It has to be most certainly one of the best ads made this year. Gillette put out a TV commercial on November 19, International Men’s Day on a subject most brands would shy off from : Is it okay for men to cry?Narrating the story of Lt Col Manoj Kumar Sinha, SM (Retd) and his father Air Force veteran Bishwanath Sinha, the commercial starts with Lt Col Sinha telling us about a childhood incident when he was chased by a raging bull. He ran tearful and terrified into his father’s arms, only to hear him say, “ … wipe those tears off. You’re a man”.
On 31 May, 2000, a bullet tore through the jaw of Lt Col Sinha, in the line of duty. But Sinha never cried. Because he wanted to be like his father, tough and strong. So, no matter how hard he had taken it, no tears. And so he hid his pain … as his Dad would want to. He did not want him to see his wounds or sense that he was weak. Because, he was being a man.
Then his Dad comes visiting him in hospital one day. The veteran, however, does not ask the son to wipe his tears off. They embrace, they hug, they cry, they shed tears together. And that moment changes it all. Both of them realise that showing what you really feel, doesn’t make you less of a man. Raising a strong boy also means telling him it is okay for boys to cry. Men can cry. Even soldiers can cry. Because our pain reveals the best in us. And that is what Gillette is all about : The Best a Man Can Be.
The commercial is an outstanding piece of advertising. It is real. It is emotional. It is moving, beautifully made. The message is clear, uncluttered and meaningful. And the brand comes across as strong, trustworthy and manly. Everything it would want to be seen to be representing. Full marks to Grey, the ad agency, and to the client team for backing good work. The commercial brought tears to my eyes, but I told myself, “It’s alright, men can cry”.
Another wonderful ad this week was from Manforce condoms, from Mankind Pharma. And that too on a subject almost all brands would shy off from — sex, intimacy and blackmail. The ad in itself has no fuss, no frills: just a girl reporting her ex-partner to the Cyber Crime Cell. The subject and the narrative is well handled. Sensitively. Delicately. Without being preachy.
The messaging is direct, and unambiguous. Recording moments of intimacy on smartphones is extremely prevalent now, leading to blackmail and insinuation by ex-partners. The ad advises that you don’t have to wait for things to turn ugly, but to report the matter immediately. But the most important message from the communication is to “Indulge in ‘safe sex’ and #ShutUpThePhone”.
I have not seen such a hard-hitting ad in a long time. As I said before, the subject itself is taboo. Revealing personal details and personal messages is embarrassing. Going to the police is not easy. Being asked uncomfortable questions can leave almost everyone squeamish. But all that notwithstanding, the spin given to ‘safe sex’, to #ShutUpThePhone is most pertinent and relevant. The Manforce team, and ADK Fortune ad agency, deserve a standing ovation. Brave subject, mature communication, wise messaging.
The #GroundsKnowNoGender ad by Star Sports showing a girl who out-kicks and outsmarts all the boys on the football ground, is another exceptional piece of advertising. With all action, and almost no dialogues, it lets the football and the girl do all the talking. The protagonist is the strong, silent type … in full control of the ball and herself. Action, action, action. Dribble, kick, dodge, dribble, kick, shoot. Amazing.
The #IndiaWill campaign by Under Armour also caught my attention. For one, I didn’t know that we have an ice-hockey girls team. The Story of Will portrayed through their struggles, challenges, iron-will, triumph is motivational and inspiring. For Under Armour, it is good positioning, and strong identification with the India story.
The only problem is that the narrative is far too niche and most of us will receive it with some scepticism. Being off-beat has its advantages, but straying too far from the mainstream can also be disadvantageous. Methinks the ice hockey team is the story of many an Indian sport … glorifying a team that aggregated 39-5 in the tournament; lost 13-0 in a match. From the Team’s PoV it may be a great story. But should we really sully India’s image as a sporting nation by sending out ill-equipped, half-baked teams for international combat in India colours. And call it #IndiaWill?