Ad Review 2008: India’s best is not the world’s best, says Sonal Dabral

In the recently concluded Ad Review 2008, organized by the Bombay Ad Club, Sonal Dabral, Chairman of Bates David Enterprise India & regional Creative Director Asia Pacific, took on the reins to review some of the finest pieces of television commercials produced in India. Dabral urged Indian advertising leaders to look for best of the resources in the world in order to have an impact globally.

e4m by Rishi Vora
Updated: Mar 10, 2008 7:28 AM
Ad Review 2008: India’s best is not the world’s best, says Sonal Dabral

In the recently concluded Ad Review 2008, organised by the Bombay Ad Club, Sonal Dabral, Chairman, Bates David Enterprise, India, and Regional Creative Director Asia Pacific, took on the reins to review some of the finest pieces of television commercials produced in India.

The event, which was sponsored by Xerox, saw some doyens of the ad world honoured by the Ad Club that included the likes of Alyque Padamsee, Prahlad Kakkar, Piyush Pandey and Dabral himself.

Receiving a memento, Padamsee urged CEOs and agency heads to look at making more social ads and create more awareness on issues like AIDS and education. “We should reserve 2 per cent of our profits to producing ads for public service. It is our corporate responsibility to do this – to spread awareness about social issues and how to tackle them. Besides this, I think India has now started to produce quality work that can be at par with international standards. But still, a lot has to be done for truly making a mark internationally.”

Pandey, too, had a point to make, but on a completely different line. “I am a big follower of cricket, and now that India’s under-19 team has won the World Cup, we should promote youngsters of this country to make them 10 times better than what they are today.”

Subhash Kamath, CEO, Bates David Enterprise, was the host for the evening. In his opening remarks, Kamath said, “The Ad Review till today was an event in which one speaker would give his views on his collection of ads produced in the year. This year, we wanted to make it different. We spoke to all the agencies on this, and the feedback I got was to make the event more interactive, and have a different perspective. Is there a way that we can discuss the best in the world, and India’s standing on the world stage, was what we chose as a subject for discussion. And for this we have two popular industry figures in Sonal Dabral and Kishore Biyani, CEO, Future Group, along with Anuradha Sengupta of CNBC TV18.

Dabral takes the reins

Dabral took the stage and had the audience in splits with his mimicry act of the traditional way of selling things at public places in that peculiar style of pitching that even today could be often seen during train and bus journeys. On a serious note, Dabral reminisced, “In 1992-93, I had heard Alyque, who did the review that time, and what interested me in that review was one of my commercials in his list. To my delight, he lauded the ad after which I became more popular in the industry. But what mattered to me the most was a small pat on my back by Piyush Pandey.”

He continued, “I am intellectually challenged, and hence, in this review I am not going to discuss or analyse trends. Instead, we will celebrate creative advertising by discussing great ideas and executions.”

Dabral selected only eight ads out of 200, which, according to him, were the best commercials produced in the year. The brands that featured in his list were Radio Mirchi, Fevicol (latest commercial), Videocon Air-conditioners, Reliance Mobile, Volkswagen, Vodafone, and commercials of Neo Sports for its India vs Pakistan campaign.

Dabral explained, “These commercials are the best in the business, at least in India, if not the best in the world. The casting, the shots, the pace, the music and the dialogues, all seem to be in complete sync with the message of the film. India can, and in fact has, produced some fantastic ads, but the problem comes when you compare them with the best of works in the world. There are only a few Indian ads that can be said to be at par with the best in the world. These are ads like Happy Dent, The Times of India’s Lead India campaign and Nike cricket commercial.”

Dabral further said, “Thus, with these commercials, there is no doubt that India can beat the world’s best. But to do that regularly, I think we should not restrict our resources to national boundaries. There can be a film director who could be in Thailand, while an art director could be in some other country. And if you know that these people are the best in the business to deliver, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t go for them. The attitudes need to change, especially of the clients’. The agencies should step in here and urge clients to not think about constraints, instead showing them the right path to produce the best in the world.”

To back his point that India’s best was not the world’s best, Dabral showed a slew of international commercials for brand such as Coke, Reynolds, X-Box, Dove, Honda, Combos, Bravia, etc.

Biyani versus Dabral

Soon after Dabral’s analysis on his chosen commercials, Biyani, the retail face of India, took over the stage, along with Sengupta, who moderated the panel discussion. And Dabral was all ready to defend his points. When Biyani remarked that ad agencies were making ads for themselves and not for the consumers, Dabral vociferously defended the advertising fraternity. He said, “I completely disagree with Biyani. I think we are pretty much focusing on the consumer. No ad man can afford to forget the consumer because he is pretty much the king. Yes, I do agree that in cases of brilliant ideas, we do fall in love with them and that we tend to own it. But that doesn’t mean we forget the consumers.”

Biyani also found fault in one of Dabral’s selections. According to Biyani, the Nike cricket commercial, which Dabral thought was one of the best in the world, was only promoting fake Nike products in the market, reducing the overall sales of the company.

Having spoken like a true Indian businessman, Biyani said, “It is the masses in India who follow cricket religiously. I doubt that a major chunk of this section have the purchasing power to own an original Nike, be it any product. The grey market is there in running, and in such a situation, a commercial like this will only boost the share of duplicate products in the industry.”

Dabral skillfully veered away from Biyani’s point as he said that curbing piracy was a problem for the corporates to address and not the advertising agencies.

Also see:

Xerox partners with Ad Club’s Annual Ad Review 2008 to showcase ‘Wacky Talky 08’

Bates David Enterprise’s Sonal Dabral to take charge of Ad Review 2008

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