India's top five ads driving buzz are busting stereotypes while celebrating 'Indian-ness'

As part of Marketing's Window on the World series, Anand Narang, marketing director of Huawei India, picks out his top five campaigns driving buzz in the country at the end of 2013, and explains why.

VIDEO: See Anand Narang's own window on the world, above.

When I was invited to write a piece for Marketing’s new ‘Window on the world’ series - asking marketers around the world to talk about what's happening in their markets - I thought that it was one of those hoax mails.

But, when I checked back and got an official reply, I decided this was a real opportunity – to share with the marketing fraternity around the world about what’s been happening of late in India - the economy, the brands and who’s driving buzz.

I wanted to share a more visual side of India’s marketing world. What excites me about the following five campaigns is how brands are leveraging consumer insights, changes in societal trends, technology opportunities and value systems to connect, stay contemporary and relevant in the times.

1. Tanishq Remarriage Film

This wedding ad from jewellery brand Tata Tanishq has caught everyone’s attention as it has broken all category codes and challenged many Indian stereotypes.

This ad showcases how attitudes are changing in Indian society towards single parenting and remarriage

Most of the jewellery ads show parents giving jewellery to their fair-skinned daughters during a wedding. Contrary to those happy-smiley ads, this film celebrates the remarriage of a dusky looking single mom, considered taboo in Indian society.

It also showcases how attitudes are changing in the society towards single parenting and remarriage, which are becoming common in India.

With music by academy award winner A. R. Rehman, this ad, made by Lowe Lintas & Partners, has ignited social media conversations and has taken the brand to a new high.

It has struck a chord with Indians due to a couple of reasons: being dark-skinned is ok unlike the perception created by certain brands that only fair skin girls get it all; and the onus of remarrying a daughter is no longer a hushed-up topic.

2. Google Search Reunion

Set against the India, Pakistan backdrop, this "Google Reunion" ad by Ogilvy & Mather showcases Google’s search product in clever ways with the aim of connecting two childhood friends separated during India-Pakistan partition.

Conceptualised to show easy-to-use Google search services, this simple story complemented by brilliant music, brings smiles and tears to everyone who has watched it. The ad does a brilliant job in showing how easy it is to use Google products on mobiles and PCs.

It also brings emotions into a category which has been very rational (Google it) and brings a fresh take on Nokia’s brand promise "connecting people".

In India and South Asia, it will cement Google’s leadership and make the brand a household name, as mobiles exceed PCs by almost 15 times.

For most Indians, there was always a family member or a friend who had migrated from Pakistan after partition. The ad brings back fond memories of our grandparents, the fun times we had with them as kids listening to stories and the undivided attention they showered on us.

3. Vodafone’s #MadeForSharing 24x7 Internet Network

India is the world’s third largest smartphone market, with nearly 35m smartphones expected to be sold this year.

Indians are suckers for good music, a great script and a happy ending

As smartphone penetration increases, Vodafone is repositioning itself, by doing a host of campaigns to target the internet-savvy younger generation. From Vodafone’s Facebook theatrical ad two years back, to offering free data for Twitter usage earlier this year, to this new one, by Ogilvy & Mather, that shows the 24x7 lives of our always-connected generation.

What I have always liked about Vodafone’s advertising is the consistent messaging, clear proposition and emotional campaigns. Indians are suckers for good music, a great script and a happy ending – call it Bollywood - and this is what makes this ad endearing to most of us.

4. Diwali, the festival of lights - Garnier and Idea Cellular

"Do Good" or "Good prevails over Evil" themes have been popular in India during Diwali. However, two brands have brought a fresh take on this proposition.

Garnier promoted a social message via its digital campaign (created by Foxymoron Media Solutions) "Power up a Life" or #PowerLightaVillage. With thousands of Indian villages still powerless, so living in the dark after sunset, Garnier has offered solar powered equipment to more than 125 villages via its campaign.

Whether it's corruption, politicians’ hogwash or increasing onion prices, we Indians still hold honesty and integrity in high esteem

Idea Cellular is celebrating honesty and integrity in our daily lives. Showing how a taxi driver decides to return a mobile phone forgotten by a passenger after his conscience asks him to "Kill the evil (Ravaan) inside him", this Idea ad (by Lowe Lintas & Partners) delivers consistency on the brand promise – "an idea can change your life".

Whatever life throws back at us like corruption, the daily politicians’ hogwash or increasing onion prices, we Indians still hold honesty and integrity in high esteem and therefore this ad has become like a moral compass gently reminding us to be upright.  

5. Hero’s Thoda Aur

Hero, the world’s largest two-wheeler brand, has done some impressive campaigns since its split with Honda.

The first one, a couple of years ago, was to establish its presence as Hero Moto Corp in a campaign called "There is a hero in all of us". Its new campaign, "Thoda Aur" (= a little more), is based on the unique local insight that Indians ask for a little bit extra in everyday life.

Hero supports this insight with its proposition of better mileage in their bikes (remember Tesco’s brand promise "Every little helps", a universal insight).

Created by Lowe Lintas & Partners, Hero’s ad brings a smile to every Indian’s face as it epitomises the essence of Indian-ness. Whether telling someone that they are a little far off when arriving late for a meeting, or negotiating prices in a mom-and-pop store or asking the veggie vendor to put chillies free along with vegetables – we all like a bit more.  

Ultimately, good advertising is not only about great insights, universal truths or 360 touch-points. Good campaigns In India these days, as anywhere in the world, are also conversation starters, fuelled by social media and word of mouth.

Follow Anand Narang on Twitter at @anand_narang

With input from my friends – Sanjay Tandon, Arun Sharma, Sonika Rawtani, Ninad Satpute.

If you are a marketing director working for a major consumer brand, in any country in the world, and would like to share your insights and experience on your market, then contact

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