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How relevant is ’70s in new-age retro ads?

22-June-2004
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How relevant is ’70s in new-age retro ads?

What’s the pre-occupation with the retro cult? You have wonky hair dos, bell bottoms, the rock ‘n roll and the milkshake dance – all swarming on the tube and the options are as varied as cold drinks, news channels, toothpastes, biscuits and chewing gums.

The biggest testimony of the new-age ad genre is the recently released ‘Wakao’ campaign for Vanilla Coke that features actor Vivek Oberoi in a Shammi Kapoor mould, albeit with the Elvis Presley puff. And let’s not forget the ‘Kya Aap Close up Karte Hain’ jingle, which is a strong reminder of KL Sehgal’s singsong tone. If that’s not all, we have cream biscuit brands tuning into songs of the bygone days and ads like Mirinda (the haircut ad), which showcases bell bots and Egyptian style rambling.

With more and more ads of the same class and attitude, thronging the small screen, one must wonder whether the ads leaning on the retro-look are turning into a cliché of sorts.

An upbeat Arvind Sharma, Managing Director, Leo Burnett, sounds enthused by the retro-ads. “I love retro ads. Most people from my generation can relate to commercials a lot more now that they sport look-alikes from the 70s and the 80s. It’s a fashion statement as well. You now have youngsters who aspire to look like the icons of yesteryears, and in the process, a lot of brands get sold. It’s a communication strategy that appeals to both youngsters and oldies and it does keep the cash registers ringing. But the ‘go retro’ fever isn’t just restricted to brands alone; it’s hit on other avenues as well – be it Indian cinema, pop music, news channels or radio stations,” he says.

Sharma unwaveringly turns down the ‘cliché’ aspect, admitting that unrestricted continuation of the trend would certainly drift that way. “You can judge the success by the tremendous rate of response from the Wakao campaign, which is a riot amongst both kids and adults. But if we continue with the current spate of ads, it could definitely be an excess of sorts,” he maintains.

For Prasoon Joshi, National Creative Director, McCann Erickson it’s not the advertising community’s mandate to decide if retro ads are in fact turning into a worn-out formula. “The consumer is the only person who can decide if a particular style of communication is losing its fizz. I am in the business of advertising, and it’s natural that I would be overtly critical about someone else’s work. The logic to the entire thing is that if retro ads were indeed becoming a cliché of sorts, consumers wouldn’t think twice about switching their TV sets off. The fact that they are still watching and most importantly, buying the brands, is testimony as far as the popularity of some of these commercials is concerned,” he makes his point.

Throwing up a befitting reply to critics of the ‘Wakao’ campaign, Joshi says: “I don’t really need to emphasise on the kind of impact that’s been generated by this particular campaign. The word ‘Wakao’ is the new jargon used by school kids, teenagers and young adults and the recall value is tremendous. It is not my job to understand what appeals to a handful of advertising professionals. But my job certainly involves understanding how to tap the pulse of the consumer.”

Interestingly, Kiran Khalap, Co-founder, Chlorophyll, sounds different. He asserts that retro commercials are well on their way towards becoming a beaten concept. “I think that the novelty factor is fast wearing out. What started off as an epidemic from the radio stations (with shows like Khanak), has now surfaced on television commercials, pop music and film songs. Ads belonging to the ‘retro’ sphere are becoming more common by the day, and the fatigue factor is bound to set in. Any formula, when used in excess tends to have negative repercussions,” he argues.

While funky culture of the 70s is taking a re-birth on the screens with a considerable success, the shelf life of the retro formula seems much under speculations and scepticisms. What matters most for the trend’s survival is the psyche of the people. The question remains, how much is too much for the great Indian consumers.

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