Sucheta Dalal :Havells: Shock lagaa! Now what?
Sucheta Dalal

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Havells: Shock lagaa! Now what?  

March 24, 2010

One popular term that gets bandied around ad agency offices is ‘Surprising Solutions’. Which basically means providing a surprising, refreshing creative idea for a brand. Which is the way it should be. However, after watching the Havells bulb TV commercial, I think they should expand the phrase to ‘Surprising, Relevant Solutions’.


Here’s why I say this: Havells has unabashedly used death as an advertising platform for its CFL bulbs, a deadly route that even life insurance companies would chicken out of. In that sense, this must be the first full-on macabre commercial in Indian advertising’s recorded history. The TVC features a hangman, who goes about his job pulling the lever on death row convicts. (It’s another matter these sods are jobless these days). Later, the chap gets a sudden conscience attack, and decides he must do something nice to atone for his ‘sins’. So he introspects out of the hanging chamber, goes home and promptly switches on the energy-saving Havells CFL bulb. VO: ‘Zindagi mein hum sabko paap karna padta hai. Kuchh toh punya kamaa sakte hain… bijlee bacha ke.’


For its noticeability and its clutter-busting ability, I like this commercial, though the contrast between death and saving electrical energy is bizarre, to say the least. Yes, it will allow the brand to swiftly land into the consumers’ mind space. Bulbs are, after all, a low consumer involvement category—most people buy bulbs as commodities, so I quite understand where Havells is coming from. However, I am not certain this ad will lead to actual sales, as Indians in general are a superstitious lot, and would shy away from brands that remind them of death and misery. So, a brave effort but the commercial may well see an early hanging by the client.


Which is where the point of ‘relevance’ comes in. It’s darn easy to break the TV clutter with outlandish advertising. Sex is often used for that purpose. Notice that bikini-clad chick arising out of the sea waters in the JK Super Cement ad. Absolutely no relevance to cement unless you match the product with the stiffness of the babe’s expressions. And there are countless such sexy instances.


So Havells has managed to shock us with its bulbs. And that’s where its story will most likely end. However, the ad has resulted in many jokes on Twitter. I like this one the most: The client asked the ad agency to forget about a great idea and give him an excellent execution. And that’s just what they did, ha ha. — Anil Thakraney

-- Sucheta Dalal