Jingles are a form of sound branding where the sales pitch is sung to a musical tune. It is pretty popular in our country. When I was trying to trace back its origin, I found it in Urdu poetry. Nazeer Akbarabadi wrote various poems on various fruits, sweet meat, etc. to help its sellers sell there wares better. All these poems were collected by legendary playwright Habeeb Tanveer and was used in his classical play Agra Bazaar. Here I reproduce a part of his poem titled “Kakdi” to illustrate my point:
क्या प्यारी प्यारी मीठी और पतली पतलियां हैं गन्ने की पोरियां हैं रेशम की तकलियाँ हैं फ़रहाद की निगाहें शीरीं की हंसलियां हैं मजनूँ की सर्द आहें लैला की ऊँगलियाँ हैं क्या ख़ूब ककड़ियाँ हैं क्या ख़ूब ककड़ियाँ हैं
Padma Shri Manoj Bajpayee’s prolific career has been accentuated with numerous awards for his spectacular performances, and the latest addition is the National Film Award for Best Actor 2019 for his searing portrayal of a retired cop – Ganpat Bhonsle – in Bhonsle.
The actor extraordinaire has traversed a long and exciting journey across the medium, from television to films, and then OTT, navigating his way through each medium with deftness, and in between, he has also made interesting forays in the world of advertising to promote/endorse brands that he can relate and connect.
“I come from a middle-class rural family, and that’s my biggest identity to date. I proudly wear it as a badge of honour on my sleeves. I was born and brought up in a village, and I have always flaunted being a farmer’s son with immense pride. It is the core of my being, my work and how I choose to do what I do. I am extremely choosy about the brands. The brand has to reflect my identity, and I have to relate to the product/service and connect with the idea that the brand wants me to portray onscreen.”
Manoj Bajpayee, actor
The choices that he has made further endorse his belief on all that matters to a common person – home, finance, farm, and food – and rightly so. Here’s a rundown of the brands he chose to endorse in 2021, and his reasons for doing so.
On January 25, the actor surprised his fans and followers by tweeting that he is planning to sell his Bandra home and solicited help in looking for a suitable buyer.
On the other hand, actor Rajkummar Rao posted something similar – tips on home buying in a new city.
The duo’s posts on social media invited curious reactions from all quarters, and their fun home buying and selling journey ended with the launch of Housing.com’s campaign, #YahanSearchKhatamKaro, a few days later. The social media posts were activated before the campaign’s launch and worked wonders in creating a favourable buzz around the idea.
“The campaign has highlighted the integration of technology in the real estate business. The tech-enabled services can make the process simpler and considerably ease the innumerable challenges posed by the pandemic, and reduce the burden for a consumer, be it a home buyer, seller or tenant,” states Bajpayee. The reason for choosing this campaign was his strong belief and backing for technology. “Technology can be a great enabler in any given field, and it is a tool if used wisely can do wonders in making our lives a tad easier,” says the actor.
The ad featuring actor Manoj Bajpayee on a quest to sell his house and finally find the perfect buyer by listing it on housing.com.#YahanSearchKhatamKaro
Counting on his charisma
In February, Bajpayee chose to associate with Zee Cinema and Tata Capital’s campaign, Heroes Ka Jazba, to honour the sacrifices made by India’s COVID-19 heroes. The campaign was integrated with Tata Capital’s #KarzNahiFarzBhiHai initiative of launching ‘Shubharambh’ loans with lesser EMIs, flexible and higher tenure with eased flexibility.
“The campaign had topicality and was an apt way to start 2021, with hope, happiness and a promise to help the frontline workers who kept our lives going during the tough times of the pandemic, just like heroes do,” he says, reflecting on his choice.
The brand endorsement was innovatively pegged around Bajpayee’s 2020 release Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari (playing on Zee5). Together, along with the film festival on Zee Cinema in February, it paralleled Tata Capital’s Count on Us idea. Bajpayee gave his touch to the concept by explaining how, like his character, the pandemic has been weighing us down, and had become ‘Bhari’ in our lives, adding how the Heroes Ka Jazba salutes the real-life heroes. He urged all to rise up like a hero and win against this real-life Mangal (pandemic). “The advertisement personified a promise and heralded optimism, and that’s what was needed to start life afresh back then,” he says.
Life ki har chunauti ka saamna karne wale heroes ke shubharambh mein unki madad karna humara #KarzNahiFarzBhi hai! Watch Tata Capital presents, Heroes Ka Jazba on Zee Cinema every Saturday night at 8 and begin your hero story again by applying for a Shubharambh Loan today! #CountOnUs https://bit.ly/2ZcvwQt
Bajpayee and actor Priyamani became the face of fintech platform Rupeek’s first integrated advertising campaign early in September. Together, they made the idea of availing a loan against gold an unchallenging idea for the middle-class to pursue. “I know from my own experiences that securing a loan can be a challenge for the middle-class. It has always been an emotionally taxing process. I could see the huge potential that Rupeek’s proposition brought forth. The use of technology-led hassle-free doorstep gold loan offering at the lowest interest rates could very well become a disruptor in this segment,” he emphasises. The claim of offering online gold loans to its customers with minimal documentation and the lowest interest rate of 0.69% per month clicked with Bajpayee.
The TVC featuring the actors shows them walking in avail gold loan, getting disheartened at the whole process of waiting in long queues, paying high-interest rates and going through the tedious documentation process, leaving them sorely disappointed. “I loved the idea. The advertisement highlights the struggles faced by people in availing gold loans and how the company solves the credit pain. The advertisement is for the common man and woman, who need to take pride in using their gold to access credit in a safe and tension-free manner. I chose the brand because it was a credible idea, and I could relate to the thought,” he adds.
We know that gold is precious to you. Which is why, when parting with it, you don’t deserve to wait in a long line, and be put through tedious procedures. That’s why Rupeek comes to your doorstep in 30 minutes. With Rupeek, sab kuch ghar baithe baithe ho jayega. That too, at an interest rate as low as 0.69%* per month. Ab se, #SonePeLoanRightFromHome.
In his second outing for the brand, the actor chose to endorse Mahindra’s new Farming as a Service (FaaS) business, Krish-e. For the unversed, his first brand endorsement for the Mahindra Group was for Maha Bolero Pik-Up many moons ago.
The Group recently launched the first digital video commercial for the crop advisory app early in October. It banked heavily on the brand value of Bajpayee as a son of the soil and used his credibility to its advantage by highlighting the unique benefits of the app. The reasons for choosing this brand for endorsement were obvious – a proud farmer’s son and his humble ways of returning the favour.
Elucidating it further, he says, “Technology is a great enabler. It has changed the landscape of so many sectors, including agriculture, and for good. Farmers can use this app and benefit from the unique combination of expert advisory. The app offers a fertiliser calculator, pesticide spray calculator, digital book of accounts and a diary to maintain the credit and debit details for the farmers. Krish-e has leveraged science and technology to help farmers reduce costs, increase productivity, and ultimately farmers’ income.”
Krish-e by Mahindra rightly calls itself #ChamatkarNahiYehHaiAvishkar. The agriculture app provides a personalised crop calendar for the farm by leveraging the combination of technology and farming expertise which improves the crop yield for each farmer. Krish-e app provides premium agricultural advisory services for various crops and boosts the crop yield. These Agri advisory services offer a scientific and personalized crop calendar for every farm. Krish-e is the best-in-class agriculture app providing end-to-end crop planning, i.e., land preparation, seed treatment, nutrition, and harvesting. Available in 8 popular Indian languages, this farm app is the preferred technology solution to boost your farm yields.
The actor has no qualms in admitting that he has had a fair share of struggle and strife to survive in the world of cinema. “The accolades in India and abroad that celebrate me and my roles is a profoundly humbling experience. Still, I choose to look at all of it objectively and avoid being indulgent,” he says. His cinematic journey is akin to the rigour and persistence required for small and medium businesses (SMBs) to survive and thrive in the post-pandemic world.
He chose to endorse another fintech FloBiz in October. Capitalising on the brand Bajpayee, the neo-bank for Indian SMBs aims to accelerate its outreach to the SMB sector and promote the adoption of its flagship product, myBillBook, a simple to use GST billing and accounting software. The series of ads under the core theme of #BusinessKoLeSeriously will highlight the power of digital solutions to improve the performance of SMBs and take them on a growth path. “I was impressed, once again, at the power of technology and how small and medium businesses can benefit from it. SMBs are an integral part of our economy, and the pandemic has made it paramount for businesses to go digital. FloBiz’s myBillBook is a dedicated digital tool that has immense potential to change the landscape of SMBs by accelerating its growth in the right direction,” says the actor.
The brand’s core theme remains #BusinessKoLeSeriously. The witty script has helped the actor explore his sarcastic self to the hilt and use it to his advantage to take the messaging forward.
Billing sahi na ho to payment collection ek joke ban jata hai! Jaanein kaise kar sakte hain aap sahi billing aur timely collection myBillBook ke sath. Business ko 5X badhane ke liye, myBillBook download karein aur apne business ko digital banayein! Best billing and accounting software for Small & Medium Businesses in India. Agar apne business ko lete hain seriously to abhi download karein myBillBook!
Food and friends = Fun
Food has the power to evoke memory, bring people together and transport people to places, and who wouldn’t love that. The actor relived a nostalgic moment with his offscreen friends and co-stars — Pankaj Tripathi and Nawazuddin Siddiqui — while shooting two TV commercials for BL Agro, a leading FMCG company’s signature brand, ‘Bail Kolhu’, mustard oil. The first in the series was about the actors fondly reminiscing their cinematic journey, from their nondescript villages to the city of dreams, and released in May 2021.
The second one has them recounting the smell that conjures up food memories and shows the camaraderie that Gangs of Wasseypur actors share while feasting on a lavish spread prepared in mustard oil. Khushbu Ka Yaadon Se Rishta remains the tagline and shows how the actors connect with the idea and each other.
To see these three actors sharing screen space is a truly delectable treat, and who better them to convey the message of the 50-year-old signature brand, which has become a household name over the years, much like the trio.
Veteran advertising legend Ayaz Peerbhoy had established MAA in 1959. I had joined MAA in 1967. In 1973, we launched Ensor Razor Blade, a TTK product, and during that exercise, I realised that Advertising is the 4th P of Marketing. His son and my friend Bunty was handling the account, and besides media, he made me handle the promotion schemes for consumers and retailers. We organised contests for consumers and retailers. Not many in the current generation of advertising professionals would know about “The Mystery Shopper Scheme”. Why is it run amongst retailers to promote a product at the launch?
Mystery Shopping is a process in which a person visits a retail store, restaurant, bank branch, or any such location to measure the quality of customer experience. Many companies define detailed processes and parameters to ensure that customers have a good experience in their sales locations. Some examples are: How customers will be greeted What is the maximum acceptable waiting time What is the ambience of the place How many products should be on display, etc. A Mystery Shopper visits the location pretending to be a customer and carefully notes things they have been asked to measure. The data is reported to the mystery shopping company, who compiles and analyses data gathered from different locations to help their clients measure and improve their customer experience.
But for our Ensor blade campaign, we used a three-pronged marketing plan for our product. Two of them involved the retailers, while one was for the consumer. Spread over 45 days, I was responsible for all three – Mystery Shopper and Display Contest for the retailers and Complete the Slogan Contest for the consumers. I remember travelling from Churchgate to Borivali in the Western suburb, and then again, went about covering all the areas in the Eastern suburb, all in a day. In a way, I covered 36 cities in one city in a day. I say so because the area around a station in Mumbai is a city itself, isn’t it? Phew! It was too much travelling, but the interactions with the people fuelled my energy levels and kept me going. The Mystery Shopper Scheme was on for about 45 days, and since the product was new, we had given prior intimation to the dealers about the same. That one and a half month were quite crucial because it was a pre-launch activity for Ensor blade. The advertising campaign was to be launched after this period, and in the meanwhile, we got ample time to check the inventory, keep the spirits high for the retailers and build a buzz among the customers. Sometimes the mystery shopper used to go to the shops to buy a blade. He couldn’t ask for a blade straight away. As a regular customer, he would buy many items before asking for a blade brand. If the shopkeeper gave him an Ensor blade, the mystery shopper would reveal his identity and give him ₹1000 in cash right away as a “loyalty prize.” The mystery shopper had to get an invoice signed and then hand over the money. If the shopkeeper didn’t give Ensor blade to the mystery shopper, then it was the mystery shopper’s job to enlighten the shopkeeper about the ongoing promotional scheme. It used to be a considerable amount in those days. The exercise was to promote and encourage the customers to buy the Ensor blade. It was a mutually beneficial scheme where both the mystery shopper and retailer used to benefit. Both of them stood a chance to get a handsome amount in return. In the Display Contest, we had given some promotional material to the retailers, and we expected them to display them at their outlet. The jury used to go around the city judging the best retail outlet, and the retailer stood another chance to win a prize. We also had a contest for the consumers. They had to complete a slogan, and in return, they used to get some goodies. But this one was difficult because I had to liaison with different government departments to ensure that this one was skill-based and had nothing to do with chance. I remember spending long hours at the government offices ensuring that there was no breach of the law, especially for the consumer contest. I had to ensure that this one didn’t fall under the ambit of the Maharashtra Lotteries (Control and Tax) and Prize Competitions (Tax) Act, 1958. I had implemented this scheme personally in Bombay (as it was called then) because my dear friend Bunty was handling the brand, and he had immense belief in my “marketing talent.” I can bet that not even 5% of advertising professionals would know about the Marketing Schemes because guys do not think Advertising has anything to do with Marketing. Sadly, Marketing has become more of Sales. Hence, nobody is willing to guarantee the product’s sale as a result of the advertising campaign. We, even today, ensure the achievement of marketing goals, provided the Client doesn’t interfere in our job.
The first-ever readership survey in India was conducted in 1971, by ORG if I remember right. After that, subsequent readership studies took five years gap to complete. Research agencies kept changing, and differences of opinion led to Roda Mehta parting ways with Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI). Roda showed her middle finger to AAAI and established “Her Own” outfit called Media Research Users Council India (MRUC India). I recall an interesting incident with Roda. When AAAI decided to start Media Planning Workshops, I compiled the manual for workshops. The day manual was released, my friend Bahadur Merwan, who was on the sub-committee with me, called me. Bahadur said, “Jameel, Roda is upset with you. She may sue you.” I asked, “Why Bahadur? What did I do?” Bahadur replied, “You have taken page 1 to page 15 of your manual from Roda’s manual and haven’t bothered to give her credit.” I was stunned, but very calmly, I replied, “Bahadur, please tell Roda that my source is the book called Media Planning by James Adams. I shall be grateful if Roda could tell me what her source is.” What conversation took place between Bahadur and me after that will go to my grave. Anyway, I am told now MRUC publishes Readership Study every year. Whatever I could look at tells me what study being published by MRUC seems to be “Desk Research.” 😉
During my stint at MAA, I was associated with Sheel Kumar and Swadesh Chaddha of Radiowani. We used to produce radio commercials. One commercial is still stuck in my head, even after 43 years. It was for Singer Sewing Machine Needles. The commercial was: चल चल चमेली बाग़ में मेवा खिलाऊँगा मेवे की डाल टूट गई तो? चादर बिछाऊँगा चादरका कोना फट गया तो? दर्ज़ी बुलाऊँगा दर्जी की सुई टूट गई तो? सिंगर की सुई लाउँगा Those were the good old days of advertising!
David Ogilvy had once famously said, “Unless your campaign has a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.” True that.
My dear friend and colleague Gopi Kukde of “Onida Devil” fame and I tried to work around this thought when we got Leon International aboard as a client. The foreign brand offered various products ranging from switches and sockets to suit every need, with safety as the priority.
It was entering the Indian market with a lot of hope. Our job was to make the right noises for the brand to be noticed by the target audience – the engineers, architects and interior decorators – who would eventually recommend the product.
It was a premium brand in this segment. Leon International’s switches and sockets cost Rs 150-Rs 10K during those days while the Indian products came much cheaper.
We deliberately avoided a celebrity to endorse these products because it was a standalone brand with little or no competition in the Indian market. Also, because we believed that these switches and sockets came with ample credibility, it alone could help the product live up to the 4Ps and keep the promise made to its customers.
In hindsight, I feel the TVC was a simple but fantastic idea. It showed only the hands painted with different flags moving towards the switch. The last one was the hand with the tricolour on it. The copy below was crisp and clear in its messaging. It said, “Leon International, Now in India.” With that, we had announced Leon International’s arrival, made an impact and reached out to the target audience.
The media planning and buying were sharp in their approach as well. We had promised the brand that we would deliver value for money, and I am glad we could do it. The brand spent a frugal amount, but got a good deal in return. We managed to get 20 ad spots on a leading news channel’s two of the most popular programmes, five of them during prime time. It was quite a catch, cheap and best.
It helped us cut across the clutter and steer the brand safely, and anchor it in the minds of the prospective customers who would eventually buy these products. It happened, and that too without any celebrity endorsement. The initial splash helped the brand make inroads into the Indian market and has sustained it all along. I don’t remember them doing any advertisements after their debut outing, and that’s why I say that a good start is a good beginning, always.
I lost my mother in 1969, 12 years after my father’s demise. I was all alone in this world with two young brothers. To fend for myself and my siblings, I had joined my father Abid Gulrays’ friend Ayaz Peerbhoy’s Marketing Advertising Associates Pvt. Ltd. while pursuing my studies. I was working with Murli Manohar Swarup for the Indian languages copy and radio department. Simultaneously, I was also working with the media department as an assistant to M.A. Khan. On March 12, 1971, Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Rajesh Khanna-Amitabh Bachchan starrer Anand had released. I was, and still am, a movie buff, so I had to watch the film on the first day itself, if not the first day, first show. That evening, I had booked my ticket for the evening show at Regal and had planned to scoot after calling it a day at work. The theatre was across the road, and the show was to start at 6.15 pm. Just when I was about to leave office, my boss Murli Manohar Swarup walked up to me and said, “Today, I have got a sudden engagement. Sanforized Ke Mehman’s next episode is scheduled to be recorded at 7.30 pm. Jameel, you will have to go to HMV studio to supervise the recording.” I replied, “But Sir, I have booked my ticket for the evening show, and I am going to watch Anand.” He was pretty curt in his response. “Either watch a movie or build your career. I leave it to you,” and walked away in a huff, leaving me in a fix. No doubt, I had a difficult choice to make, and quickly because it was already 6 pm. The Hamletian dilemma got the better of me. Whether to be at the Regal theatre or the HMV recording studio was a tough call.
I was visibly upset with the sudden change of plan because I felt it was unfair on my boss’ part to assign work, and that too, after office hours. But Mr Swarup was my boss, and come what may, and I had to abide by his impromptu order. I didn’t want to miss my movie, but Mr Swarup’s words were echoing in my ears, loud and clear. “Either watch that movie or build your career.” Finally, I tore my movie ticket and went on to supervise the recording. I learned to give precedence to business and not mix it with pleasure, but instead work with pleasure. Such is life and its invaluable lessons. 😊 And to date, work alone gives me Anand (joy), quite literally.
In February 1977, I met K. Kurian, founder and chairman of Radeus Advertising, for the first time. He was interviewing me for the post of Hindi copywriter in the agency.
He said, “Before I ask you any question, I want you to look at our existing Hindi advertisements and give your comments”.
Then he called for all his clients’ guard books. I don’t think today’s advertising professionals would know what guard books are. A guard book is an advertising agency’s internal archive of work done for a particular client.
First, the guard book was for Firestone Tyres.
In the first ad, in its first two sentences itself, I could spot errors. I asked him, “May I please get a pencil, Mr Kurian?”
He was amused and wondered, and rightly so. “Why do would need a pencil?” was his question.
I replied, “To mark spelling errors, first.”
Mr Kurian shot back, “You mean to say our published ads have spelling errors?”
Well, yes, they had. But he was gracious enough not to get offended, and that’s how I bagged my copywriting job at Radeus.
Today, spelling errors ain’t a great deal because “sab chalta hai dude.” 😀😀😀
A trip down memory lane, reminiscing my professional association with the Milkman of India on Amul’s 75th anniversary that also coincides with his centenary year celebration. Truly, it is nothing but ‘pyaar ki meethi bhent’ for someone I deeply admired.
We are supposedly in a galaxy made up of about 200 billion stars and an all-encompassing halo… Looking back at one of the strongest influences in my life, I cannot but liken this man, who the world calls the ‘Milkman of India’, to this galaxy, ironically also called the Milky Way.
My first encounter with Dr Verghese Kurien, the man behind AMUL, GCMMF, NDDB, IRMA, was almost four decades ago. I first met him as a raw, young advertising man who was introduced to him as the media planner on the account. I knew him as my client. My first encounter with him set the course of what I term as my coming of age in advertising.
Dr Kurien was, what most advertising professionals today may term, a terror. But again, which client isn’t, one may ask? But the terror here was not the one who would yell or scream or misbehave or want one to do stuff his way. In fact, he was just the opposite. A client who called his agency, briefed them, set targets and cordially told them he would meet them a year later… if we met the targets, we continued servicing AMUL; if we did not, he would give us a warm send-off. Now which advertising professional would not find this terrorising… an invisible sword hanging over our heads that reasonably said, meant perform, increase sales and continue on the account. If you fail to meet the marketing goal, EXIT! Clear. Precise. Unarguable.
When I first met him, I felt I was starting school. Still, after continuously servicing his account for 17 successful years, meeting targets year after year, I felt I had successfully graduated and post-graduated, year-on-year, with honours.
The man was clear in his vision, precise in his method and unarguably accurate in what he believed was good for the farmers. His indefatigable attitude of taking a bull by its horns made sure he successfully took on every challenge thrown up by the white revolution. When the problem of excess milk going to waste surfaced after AMUL successfully harnessed the massive support of milkmen, who contributed directly to the co-operative eliminating middlemen, he started the manufacture of AMUL milk powder. When he saw multinationals successfully market milk chocolates, his next thought was ‘why not AMUL’ and here came Amul Milk Chocolates…
The introduction of AMUL milk chocolates was a chapter in communications by itself. The chocolate went through multiple modifications to suit the 4 Ps of marketing. When it melted in summers due to retailers not having refrigeration to store it, he introduced carton packing to keep the chocolate safe. When it came to fighting out the frequency war in advertising, he, like the dream client he was, quickly took on my media suggestion of running 10-second commercials to every ‘slice of life’ commercial of the leader.
We re-wrote the way creative worked, by aligning them to adhering to ‘only 10-second commercials’. At one-third of the budget, AMUL Chocolates soon captured the nation’s heart with its ‘A Gift for Someone You Love’ proposition.
His journey to make AMUL a head-on competitor, if not a leader in every milk product category, drove him to manufacture condensed milk, a product he felt was not as good as the competitors despite several modifications. But he was relentless in his pursuit of taking the co-operative to heights none of its shareholders could imagine.
The story of the co-operative’s success behind the “Anand Pattern” of dairy development, which today has been adopted all over the country, was captured in the Shyam Benegal movie Manthan. This was the first time in India that a feature film was financed by farmers — the 500,000 farmers of Gujarat, as part of Dr Kurien’s Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation.
In 1994, when the agency where I was working for, Radeus, another co-operative, was surreptitiously sold off to what is now TBWA-Anthem, Dr Kurien withdrew the account stating, “Your agency may be up for sale. My account isn’t.”
Maybe the man behind India’s most successful co-operative movement felt as cheated as us, that his namesake Kurien, the head of Radeus had committed this breach.
For more than five decades, this ‘Milkman of India’ blazed many trails, taking his dream project to dizzying heights. India is what she is today due to the contributions of great men like Dr Verghese — an engineer who gave up the prospect of a good life and walked into a village to lead India to her glory. Rare is such selflessness, and rarer is the ability to see the largesse such men build, not for themselves but the masses. After struggling and fighting against middlemen and establishing a profitable co-operative, he saw the path he had made slowly obliterated, with none other than his protégés in an uprising against him. Dr Kurien was subject to utmost humiliation, by none other than those who served and were mentored by him, and finally gave up by resigning in 2006.
He, however, continued to stay in Anand, which from an unknown, remote village transformed into an invigorating, recognisable and exemplary speck on the world map. Today, many shall sing his praises, and many of these would be his detractors, who put this great man through ignominy. But like all great men, he too must be laughing all the way, at this farce that will be put up, as a good show, devoid of all sincerity.
I pay my heartfelt tribute to this man, who is as much a reason for my success as my other mentor, his namesake Kurien. My book would not have been what it is if it was not for the experiences I earned from Amul.
As I bid remember my dearest teacher, I cannot but recite this apt couplet, “Woh log humne ek hi shokhi mein kho diye, Paida kiya falak ne jinhe khaak chhan kar”.