Cadbury ad. Overdependent on Nostalgia?

20 Sep,2021



By Prabhakar Mundkur [updated]


Prabhakar MundkurAs I write this, I am sure the latest Cadbury’s ad has already gone viral if that is a measure of its success. The latest message I got on WhatsApp went like this:


“In 1994, Ogilvy India made an ad for Cadbury Dairy Milk.

In 2021, Ogilvy India made the same ad for Cadbury Dairy Milk, with a difference.

Check both out!!!”


The praise showered on it has had no bounds over the last two days.  One of the comments went like this: “It’s a follow-up to the ad the great Piyush Pandey wrote in 1994 which catapulted him to advertising fame.”  No doubt Piyush is a shining star in the advertising firmament, but I am not sure this criterion can be used to judge an ad, both by commoners or 50-year-old advertising executives. I never thought of an ad as great only because David Droga or Bruno Bertelli wrote it. In any case, I am getting used to the hysteria and adulation India accords its heroes. Just yesterday, we saw a union minister likening our Prime Minister to God.  And later, the Prime Minister’s Report Card handle on Facebook posted the Cadbury ad, giving it record likes and shares. God himself then has endorsed this ad.  So, who am I, a mere mortal to even start evaluating it?


I must admit I am an aberration of the Indian consumer because I spent the better part of the 90s working overseas and could not use the 1994 ad as a reference. It seemed like just another cricket ad to me, or simply put just a typical scene from Indian cricket which we have seen repeatedly, for much longer than the Cadbury ad. After all, didn’t a woman do the same thing to Brijesh Patel when he scored a century in 1975?  She went past the security (India’s disrespect for the law is legendary), right until the pitch and then planted a kiss on Brijesh’s cheek. I know cricket is a hot button in this country, but the 99 runs on the scoreboard with a sixer coming up is both a bit trite and hackneyed.



Which brings me back to one basic question: if this ad was trying to capitalise on nostalgia marketing, was it aimed at people who were over 50 years old? We don’t know Cadbury’s strategy, but it could well be that they no longer wanted their brand to be seen as a young person’s brand. If the target audience were expected to have seen the ad in 1994, it does mean that this ad is talking to people who are in the age group of 40-50 years at least or even more.


Of course, while arguing my way through the merits and demerits of the ad, many people stoutly defended the ad saying that it was brilliant, even as a standalone, and even if people had not watched the 1994 version. Maybe, but I would imagine that the people who had seen the 1994 ad would rate it 5x times better than the people who hadn’t seen the 1994 ad. People who first posted the ad on social media were mostly older, but the overall hype was so overcoming that I believe the youth had taken to sharing the ad later, on Instagram. Take this tweet for example which got a rousing response. I don’t know Karthik personally, but I am willing to wager that he is at least 40 years old to have seen and remembered the 1994 ad.



But somehow the Cadbury ad seems to have touched a chord and has got accolades for showing a woman in the lead role. Many people have commented that this was a long time coming. Of course, any ad like Cadbury’s is a welcome addition to the tirade against gender discrimination. India for centuries has discriminated against women, and there is still scope to do much more. India ranked 131 in the 189-country survey on the Gender Development Index. So, any commercial or full-length movie that goes towards portraying the importance of women is welcome because it can help to change the status quo. I see advertising and cinema as important influencers in pushing the envelope for social change.


Oscar Wilde in his 1889 essay ‘Decay of Lying’ posed the rhetorical question, whether Art imitates Life or Life imitates Art. I firmly believe that Art must do its bit to change society so that Life can start to imitate Art. The Cadbury ad from that point of view is a step in the right direction.


Except that as I said earlier, the Brijesh Patel incident also raises the question if this is Art Imitating Life?  It could well be!


Oscar Wilde was right in posing this queer and difficult paradox.


Prabhakar Mundkur is a former advertising agency captain and has spent over four decades in marketing services across geographies. He is a prolific writer and was a few years back rated as among the top voices by LinkedIn. Other than advertising and writing, Prabs, as he is known to friends, is a very active musician and a self-taught producer of music. In the pandemic, he has performed and produced nearly 50 songs, including one with the very accomplished Usha Uthup. Mundkur’s views here are personal.



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