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My favourite ad of all time: Cadbury’s ‘Cricket’ commercial of 1993

A simple concept and some nifty dance moves was all it took for Ogilvy's creative star Piyush Pandey to make India's ad of the century, transforming both the Cadbury's brand and the country's advertising scene for the next two decades, writes Dhiren Amin

The usual cliché in picking your favourite ‘anything’ – film, meal, match or moment is that there are so many it is tough to pick just one. This is the result of employing a rational approach to a question about instinctive choice.

I went through the same rational process – arrived at a shortlist, did the left-brained marketer’s exercise of looking at the most effective pieces of creative work in terms of sales or category impact, worked through a retrospective journey linking the brief to the final creative – you get the drift.

Until I realised that I didn’t need any of this to help me identify my favourite commercial. All I needed to do was think about the one commercial that I was first inspired by. Remain inspired by till today.

The one piece of work that made me smile, every time I saw it. The one piece of work that I keep going back to, as inspiration for work we should be authoring. That is: Cadbury’s ‘Cricket’ commercial from India, 1993, created by Ogilvy & Mather’s star ad man Piyush Pandey.

Everything about this ad is simply enthralling.

The gay abandon with which Shimona Rashi does that absurd but wonderfully heart warming dance. A melody so infectious that you end up remembering most of the lyrics in the first listen. Lyrics so uplifting that they can brighten up the gloomiest of days. The acting so pitch perfect; you can’t find a fault if you tried.

All coming together to make a commercial that’s soul purpose is to make you feel happier. Happy – now that’s an instinctive reaction. A reaction that’s hard to come by, especially for commercials.

Cadbury Cricket ad: ‘Acting so pitch perfect; you can’t find a fault if you tried.’

The difference between mediocre and great communication is in the crafting, which this piece of working is evidence to. On the face of it, it is just a commercial about a girlfriend dancing with joy when her boyfriend hits a century.

But then came the meticulous crafting. The selection of the actors. The nuance in the writing and direction– the aghast reaction of the commentator, the old man’s look of disbelief, the boyfriend’s embarrassed expression. The attention paid to the lyrics and the tune. And the old but necessary bugbear of seamlessly integrating the product into the story.

While the following is just hearsay, the fact that it has a backstory of the agency; O&M India being put on notice when they crafted this commercial just adds to the myth.

Whether or not it was meant to re-launch the brand, it did change the perception of Cadbury’s in India – making it a more rooted, Indian brand, standing for all things worth celebrating in the country, a narrative the brand evolved over the next 20 years.

It came at a time when India was going through a period of significant change – the sweeping impact of post liberalisation, communal tensions, a just-about stabilising government. In the face of uncertainty, this was a piece of communication that was about unabashed happiness. While it would be disingenuous to assume it had any impact on the country’s psyche at the time, it was a commercial that chose to highlight a sentiment of extreme joy, not in line with the general mood of the country.

It also played a significant role in changing the language narrative of Indian advertising. While the shift from an ‘anglicised’ advertising eco-system to local languages had begun since the mid-1980s, the success of this commercial would definitely have accelerated this shift.

In a marketing climate that is increasingly about data-driven decision making, this commercial serves as an inspiring reminder that good marketing is about great crafting. A commercial so good, you almost wonder if the brand will do a re-interpretation of this for today’s times, in which it would still remain just as relevant and enjoyable, if not more. A piece of work that transcended all divides – regional and generational.

To shamelessly modify a quote from the commercial: “That’s the real taste of great marketing.”

Dhiren Amin is the head of marketing, South East Asia at The Kraft Heinz Company

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