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Ariel, Surf Excel, Nirma lead the way in changing the face of detergent category communication

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 Ariel, Surf Excel, Nirma lead the way in changing the face of detergent category communication

The communication in the detergent category has undergone a decisive shift in the last couple of years. Most recently, Ariel’s ‘Share the Load’ campaign won the top honours in the newly-launched Glass Lion category at Cannes this year. The campaign done by BBDO, Mumbai stressed on a very simple and a pertinent question that ‘Is laundry only a woman’s job?’, thus spreading the message of equality within the household. On the other hand, a category where dirt and stains have always been portrayed as bad, Surf Excel’s ‘Daag Ache Hain’ campaign has been playing on the paradox of dirt being good by showing children doing good deeds and getting dirty in the process. The brand started with ‘Lalitaji’, and with the help of the iconic character did the job of educating consumers that the product might be premium, but if a budget conscious woman like her is not compromising on the quality, even they shouldn’t. She soon became a household name and homemakers started identifying with her. This was during the 1970s when with the launch of lower priced brands, the challenge for Surf was to justify its premiumness. Also around four years back, Nirma returned with their second-most popular property ‘Hema, Rekha, Jaya and Sushma’ after the iconic Nirma girl communication and launched their campaign which showed the lead ladies getting their hands dirty while pushing out an ambulance stuck in a pit, while the men just stood and watch. This ad was different from the earlier one where spotless white sari-clad happy mothers and frock-clad girls were shown with Nirma detergent packs in their hands.

Click here to view some of the ads:

Old Nirma ad:

Nirma Ambulance ad:

Ariel Share the Load ad:

Surf Excel Daag Ache Hain:

Surf old ad (Lalitaji):

According to KV Sridhar, Chief Creative Officer, SapientNitro, the genesis of the change in this category goes back to the 80s when Ariel first came to the Indian market. “It was an expensive product compared to the other detergents available and they launched their campaign ‘Bahu aj se tera hi system chalega’ which was quite a revolutionary concept at that time. The ad showed how a daughter-in-law convinces her mom-in-law to use Ariel and the later even acknowledges it by saying that ‘From today, it will be your decision in everything’. This was like the seeding of the social change which was about to happen and it started after that. Then in the 90s, it was Ariel again with their campaign ‘Kuch Paane Ke Liye Kuch Khona Padta Hain’, which showed a husband calling over his friends at home and the wife had to do the cooking, it was only after his friends left, the wife asked the husband to wash their linens. The tonality of this TVC was quite ahead of its time. Finally, the third campaign was a global TVC ‘Dirt is good’ for Surf, which was done by BBH and the same campaign was brought to India titled as ‘Daag Ache Hain’ in 2005. It totally changed the course of Surf, which earlier was only about removing stains.”

He further added, “The functional benefit of all the players in this category is the same, they can clean, and they can remove stains without damaging the cloth. But the only way you can be different is by talking about the emotional benefits, like, don’t worry about dirt, you go ahead and do good deeds for the society, we will take care of the dirt.”

Josy Paul, Chairman & Chief Creative Officer, BBDO India feels that creativity in India no longer sits on the fringes. It stands right in the middle of society. “Clients are not just taking risks, they are taking sides – and going all out and aligning themselves with national agendas. It is no longer just about selling but about leading consumers to a higher plane. “In a country where 90% of women do all the household chores themselves, the campaign set out by asking an important question on national media: ‘Is laundry only a woman's job?’ The brand then stepped forward and launched the first ever 'his and her' pack. Not enough, it tied up with matrimonial websites where marriages are arranged to promote this discussion. Ariel even got clothing brands to re-look at their wash care labels and add a new washing instruction ‘Can be washed by men and women',” he cited. Other than the thought provoking TVC, Ariel also roped in Mumbai’s Dabbawallas, who helped them deliver the message that laundry is not solely a woman’s job, along with their lunch boxes, to men across the city.”

Vishnu Srivatsav, Creative Head, DDB Mudra South and East said, “It’s not just the detergent category that has evolved. What you see reflected in the detergent category is the larger evolution of advertising. Most brands are moving into more engaging and evolved advertising as the consumers’ ability to process more and understand more from advertising. Ever since Surf Excel's ‘Daag Achche Hai’, the narrative of this category has changed irrevocably, because it drove a higher order of emotional appeal. One assumes they started with a premise that there was product parity in the market. Once parity occurs, the advertising gets better and better.”

The Nirma ambulance ad which was released in 2011 was done by Taproot, and speaking on the creative insight, Santosh Padhi, Chief Creative Officer & Co-founder of the agency said, “The society has changed a lot and we give tremendous respect to women today, so if we continue to show them still washing clothes, they obviously won’t like it. The ambulance campaign shows that while the entire world is watching the tamasha, these modern looking women go ahead and help. We have used certain category clichés like mud and dirt to put across the story. Advertising works purely by studying human behaviour and now with the change in consumer’s mind-set, portrayal of things is also getting changed and this applies for every category. The P&G (Thank You Mom, Olympics) campaign is a beautiful example of brands reflecting the thought of the society. The more you touch on these subjects; the better is the brand connects with the consumers. The best part of these ads is that you are not glorifying anything, but telling the truth.”

Tags Vishnu Srivatsav DDB Mudra Santosh Padhi KV Sridhar Sapient Nitro BBDO Josy Paul Taproot

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