Thursday, my simple self went to Youtube to once again listen to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. There’s not too much that can’t be solved by that song. They even have a Happy India and Bangalore and Chennai video which I’m sure you all already know. Imagine my surprise when the ad I’m forced to watch for 3 seconds was the new Durex one with Ranveer Singh. All set to skip in 3 seconds, I found myself mesmerized by this outrageously rapped extravaganza.
Why? Because I was cringing and laughing and wondering exactly how the hell the ad passed the Indian Censor Board. All of this was happening to me, all at the very same time. It would have been absolutely retarded even five years ago, to think such an ad with a mainstream star would be allowed an airing. What mainstream movie star would do such a shocking advertisement? Yes Durex is a condom company and thus able to go to the extreme in their advertising. Yes they managed to rope in Ranveer Singh who’s got no boundaries to how crazy he’ll get. Yes, with the internet and social media, the lines can be pushed beyond where they can go in traditional media. Still, what has been created together is dynamite. The ad pushes all boundaries with a level of sane sensibility towards casual sex rarely seen in India. It is more in touch with the Kejriwal generation. Utilizing their leading man to his fullest and capitalizing on what is traditionally Indian…our ability to express joy through dance, the boring ‘safe sex’ message was made fun. Really “sex,” has not been celebrated in such a way since the Kama Sutra. I know, I know, impossible to talk about this subject in the Indian context without mentioning the ancient tome.
It is even braver for Reckitt Benckiser, the parent company.
Unlike most people I got over my condom embarrassment a long time ago. Like every MBA who gets a job at J&J Consumer, I assumed I’d be selling baby powder. Imagine a 20’something Indian middle class girl being put on a condom brand. As I was returning to Canada after many years away, I’d not even heard of the brand Shields. I’m not even sure I knew they had a condom business. (J&J has since sold the Shields business in Canada). Of course I did the only thing that Indian kids do, when they just know their parents will never understand: Lie. Just to make sure I didn’t slip up in a lie only told to family, I told most everybody that I worked on baby products. I kept myself up on J&J powder and found snippets to talk about where I substituted condoms with baby products. While this was happening at the outside world, after spending several years broadly understanding lots of businesses, I went to work understanding the specific ways of my business and jumping in to take ownership. I spent my days coming up with ways of figuring out how to grow market share from Trojan and Lifestyles. Though condoms in Europe are known as Durex, and the company is huge in Asia, they were not a big player in Canada at that time. In meetings, my colleagues always jokingly threatened to tell my parents that I really worked on ‘anti-baby’ products if I didn’t agree with what they were proposing.
Coming back to creativity the purpose of this blog, this ad can be used as an example to clarify much about how society moves forward. I’m 100% positive that to get to this particular little ad-film, Digitas LBi, the ad agency in question had ideas which played safe and many which were way wilder. To get here I would bet that decisions were made and approved up and down all levels amidst much laughter, hand wrangling by a few and lots of statistics about what would resonate with young people. Each idea once narrowed down was iterated over and over again until the message was sharpened. We haven’t even gotten to the casting, the shooting and the words to the ‘rap.’ These are all inherently creative endeavors which are all about iterating until the most miniscule flaws are taken out.
What’s the learning here for you? Though you may have gone up the rungs of school and college by getting all the answers on a test right, the only useful skill you learned in school is the ability to work focused for long periods of time and the ability to follow instructions. Life is about realizing that there is no right answer and that you’ve got to write your own questions. People rise in careers by having better, newer, fresher ideas and having the guts to persuade others so these ideas can implemented. Bas. It’s that simple in theory. In practice though, it takes dedicated time and effort to learn to do things over and over again to achieve “better.” Like Ranveer Singh the outsider who’s made inroads into Bollywood by pushing boundaries, use your energy to think how the everyday tasks you encounter can be done smarter, can be done cheaper or think of what tasks you are not doing which may build your business. Of course be smart, no need to dance or dress crazy…save that for your off duty time, just make sure your brain thinks crazy all the time.
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