The devil is in the details

Ramesh Narayan | Updated on January 20, 2018


Addendum is a fortnightly column that takes a sometimes hard, sometimes casual, sometimes irreverent, yet never malicious look at some of the new or recent advertisements and comments on them.

Depending on how old you are you’ll probably remember the early ads for Onida TVs. Goutam Rakshit and his merry men and women at Advertising Avenues were creating waves with some path-breaking advertising. But this one was special. It broke several myths, and a mirror in the bargain. It made envy a virtue and brought the devil itself into our living rooms. “Neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride” is a tagline etched firmly in my aging brain. The ideas were revolutionary. The execution was impeccable (Gopi Kukde, take a bow) and a brand was born. Onida proved that clutter-breaking advertising could be the great differentiator in itself. With an armful of awards the Onida devil made it into the textbooks with many B-schools teaching it as an example of great advertising. But all things change. McCann Erickson tried to give the brand a new look and fell flat. The brand then continued as just a me-too range of products. Now Zero:Zero, a creative agency, has decided to infuse creative life into its air-conditioner again. To beat the devil positioning would really require divine intervention, and that’s what’s been called upon. Onida now rises, or tries to rise, on the broad shoulders and bald pate of what is a cross between the Bionic Man and God himself. And if you have God batting for you why try and focus on one virtue of the product? Just go for it. And that’s what they’ve done. As a God-lookalike materialises in the family home it promises economy, status, artificial intelligence, an app and everything else an air-conditioner can hope to offer. Along with great cooling. So this divine offering is all things to all people. And exclusive to none! The disclaimer: I’m partial to the Devil and the old tagline. Second, someone needs to tell them they need far better execution to live up to the legendary status. As they say, the devil is in the details, my friend. God knows that!

Fizzy or flat?

Parle Agro felt the need to re-brand Appy Fizz. It got a new agency from the US called Sagmeister and Walsh. Haven’t heard of it? Neither have I. That doesn’t mean anything in itself. The look of the new logo is nice. Fizz is the centrepiece. And it looks like it’s rising nicely in the branding. Appy is incidental. Tomorrow it might be orange or guava. But they will fizz. And then you have Priyanka Chopra at her fizziest best. Looking great and acting very, well, ballsy. Not my first choice of words. It is inspired by the word in the TVC. And the music is nice and peppy. But the overall effect of the film? Flat. Sorry! What a waste of all that fizz! And all those balls. Whatever they were supposed to mean. Ever heard of Make in India? Not just the drink …

V for Vikrant

What do you think of when you hear the word Vikrant? For me, it’s a mélange of images of an aircraft carrier signifying the pride and strength of a free India. Of brave men and women and of aircraft making daring landings on what looked like an impossibly small runaway. And so I was very keen to see the three-minute edit of a film of Sons of Vikrant which has been made by Bajaj Auto for its new motorcycle. I was moved by the sentiment it expressed. I liked the logo, the word “Invincible” emblazoned along with it, and was blown away by the idea of a company that took the metal from this ship and converted it into motorcycles. I hated the fact that the Government sent the Vikrant to a scrapyard and so it was a rebirth I was delighted with. But communication for this great idea needs to be very powerful and widespread. Because I fear if I go back to the first line in this piece, and asked the young motorcycle rider what images flashed through her young mind when she heard the word Vikrant, I’m really not too sure what her response would be. But with a three-month waiting period already clocked in, maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am. I want the Vikrant to rise and ride again.

Ramesh Narayan is a communications consultant. Mail your comments to

Published on May 12, 2016

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