on channels, Hero celebrates the real heroes hidden in every common man in India and the message itself finds resonance in today’s socio economic structure. The same sentiment has also hugely helped a certain Anna Hazare and so it does for the Munjals too.
Now being continued smartly with real footage of the everyday common man crooning to the song “humein hain hero” the Honda surname has gradually faded and Hero is well and truly on its own.
No, there is nothing new cooking here, neither with the ads nor with the vehicle, yet. The last time I saw their ad, it had a Safari 4*4 running around on the Thar desert twisting and turning. No voice-overs in this one that harked back to the initial days when the legendary Safari ad only had visuals and no words. It only had 3 lines that merely say “the desert did not expect a sandstorm on 4 wheels” followed by the haunting “reclaim your life” punch line. It still managed to give me goosebumps.
The new Safari Storme would be launched soon and along with it a new set of ads, which I am damn sure would again be a legend. Even if the car will never be.
A surdy boy leaving home for god knows where leaving his ex Army dad all teary eyed and emotional. How touching? But it is a car ad right. Ohh yess, the pudgy Beat is very much there in a blink and you miss cameo. It does have a story to it but it says nothing about the car. The boot space, the drive and handling, fuel economy, air conditioning….nothing. The ad merely says “sang rishte chale” and leaves us all to wonder what it means. Even a 1982 premier padmini moves, right?
It is still better than the earlier Chevy ads that coined the stupid “happyvasi” which is why it is only bad and not ugly. I just hope the two surds atleast get more roles so that the ad ends up doing some good work.
Mahindra is not a confused brand. They know their bearings, know what cars to make and do a good job at it. And that helps them in making ads as well. Nothing out of the box, but the Scorpio’s “nothing else will do” and Bolero’s “break free” worked.
Exhumed by the success of the XUV, the new cheetah ad goes over the top. Having watched it atleast a dozen times before writing this, I am still at a loss to describe it….much less understand it. So i will go no further. It is not ugly only because the XUV is genuinely good looking.
Tata Indigo Manza and Bajaj Discover 125
There is nothing absolutely wrong about these ads except for the fact that I am not a fan of “bitchy” advertising. And though, some may find it smart and cool, I find it below the belt. The two Manza ads show very Japanese looking guys checking out the car with the boss pissed off with his subordinate for not being able to make a car as good as the Manza.
It would have been equally preposterous had a Suzuki, Honda or Toyota attempted such an ad. But in those cases, one could have atleast said that it proclaims the truth. The Manza for all its virtues is not the best in class and by showing the Japanese squabbling over its quality, it really pushed the envelope a little too far. Too in your face.
Similarly, the new Discover 125 ad takes a direct dig at the Splendor. Customers from a wide variety of sepctrum, from a wannabe Sachin Tendulkar, to a newly married and an office goer discuss why they opted for a very obvious Splendor or Super Splendor in place of a Discover 125. Bajaj would want us to believe that its either a cautious dad, a nagging wife or a jealous boss who stops them from buying a Discover leaving them to a uniform refrain “Discover nahin hai, par chalta hai.”
Unlike Tata, Bajaj may rightly claim that a Discover is faster and more powerful than its competitors but by targeting Hero directly in the ad it shows how frustrating it is for them that a 20 year old brand continues to outsell supposedly better bikes.
Fiat Punto and Linea 2012
Fiat is on a downward spiral in India and if at all the ad shows just that. The new Punto and Linea 2012 are shown being assembled deep inside an ocean with a voice over asking you how deep are you willing to dive for a cherished one? As the ad progresses, the cars are assembled and quickly hit the rock bottom. I am not sure if it tells anything new about the cars but it does show that soon enough you may have to hit the ocean to get a Fiat in India. Truly, thats rock bottom.
Mahindra Xylo (new)
The previous generation Xylo ads had hippies partying inside the car accentuated by LED disco lights borrowed straight out of Chaddhaji’s auto accessory store in Karol Bagh. The new ad, which is yet to hit the tube, shows Kasbekar (the photographer) taking his many model grilfriends out to some godforsaken place when a birdie decides to fart on the windshield.
Disgusted by the effect, Kas decides to give the car a full time makeover and out emerges an XUV lookalike in a matter of seconds. I am trying to figure out the message here besides the one that Xylo has got a makeover. Or maybe, I should try and figure out the magical bird whose one dropping can do such wonders to a car.
How stupid can stupidity get? Two couples riding on scooties when on a red light and out of the blue, the two women glare each other and start dancing on the vehicles. It gets to a head when one of the women takes inspiration from maybe one of Kamasutra’s many weird positions and gets on top of the rear seat balancing with one foot. Just to bring in some sanity to the proceedings, an elderly couple following them on a vintage car explain that it is a TVS Vego that has body balance. Wow..
VW corporate ad
This one gives TVS a run for its money. A guy enters a princely white Volkswagen dealership dressed as a muscular woman to enquire whether the attractive price of the Polo and Vento is for real and not a joke. The bored sales executive says he has told him so many times that it is real and coming in to enquire dressed as a woman does not change anything. The last shot shows the same man dressed up as a monkey still trying to figure out if the whole deal is for real.
This ad had me on the floor laughing as there are so many conclusions that I can draw. One that despite all the discounts, a VW dealership remains empty. Two, customers do keep coming in and irritating the sales guys, without actually buying the cars. Three, even monkeys are interested in their cars but not excited enough to buy them. Surely, this takes the cake.
And people still dont know what “das auto” means. I am doing VW a favour here…..it only means people’s car….and sadly VW has none….so far.