Detergent advertising has reached new highs - or new lows - depending how you look at it. The latest ad for Surf Excel is trying to sell us the idea:"Daag accha hai."
This particular ad seems to have been given the following brief: Housewives love cute kids. Find two such specimens and build some story. After all, it worked for Pepsodent ...
So you have a little girl who stains her dress by walking through a puddle. And a little boy 'hitting' the puddle to punish it for spoiling the girl's dress - in the process becoming quite a mess himself. Cho chweet no?
It's the 'daag acccha hai' line at the end that's hard to stomach. It's no fun getting your favourite clothes stained, and never will be!
Are you washsome, tonight?
Of course, it is tough being brand manager of a detergent. You have to produce 30 seconds of brand communication to air in the ad breaks during K serials. Year after year. Even though you have nothing new to communicate...
Everything that could be said about the benefits of cleanliness and daaglessness has been. Husband ka promotion, society mein izzat, bachche ka future - all the demons have already been invoked.
I have a little bit of inside info on the world of detergents, having spent 2 months of my life conducting an elaborate survey on 'wash attributes'. This was part of my MBA summer training at Lintas.
In those days the 'Bombay 1' unit handled all the Lever's business and was regarded simultaneously as the most prestigious and most pakau of assignments. I once spent a day fascinated by an artist making 15 variations of Rin packaging. You had to look very carefully to notice the difference between 'em!
But it was a somewhat interesting time as Ariel had just been launched and Surf had a fight on its hands. Personally, I was an Ariel fan - it had made the washing of clothes in the hostel so much easier than the traditional ragadte raho method.
I have completely forgotten what findings the survey threw up; if any. But I will never forget that there were 17 'wash attributes'. Cleans... Whitens... Keeps clothes bright... Keeps clothes like new... Removes stains easily... Removes tough stains... Gentle on hands... Keeps husband faithful ...
OK, I made that last one up but you never know. Going by the fanatic devotion wives in detergent ads have traditionally had towards whiteness and brightness, I'm thinking there has to be a deeper, primeval reason.
Wonder if Marilyn Monroe's problem might have been not using the right detergent. Maybe gentlemen really prefer whites. With fresh lemony fragrance.