Guest Column: That Airtel Ad, and why it's a very bad idea

Only in advertising will you get a spouse who gives you space, is your boss, doesn't go all python-grip on you, drives home in her own car and cooks non-bhindi-type food, says Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, Creative Director, Grey Worldwide

e4m by Bodhisatwa Dasgupta
Published: Aug 18, 2014 8:05 AM  | 7 min read
Guest Column: That Airtel Ad, and why it's a very bad idea

It’s a little after 6 in the morning on a Sunday. There’s a lukewarm mug of microwave-made coffee in front of me that I learned to make from the wifey. A cigarette resting carelessly on the ashtray out in the balcony, to which I’m going back every now and then. The sky has begun to turn orange.

Perfect cue to start writing.

I’ve been asked repeatedly over and over again to write about that new Airtel ad. And yet, everything I have to say has already been said hundred times over, more eloquently than I could have managed.

The likers have liked it, the haters have torn it apart. Some say it shows equality in the workplace, some are appalled at how the woman comes back home to cook for the husband.

Isn’t she as tired as the man? In this progressive 21st century, should a woman spend her hours slaving in the kitchen?

Meanwhile, Aggie is having a cold beer with a 7 foot giant with hair like Rapunzel.

Personally, I don’t care much if the woman cooked, or didn’t cook. Doesn’t make a difference to me or the plot. Although I am curious as to what the man said when his wife asked, “Tum dinner mein kya khaoge?”

I’m inclined to believe he said something to the effect of “Tumhara sarr.” Or maybe, “Bataun tereko?”

Leaving trying to decode unsaid dialogues aside for a minute, I think this is a terrible idea.
Not the ad. I like the ad.

But this entire thing of couples working in the same office. I’ve been there, so I know.

And at the risk of being politically incorrect (yet again), and at the risk of pissing off pretty much all of womankind, here’s why a couple-who-wants-to-stay-a-couple should never, ever work in the same office.
In no specific order of logic.

Firstly, you can’t flirt anymore. And before you jump at my throat saying “women can flirt too, you male chauvinist swine”, this goes for both, men and women. So forget about that harmless coffee with the new intern, the surprisingly long smoke break with what’s-his-name-with-a-terrific-smile-from-the-Bombay-office, or the team motivational lunch that comprises of you and a starry eyed damsel who takes a bath in Davidoff Cool Water.

The only person you are ever allowed to drink a glass of water with, smoke with, eat lunch with, go for a walk with, go home with, is your spouse.
And (I may be generalizing here, but) if you’re a man, know this. It takes a micro second for a woman to link two un-linkable things.

A break up is but imminent.

(She, crying to her friends): “He cheated on me.”
(Friends, in Greek tragedy styled chorus): “How can you tell? How can you tell?”
(She, looking into her Louis Vuitton bag for a tissue): “He wasn’t on his seat.”
(Greek Choir): Oh that’s bad, oh that’s bad. The scoundre-e-e-e-e-e-l.

But let’s say you have an open-minded spouse. (Do you also have a unicorn?) There’s that little problem about timing.

You’re going to the same office. Doesn’t make sense to take two cars, right? Carbon footprint and all that yada yada. So, you go together and come back together.

Which really means that once your work is done, you perch albatross-like on your partner’s shoulders. “Don’t let me hurry you,” you say.
And yet, the claws of the albatross dig deep into the neck.

If your wife/girlfriend has to work late, interesting conversations are on the cards. That usually begin with “You need to get your priorities right.”

(In sing-song voice) B-r-e-a-k u-p.

But let’s assume that you have an open-minded spouse who synchronizes his/her work with yours. You still have that problem about lunch.

Strictly for the men, this one. Well mostly, anyway.

Reliable studies show that most of the times, men discard their lunch boxes the minute they reach their office. So the neatly packed bhindi masala, or chole chawal, or paneer bhujji, or chana daal go to the office peon.

While the men go out and get some real food. Lunch over and the day done, they return home with their lunch boxes deliciously empty. “What a good boy you are”, they’re told and get rewarded.

Now consider if you will, the consequences of having your woman partner at work.
“Listen, I’m just stepping out for a bite.”
“With whom?”
“With my team, who else?”
“Any women?”
“Yeah, I think so. One or two.”
“Please, please don’t make a scene at work.”
“You already have lunch. I packed it for you. Eat that.”
“But I don’t like chole.”
“Oh, so my choles aren’t good enough for you anymore? The fact that I lovingly made it with my own two hands means nothing to you?”
“But you didn’t. We have a cook.”
“Fine. Fine. Can you please stop raising your voice? People are looking.”
“If you’ve already made up your mind about going, why did you bother to ask me?”
“I didn’t. I just told you.”

At this point, the woman starts chasing the man around office with a woofer, trying to aim for his head.
(Appointed speaker at guy’s team) Sir, you coming?
“No, you guys carry on. I’ve got chole today.”

Fine. Let’s say you have an open-minded spouse who synchronizes his/her work with yours and doesn’t force you to eat chole. (Congratulations, you’re one in a zulti zillion.)
You still have a problem. 

I call it ‘The Python Maneuver’.

Young couples in public space, by and large, feel compelled to stake claim to the property every five minutes or so. It’s primarily to keep competition away, although they’ll tell you “What? I love you. Can’t I just stroll over a hundred steps and give you a little kiss?”

Grip getting tighter. Can’t breathe.

Men are worse.
We’ll just go and plonk ourselves on our woman’s table. And speak in hushed whispers.

“Don’t you think your top is a little too deep?”
“Don’t be silly.”
“I’m serious. I can see everything.”
“That’s because of the angle. You’re sitting on my table. Nobody does that, apart from you.”

Coils around your neck. Getting claustrophobic.

You go back to your seat, sulking a little. And in a few minutes, her boss comes to say something to her. Leaning on the table, he carelessly sits on it. You run to your girlfriend and say the one word that’ll ensure you don’t talk to her in a long, long time.


I’m not saying it doesn’t happen – this couple working together thing. It does – I know a few myself. But should it?

In my opinion, this arrangement should be avoided like the plague. Do anything you can to make sure your spouse never works with you. Say the company isn’t hiring or something. Say there’s a rat menace. Make up fictitious stories about the person your spouse will be reporting into.

Because only in advertising will you get a spouse who gives you space, is your boss, doesn’t go all python-grip on you, drives home in her own car and cooks non-bhindi-type food.

Only in advertising.

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Mars Petcare awards digital mandate to 22feet Tribal Worldwide

The agency will handle social media, website development, campaign ideation, content creation and SEO strategies for brands Pedigree, Whiskas and Sheba

By Neeta Nair | Jun 8, 2023 8:57 AM   |   2 min read


22feet Tribal Worldwide, part of the DDB Mudra Group, has added Mars Petcare to its portfolio of clients. The digital creative mandate will make use of 22feet Tribal’s expertise in social media, website development, campaign ideation, content creation and curation, and SEO strategies for their brands Pedigree, Whiskas and Sheba.

The Indian pet care industry is flourishing as adoption continues to rise. The pet food market alone is expected to touch Rs 10,000 crore by 2025 with people spending approximately Rs 23,000 annually on pet food and treats. Moreover, pet parents are aware and mindful about what goes into their pet’s food.

Mars Petcare embraces the knowledge and awareness around pet food. It strives to attain its goal of ‘a better world for pets’ through innovation and research to provide them with the best nutrition.

Speaking on the partnership, Madhur Khanna, Marketing Director, Mars Petcare, said, "We are excited to have 22feet Tribal Worldwide on board with us to manage the social media mandate of our market brands - Pedigree, Whiskas, and Sheba. As we looked to further our presence and bring larger innovations in the Indian market, we were looking for a partner with comprehensive expertise and command of the digital ecosystem. I am certain that this partnership will yield remarkable results, and I look forward to working together with the teams in complete synergy." 

Vanaja Pillai, President, 22feet Tribal Worldwide, commented, “We are beyond excited for this opportunity to partner with one of the most loved pet care food brands globally and in India. Many of us at 22feet are pet parents ourselves, and we understand the deep love and connection people have with their furry companions. The pet care industry is seeing tremendous growth and opportunity in India, and a large part of this will be aided by digital brand building. With 22feet’s commitment to creating digital experiences that lead to action, we are confident of the impact we can drive in this partnership on these exciting brands.”

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Nu launches its first ever campaign

Features indie artist Namita Dubey in advertising films to highlight Nu’s range of air conditioners, televisions and washing machines

By exchange4media Staff | Jun 7, 2023 4:33 PM   |   2 min read


Nu, a latest entrant in the premium consumer durables category, recently launched its first marketing campaign “Live Better” to target aspiring Indians looking to upgrade their lives. 

“Conceptualized on the brand’s philosophy of extending state-of-the-art technology, superior performance and outstanding design, the brand uses a multi-faceted marketing approach with pleasing visuals and relatable experiences to build a brand and product recall,” the company said.

Nu has leveraged both traditional and digital channels to make inroads with its audience. The brand is debuting its marketing initiatives with OOH presence, newspaper advertisements and a nine-part series of advertising films featuring upcoming indie artist Namita Dubey.

Commenting on the launch of the marketing campaign, Khushnud Khan, Nu’s Co-Founder & CEO shared, “As a marque brand, Nu brings premium electronics within reach of Indians who aspire to ‘Live Better’. Our campaign is a testament to our innovative and creative spirit, embodying our brand values. We aim to showcase how Nu’s product range can make your life simpler, more convenient and helps you ‘Live Better’. We are thrilled with the amount of excitement and curiosity it is generating and captivating the minds of Indian consumers”

The brand films highlight key features of air conditioners, washing machines and televisions via everyday household scenarios. These films have been directed keeping in mind Nu’s primary target audience—aspiring Indians, who have been looking for premium solutions to elevate their everyday experiences. 

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Vijay Deverakonda stars in campaign for Wild Stone CODE

The TVC is set to premiere during the 2023 ICC World Test Championship

By exchange4media Staff | Jun 7, 2023 3:18 PM   |   2 min read

wild stone

Wild Stone CODE, the renowned male grooming brand from McNROE, has released a TVC. 

The campaign introduces its range of premium fragrances: Pyro, Terra, and Acqua. The film features actor Vijay Deverakonda.

The TVC is set to premiere during the 2023 ICC World Test Championship. Opening with an enchanting scene set in a mystical palace, Vijay strides confidently amidst a blazing inferno. The intensity of the flames mirrors the inner drive and indomitable spirit that CODE perfumes embody. This visually striking representation epitomizes a man embracing his inner power, harnessing his passionate energy.

Ankit Daga, Head of Business Development at McNROE Consumer Products Pvt Ltd, expressed his excitement about the milestone and said, “Inspired by the elements that shape our very being, the collection consists of three Perfumes — Pyro, Terra, and Acqua. Each fragrance carries a distinct charm, inviting consumers to embrace a personal expression and celebrate their individuality through an immersive sensory experience.”

Vijay Deverakonda, the heartthrob and popular movie star, exuded his enthusiasm for the collaboration, stating, " I was absolutely thrilled when Wild Stone CODE approached me with the concept of Perfumes crafted from the elements and the campaign planned for Pyro Perfume. It truly embodies the fiery passion that burns within every man. The remarkable dedication and commitment that CODE brings to delivering exceptional grooming experiences perfectly resonates with my personal belief in the significance of self-care. Our collaboration aims to empower men, encouraging them to embrace their individual style and feel their absolute best."

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Best ads of the fortnight: Colgate goes toothless, Amazon has a 'Fresh' idea

Some of the ads launched between May 15 and 31 that caught our attention

By exchange4media Staff | Jun 7, 2023 9:06 AM   |   3 min read

best ads

It’s a brand new fortnight and a brand new set of ads of us to appreciate. Between May 15 and 31, we got to see some brilliant spots that truly surprised us with their creativity. From Colgate’s toothless mascot to Amazon Fresh’s AI-generated hyperlocal ads, these are some of the best campaigns that caught our eye. As always, this is not a ranking and they have been listed alphabetically.

Ageas Federal Life Insurance

VMLY&R created a “Sachinverse” for client Ageas Federal Life Insurance’s brand ambassador Sachin Tendulkar. Calling the campaign “an optimistic vision of the future”, the virtual campaign comprises Sachin in different avatars and animation styles, talking to viewers about what promises the future could hold – learning without classrooms, robots that assist us in the kitchen and virtual lives becoming our social lives. The digital-led campaign stands out in terms of its execution and fresh thinking.

Amazon Fresh

Amazon Fresh leveraged the power of generative AI to create a series of films starring actor Manoj Bajpayee. Using NeuralGarage’s ‘VisualDub’, a generative AI tech, the company repurposed its Hindi commercial by dubbing it into seven different Indian languages. The generative AI tech also helped in matching the lip movements to the regional dialogues, making them look native and authentic.

Britannia 50 50 Golmal

Britannia’s new campaign for 50 50 Golmaal stars Indian cricket great Ravi Shastri in a sweet and nutty avatar. Playing an eccentric coach for a cricket team, Shastri doles out “golmaal” advice to the players to turn the match in their favour. The campaign comprises five films and has been conceptualised by Lowe Lintas, Bangalore.


It’s counterintuitive for the toothpaste to have a toothless mascot, but Colgate did just that and won hearts. The ad is centred on a toothless grandmother who champions the use of Colgate Strong Teeth to empower her “Cutting Machine” granddaughter. The former reasons that the toothpaste will give the necessary “poshan” to the tot who in turn will lend her a helping pair of teeth to tear through tough sugarcane and plastic packages. The film is conceptualised by WPP@CP. 


OnePlus recently launched an ad film to showcase the range and capabilities of the OnePlus 11 5G’s  3rd Generation Hasselblad Camera. The film is visually splendid, a fact that seems even more impressive while considering that it’s shot entirely on the phone. It features stunning visuals of nature in all its glory, each drawing parallels with the human body. Complete with uplifting music, the ad is one of the best ones we saw during the fortnight.


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MullenLowe comes up with new brand identity

The new logo was created by MullenLowe U.S. and led by head of design João Paz

By exchange4media Staff | Jun 6, 2023 11:30 AM   |   3 min read


MullenLowe has unveiled its new global identity and a refreshed positioning, created to unite the network across 57 markets globally and differentiate it from competitors. MullenLowe sees the octopus evolve from an operational mascot to a kindred spirit that visually represents how brands need to grow today.

The agency’s positioning is underpinned by research revealing innovative brands grow at twice the pace of their competitors, and brands that continue to innovate grow seven times faster.

“Our icon offers the perfect metaphor. The octopus has survived over 300 million years precisely because of its fluidity and ability to adapt. It is the only organism that routinely self-edits its own DNA—a model for how brands should behave today,” says Kristen Cavallo, CEO of MullenLowe Global.

The new brand identity was created by MullenLowe U.S. and led by head of design, João Paz.
“We want to challenge the way brands show up in the world. Our octopus is not afraid of change; it’s in its nature, its DNA. We embraced that with a fully generative identity, crafted to show personalization at scale,” says Paz.

The new logo doesn’t live by the rules of logic. It breaks free from any type of symmetry and rigidity. With no corners or end points, it changes and moves and behaves in different ways. “Our octopus is alive. It has a will, a personality, and, above all, it wants to move. With its endless twists and turns, it has the freedom to reinvent itself infinitely,” adds Paz.

MullenLowe invites its more than 4,000 employees globally to design their own octopus using a generative app. “We want the design system to reflect who we are and allow each person who’s part of MullenLowe to make their own mark,” says Paz. It allows users to customize the octopus for email signatures, social and profile icons, and even the background of an Apple Watch.

The fluid octopus is paired with a bespoke wordmark that is stark, reliable, and firm in its logical Serif treatment. It grounds the funkiness of the octopus, combining emotion with reason. While the octopus welcomes the new, the wordmark pays tribute to the past and the agency’s long-standing heritage.

In addition to all the individual iterations, a pattern was created to represent inclusivity and the coming together of all the unique expressions and people who make up MullenLowe.

To complete the visual identity, the system includes its own trademarked typographical treatment. The octopus’s tentacles morph into letters and numbers that create a full typeface from A to Z, and from 0 to 9.

The identity has rolled out across the agency’s communications touchpoints, including the website and social media. It will be splashed across office walls and with highly anticipated swag. The new look goes beyond design to create renewed energy, pride, and confidence in the network’s next chapter.

“This is more than just a logo redesign. We have a point of view on how brands grow, and we built our identity and voice to reflect that belief. In a rapidly changing world, more of the same is not the path to long-term success. Brands need to earn and continually defend their unfair share of attention,” says Cavallo. “Products might be boring, but brands can never afford to be.”

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Pitch not perfect: Is the rule book a solution?

Beginning this week, e4m Editor Naziya Alvi Rahman will write on a host of issues in the advertising & marketing world. In today’s ‘Naziyanomics’, she talks about the pitch process & its intricacies

By Naziya Alvi Rahman | Jun 6, 2023 8:45 AM   |   7 min read


It was in January 2023 that I first learnt about a big brand deciding to scout a new agency for its media buying. The pitch was called and the brand - with a significantly large size - was an instant dream account for every agency. But soon after the brand floated the terms and conditions, a few agencies backed out right at the start. Others braced themselves and went ahead.

This brand is known to be a tough one. It has just imposed a hefty penalty (rumoured to be around Rs 50 crore) on its incumbent agency for failing to deliver the promised Gross Rating Points (GRPs). While the incumbent agency claims they are not at fault and its global team is contesting it out with the brand’s global team, it has definitely sent out a message to every agency in the servicing industry.

This, however, is not the only brand that is involved in muscle pulling. Insiders say there are 10-15 big brands that have been giving agencies nightmares. They are more frequent at calling the pitch and are hard negotiators. With every pitch, they demand the pricing to go further low and margins to shrink.

In another case, a brand sent a confirmation email to the agency conveying its selection. It also conveyed regret to its incumbent agency. A month passed and just before the final agreement was to be signed it had a change of heart and decided to retain the existing agency. This was after the former client invested a good four months into the process.

Succumbing to such clients, the advertising body in Europe is believed to have initiated the process of drafting a rule book that could help make the pitching process less taxing for the agencies. There are speculations and a hope that advertising bodies in India may consider bringing all agencies together and draft guidelines that can make the process more fluid.

On average, three to six resources work on a pitch depending upon the size of the business. Clients often give a time frame of three weeks to three months to prepare the presentation. A more systematic approach will make things more cost-effective and viable for the agencies. I have collected during my series of conversations with several agency heads some solutions that can ease the process for the industry.

  • Uncertainty hurts 

The brand I mentioned in the intro took six long months (half the year) to announce the agency it had finally chosen to partner with. Similarly, another big brand that had called a pitch in July 2022 gave the outcome by mid-March 2023. Such a prolonged process puts pressure on the incumbent agency and all the participating agencies. Brands should be encouraged to set specific deadlines for each stage of the pitching process, ensuring that agencies are not left in a state of limbo. By implementing a streamlined timeline, agencies can better manage resources, focus on delivering their best work, and avoid unnecessary anxiety.

  • Clarity on evaluation criteria:Another area that demands attention is the evaluation criteria used in the pitch process. Agencies often find themselves uncertain about the factors that will be considered during the assessment. The problem is more frequent with mid-size and smaller clients. This lack of clarity can lead to ambiguity and subjectivity, which may adversely impact the quality and creativity of the pitches. To alleviate this issue, brands should clearly define and communicate the evaluation criteria at the outset. Criteria such as agency size, scale, expertise, and innovative approaches should be made transparent. This will enable agencies to tailor their presentations accordingly and provide a fair and objective basis for comparison. 
  • Relaxed cap on malus: Agencies pay clients back for not achieving specific deliverables. Penalties in the form of malus clauses have become increasingly common in pitch contracts. While these clauses aim to hold agencies accountable for specific deliverables, they can create an imbalanced power dynamic and deter agencies from participating in pitches altogether. It is important to strike a balance between accountability and fairness. Implementing a cap on malus penalties can ensure that agencies are not disproportionately burdened by financial consequences if they fail to meet certain performance metrics. This approach will encourage agencies to participate actively in pitches and promote a healthier working relationship between agencies and brands. 
  • Rate confidentiality:Rate confidentiality needs to be protected by ensuring that a very limited number of people at the client’s end have access to the submitted rates. Clients expect their data to be treated with utmost care. What about the other way around? Confidentiality is a cornerstone of professional relationships and should extend to the rates submitted by agencies during pitches. Currently, clients often demand access to detailed rate information, putting agencies in a vulnerable position. To maintain trust and ensure fair competition, it is crucial to limit access to this rate information to only a select few individuals on the client's side. By safeguarding rate confidentiality, agencies can freely present their proposals without the fear of compromising their competitive edge or jeopardizing their negotiation positions. 
  • Sanctity of strategy and ideas presented in a pitch:Many clients use a pitch to gather ideas that they use with impunity, even when they do not award the agency the business. Pitching is not just about presenting capabilities but also sharing strategic insights and creative ideas. However, agencies frequently encounter situations where clients utilize ideas presented in pitches without awarding the business to the agency that originated those ideas. This practice undermines the trust and collaboration essential for a successful partnership. To address this issue, brands should uphold the sanctity of strategy and ideas by implementing policies that protect agencies' intellectual property rights. 

Besides these broader points, some ambitious suggestions would include introducing a pitch fee. Considering the amount of time and resources an agency invests in preparing for the pitch, it may just be fair to compensate them in case they lose it. Most developed countries have begun to pay agencies a fee for participating. On average, three to six resources work on a pitch for three weeks to three months depending upon the size of the business. 

Clients in developed markets also engage in “chemistry meetings” with their potential agencies to understand the work culture. Being a service industry, people are the central force here. Hence it is extremely important for both the agency and the client to understand each other’s work culture. 

Clients have a stronger say now than a decade back 

Today CMO and marketing heads have a much more granular say in the marketing and media planning process. Things were different two decades ago. CMOs today know what they want, why they want and their inputs factored in choices and plans.

When exchange4media started 23-plus years back, the clients had a much lesser say and media agencies and media CEOs, planners and buyers had a much larger voice.

In a recent case, a media agency CEO was asked by a CMO of a particular brand to reinstate an employee who worked with him on the account or face the consequences of losing the client. While in this case, the CEO did not succumb to pressure, in many cases they do. To make the relationship more equal, agencies too can be engaged in a rating system where, on the condition of anonymity, they are allowed to rate the client.

Again, this practice is prevalent in many developed markets. Perhaps it’s time to bring the much-needed balance back into this relationship. For now, it seems Client ich Bhagwan hai.

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Seagram’s Royal Stag launches campaign featuring Ranveer Singh

The campaign embodies the spirit & attitude of today’s generation

By exchange4media Staff | Jun 5, 2023 6:23 PM   |   2 min read

royal stag

Seagram's Royal Stag has launched the Live It Large campaign. This campaign embodies the spirit & attitude of today’s generation, the Generation Large that strives to re-define the paths to success. 

The impactful new campaign features Ranveer Singh. Exemplifying the attitude of the brand’s campaign, “We Want It All, We Want It Aaj. We Are Generation Large!”, Ranveer also perfectly illustrates Royal Stag’s evolved new philosophy – “It’s Our Life. We Live It large.” The film also features global cricketing stars, Suryakumar Yadav and AB De Villiers.

The new campaign seamlessly integrates three important tenets of the brand: the Generation Large philosophy; the Live It Large gesture, the de-facto ritual of the Generation Large and the Golden Stag brand iconography. The Live It Large gesture is a reflection of how the Generation Large zooms into each moment of their life and lives them to the fullest; it’s also a natural gesture for today’s digital-native audience. The campaign will be amplified on all major platforms cutting across TV, digital, print and OOH in an impactful manner.

Speaking on the launch of the new brand campaign, Kartik Mohindra, CMO, Pernod Ricard India, said, “Royal Stag has always been an iconic brand with a young heart that inspires us to live it large. Our latest campaign captures the spirit of today’s generation which does not hold back, embodies self-belief and wants to maximize life experiences. The new campaign unveils a distinctive and youthful visual identity that’s fresh, energetic, and most importantly embodies the ethos of this new generation, the Generation Large. It will give further impetus to the brand’s transformational journey as it transcends from being a category leader to a cultural icon, emboldening what we stand for at Pernod Ricard, being ‘Bigger. Bolder. Better.’ Truly, this campaign has it all to propel the brand into new horizons and conquer new frontiers.”

Brand ambassador Ranveer Singh said, “I wholeheartedly resonate with Royal Stag’s new ‘Live It Large’ philosophy. It’s the philosophy of my life as well. It is all about embracing each moment and giving your best to it. It is amazing to see how an iconic brand like Royal Stag is evolving with times to connect with its audience on a deeper level. The campaign film is youthful and energetic, a true reflection of my way of life.“

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