Pernod Ricard’s ‘Music CDs’ arm Seagram’s Imperial Blue is probably the only brand which has featured men in the maximum number of life situations in its campaigns. Men in suits, men working out, chivalrous men, bike-loving men, flying men, fat men, dating men, married men – all of them have found place in the brand’s ‘Men Will Be Men’ campaign over the years. (Well, that’s the way for a brand which has men of all shapes and sizes as its TG.) The latest ‘Men Will Be Men’ ad features a hospitalised man (acting unconscious) whose heartbeat rises as the lady doctor touches him. The ad, like the ones that came before it, is simple yet makes a mark.
The brand Seagram’s Imperial Blue has been built on the back of witty and tongue-in-cheek advertising. (We’ve listed the brand’s ads over the years at the end of this article.)
The central idea of the campaign was crafted over a couple of decades ago (in the late ’90s). The hummable tune “Pyaar Ki Rah Par Chalna Seekh….” of the campaign was crafted by former Ogilvy hand Ajay Gahlaut. In an in depth interview with afaqs! in 2017 when the brand had launched three TVCs (Office, Home drop and Plane), Gahlaut mentioned that women cannot write the best Imperial Blue films as they don’t think like men. Gahlaut moved on from Ogilvy and joined Publicis Worldwide India as the agency’s chief creative officer and managing director in early 2019. However, while Gahlaut moved on, the ‘Imperial Blue’ account remained nestled at Ogilvy.
The new version of the campaign has been crafted by a team headed by Ritu Sharda, chief creative officer, Ogilvy North. Given its history and the high bar set for the brand’s advertising, we ask Sharda about the challenge. “So much good, iconic work has happened on this brand that finding a new cut is challenging, but it’s a challenge you look forward to. ‘Men Will Be Men’ is proof that a good idea evolves with time and stays timeless,” Sharda responds.
But how does one find a fresh ‘men’ case every time?
“A woman knows exactly how a man would think. So, it was great fun digging into all the observations and stories from the men in my own life, as we sat down to write this year’s campaign”: Ritu Sharda
“Being a woman, it was interesting to bring a different and fresh perspective on this. A woman knows exactly how a man would think. So, it was great fun digging into all the observations and stories from the men in my own life, as we sat down to write this year’s campaign. And it worked very well,” Sharda adds.
“Every ad that we have done resonates with real life incidents,” Gahlaut had told us in 2017, in the context of the ‘Imperial Blue’ commercials launched that year.
While only one film from the new campaign has been released, a second ad film will be released soon.
But what is the ideal frequency of TVCs, i.e., how can it be kept consistent and not become repetitive? Also, what changes once the reins of a brand’s advertising have changed hands?
Navin Kansal, chief creative officer, 21N78E Creative Labs, says, “It can be challenging to keep one central idea alive and kicking. But the beauty of ‘Men Will Be Men’ is the timelessness of the idea. And as long as men will be men, there will always be some food (or beverage!) for thought. It never ages, even if the viewing demographic does and I think they do relate to it.”
“Be it Imperial Blue or Fevicol or the slew of ‘Aam Zindagi, Mentos Zindagi’ commercials- they all come to life when there are powerful ideas and scripts that do justice to the enduring themes that they have come to be associated with. There is no ideal frequency as long as the commercials whet one’s appetite to look forward to more. That’s a job well done.”
Speaking about the new ads in relation to the high bar set over the years, Kansal says, “Comparisons can get odious but the thing with nostalgia is our propensity to look back at times that were, with rose tinted glasses. Yes, those commercials (the older ones) are iconic and have a stature that is very tough to replicate. But we ought to be looking at them in the context of this day and age and see if the tropes of intelligent wit, incorrigibility and subtlety stay true. On those counts, I think this commercial delivers.”
KS Chakravarthy (Chax), chief creative officer, Tidal7 Brand and Digital says, “Very often, the challenge of keeping a single creative idea alive for many years begins right up front, when you choose to bet on a particular idea. And the challenge is deciding if the idea has true extendability, for years and for decades. In the case of this campaign though, it wouldn’t have been much of a challenge. In fact, the challenge was probably in choosing the specific execution with which to start – I am sure Ajay Gahlaut, the original brain behind it, would have already had many scripts when he first presented it, and would have had to pick one or two.”
Speaking on the frequency, Chax says, “You could do an idea every month in the days of TV, or every day in the digital world. The only limitations are the client’s budget, and the speed with which you can churn out genuinely good ideas.”
Chax expresses his liking for this particular execution, saying, “Not as much as some of the classics (my favourites, off the top of my head, being ‘Rose darling’, ‘Anniversary’and the two glad-eyed husbands at the supermarket), but I find it simple and effective. In fact its strength is its absolute simplicity. So while it is not particularly insightful, it does leave you smiling.”
Speaking on the impact of the brand’s change of hands, he adds, “Do I miss the master’s hand guiding this particular ship? Not really, at least not yet – even the wittiest campaign does drop to being merely good every now and then, and this is by no means the weakest execution till date. The real trick will be to stay true to the idea in the future, instead of feeling the need to change a truly enjoyable campaign underpinned by a great insight.”
Anupama Ramaswamy, NCD, Dentsu Impact mentions that the challenge of coming up with a different story for the same idea, every year is far more difficult than coming up with a completely new idea. “I find it highly commendable that a brand has been able to sustain one idea for two whole decades. For a brand which is running the same idea for over two decades, it is alright to not be as frequent as other brands, rather it is more important to come up with the right execution. Also, an idea that continues to hold the audience’s interest even after so many years is one which is truly creatively powerful,” she says.
“Since the idea is the same, liking it is not difficult. The film does bring a smile to your face. But the organic nature of the previous films is not there. If you notice, all the previous films were a general human behaviour or pattern. But this one relies a tad bit more on a device. It is definitely different from its previous cousins,” Ramaswamy signs off.