Top 5 television advertisement wars

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan

Once upon a time, there was a strange world that existed in a dimension unlike any other. Situated within the confines of a rectangular magic box, this television advertisement world brought the impossible to life. In a land without water, it showed you rain. In a village without roads, cars drove effortlessly within the screen. It was an era of magic for a race of human beings who had only known the magic of the spoken voice through radio up until that moment. Children and the elderly alike sat on the floor watching in awe as images of fair maidens and brawny men tempted them with wares they ‘probably did not need but definitely desired’ all of a sudden.

The early 90s was a period of love and emotion within this kingdom. These fair maidens and brawny men focused on melodious tunes and heart-warming moments that would leave the viewer smiling at the end of thirty seconds.  

You could not pass a grocery story laundry detergent section without the tune of Washing Powder Nirma starting to play in your head.

Even decades later, three generations of viewers remember the charming jingle of Hamara Bajaj or the moment when a Cadbury chomping Shimona Rashi broke out into that free spirited dance after her beau got his century.

It was truly a time of peace and love.
The change began surreptitiously.  With the quality of television programmes improving and more viewers sitting together to watch Sachin Tendulkar play his cover drives, the advertisement companies realised it was time to change as well. Their ads could not just be informative anymore. No, it needed to be more to find a place in the hearts and minds of the viewers.

Movie stars were roped in to exclusively celebrate a product. The ads now looked to make you laugh with humour or go wide-eyed in awe with their classy production value and graphics.

And it was a success. People did indeed stop changing channels during ad breaks. Even the Hulk took a break from being an Avenger to participate!

And then came the wars.
Somewhere, in their fortress of gold doubloons, the powers that be decided that it was not enough to be number one. No, the demon perched upon their shoulder advised them… we have to humiliate the opposition.
Image source: here

The gold ice cream tastes sweetest not when WE WIN but when THEY LOSE. OF course, the high priests of the realm would not allow for such blatant mockery and fighting in the land of television screens. So the leaders of the various monarchies decided to wage a war that blended the old techniques with the new – rope in some celebrities, make it funny AND THEN TAUNT THY COMPETITION.

The results were iconic. The best in the business took on each other, making fun while also proving a point. If one released a stone into the other’s backyard, the latter responded with a boulder. The most iconic wars began outside the realm of the Indian battlefield but still found their way to our eyes. And we laughed with them, admiring their cheekiness and awaiting the next instalment from the other side, as their battles waged on.

So which were the top 5 television advertisement battles that caught the imagination of the viewer?

5. Hindu vs Times of India

When two of the biggest newspaper agencies look at each other, they find that they have a pretty unique set of readers for themselves. While one is the more serious paternal type who focuses on stories and points of view, the other is the tattooed party boy who likes to keep you dancing and head-bopping all day long. The result? A battle of minds, literally.

4. Microsoft/Nokia vs Android and Apple

These companies had no battles in the 80s and 90s… how could they when the product they were selling was probably science fiction at that time? Yet, once mobile phones changed from luxury to necessity and from ‘a device that calls’ to a ‘device that exchanges information/takes photos/shows you world maps/connects you to the world wide web/plays videos/edits documents; did I miss anything? Oh ya, makes calls!’… well, it was only a matter of time before the mobile wars began.

Of course, the battle was not restrained to the field of mobiles either. The war had started years before that, as the Mac took on the PC.

Even Bill Gates got into it!

3. Jaguar vs Mercedes Benz

 I want to say that no chickens were harmed during the making of this ad war between the global luxury car giants… but I just don’t know. I sincerely would like to think that that chicken is in some witness protection programme right now, far away from the jaguars and Colonel Sander outlets of the world.

2. Virgin Wars
One of the funniest battles that took place on the Indian television screen was a battle that never existed! The telecom company making the series of ads were not competing against their own… they were showcasing the IPL extravaganza by cleverly playing on how we Indians feel while defending our favourite teams. Suddenly, clich├ęs were in as Punjabis and Hyderabadis took on Delhities and the Bangaloreans. The ads were aplenty (over twenty for a period of just two months) and are honestly, some of the best IPL ads ever made as they still make you laugh out loud, even years later.

1. Cola Wars

At the end of the day, the most famous television ad battle has lasted for over three decades now. The two companies themselves Pepsi and Coca-Cola have lasted for well over a century, having debuted in the market back in 1886 and 1903 respectively. No two other brands have had as many iconic superstars endorse them and openly participate in the cola wars.

From Michael Jackson to Britney Spears, Jackie Chan to Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan, they have all been there. The ads took the best of all worlds – using high quality production designs alongside popular stars and hilarious ads to good effect.

The battles will carry on as more and more creative minds come together. Luckily, for the peaceful denizens of the land who watch television, none will be harmed and a lot of fun will be had.

And that, at the end of the day, is a battle worth rooting for.

Authors note:
I am joining in on all the Pepsi IPL action in my own style with the #CrashThePepsiIPL activity at BlogAdda.”

Also remember, this Pepsi IPL, it’s not just about cricket. It’s time to crash with your own created ad! Make your own Pepsi ad & if it’s chosen, it could play on TV during Pepsi IPL! And hey, it doesn’t end here… Even if you’re chosen as a finalist, you stand a chance of winning a prize amount of Rs.1 lakh! So what are you waiting for guys?”

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