Sucheta Dalal :Vicks redux: It’s just not cricket
Sucheta Dalal

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Vicks redux: It’s just not cricket   

January 20, 2010

Vicks Cough Drops (VCD) has been around in India for over fifty years. The brand has done reasonably well in the market place, with a 50% market share, which probably explains its lack-lustre advertising over the years. I mean, why fix something that ain’t broke? However, it seems the time has come for the brand to re-invent itself. To make itself relevant to the younger consumers. And to re-do its famed, boring khich-khich idea, what with the category rivals using humour and some outlandish campaigns to connect with the youth. Example, Halls’ ‘polar bear hug at the VT station’ idea. Vicks has always used simple ads: family setting, daughter coughs, dad feeds the lozenge, or vice-versa, and that’s about it. What has worked for the brand is the khich-khich pneumonic, as a memory device, but clearly more needs to be done in 2010 Impatient India.

Enter cricket. Always a safe route when you want to bond with the lads, and when there’s no other idea hitting the right-brain. The new TV commercial for the newly-launched Vicks Jumbo features a blind old man listening to cricket commentary on his radio. Sadly, the radio drops to the floor and goes dead. Two young boys, who are watching from the terrace of an adjoining house, come to the rescue. The lads deliver the running commentary themselves (definitely a better job done than all the fossils AIR continues to hire), and the old man thinks it’s his radio. But one of the commentator boy’s throat goes khich-khich, and he quickly pops a Vicks Jumbo lozenge. Soon, the neighbours join in to relay the commentary and all the accompanying stadium noises. And of course, as the new-age cliché goes, ‘aaal izzz’ well.

So then what’s new, apart from cricket? Even the khich-khich continues, right? Well, the new product promise is that the throat relief lasts longer. As long as a one full day of test cricket at least, or so it seems. Whether this minor tweak in the marketing strategy will get the khich-khiching young consumers lining up at the retail outlets remains to be seen. Creatively, however, the commercial is a big dud. Cricket has been done to death in Indian advertising; I can’t think of a single product category that is yet to rush to the game when in doubt. What was needed was a truly surprising solution to break the clutter, and more importantly, to win over the defecting Gen Next audiences. (For example, why couldn’t they think of Mayawati at a day-long press conference, delivering sweet sounding firmans against all and sundry??)

Here’s a forecast: Methinks the next situation Vicks will use is sex. After all, when all else fails, even cricket, there’s always sex to save the day. What’s the connection between bad throat and sex, did you ask? Naah, can’t reveal that here, this is a family website. Don’t want to blow things up at the very first ad post out here!
Anil Thakraney


-- Sucheta Dalal