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Dabur strikes out on a new path with Vatika

The campaign ‘Brave & Beautiful’ looks to marry social activism with the brand’s relevance for a younger audience

This year’s first long-format ad is here. It is from a company which is effecting a change in advertising across its brands. Dabur’s latest ad for its haircare brand, Vatika, also marks a major shift in tone for the brand. With the campaign (which will have more stages to it), Dabur will join the ranks of larger FMCG player such as HUL and P&G in taking up social causes.

Made by Linen Lintas, the ad starts with a photo framing a woman with lush hair along with her husband, as later revealed. The camera pans out to show that it is the same woman who is now looking at the photo, ruefully because she is now bald, her hands scored with needle marks. The ad unfolds, revealing her tender relationship with her daughter and her husband, before moving on to follow her trepidations of joining back work after a hiatus to get treated for cancer. She is, after all, a survivor and the ad ends saying that some people don’t need hair to be beautiful.

Pranav Harihar Sharma, the group creative director, who wrote the screenplay and accompanying song, says, “The ad had to go beyond trotting out product benefits. That is why the tagline which says the exact opposite of what such a brand would say, it doesn’t sound like an ad.” Sharma says the script was to show life post cancer, where the survivor has to live for herself and her dear ones, regain her confidence.

Jaideep Mahajan, the executive creative director, says, “The brand wanted to take a gutsy stand that would go beyond the physical aspect of beauty. A shampoo brand taking on a bigger role might sound difficult, especially in a cluttered category, but such a campaign will make the audience talk about the brand in a different way,” referring to the ad which asks survivors to send in their stories.

The new ad also stems from Dabur’s portfolio-wide changes. Dabur India Chief Marketing Officer K K Chutani says, “We are getting future-ready and speaking to a new audience which is more youthful than before. The youth are socially aware and want to participate in bringing in change. Vatika, by itself, has always been about women of substance, earlier featuring celebrities who were blazing their own trail. Now, ads have to be about the audience finding heroes in themselves rather than a celebrity. And, someone’s story of coming out stronger after losing her hair, often regarded as the crowning glory, makes our messaging only stronger.” Chutani says that Dabur has been asking its eight-nine agencies on record to incorporate more such ‘hero’ content to start a conversation among the youth.

He cites Dabur’s other brands’ efforts: Chawanprash’s immunity challenge across 5,000 schools, Real Activ juice’s ‘Walk to the Moon’, egging people to start walking and stay fit, and Sanifresh, its toilet cleaner’s 700 se 7 kadam campaign that urges the audience to take seven steps (spread the word, be the eyes, tag a volunteer etc.) to help it build more toilets for women in the hinterlands.

Multinational FMCG companies have had a headstart over their Indian counterparts at marrying social good with business gains. HUL has worked on reducing the incidence of diarrhoea in a village by campaigning for Lifebuoy handwash, claiming that it also increased the brand’s rate of growth, while P&G’s Shiksha has been focusing on imparting education to the girl child.

Bobby Pawar, director and chief creative officer at Publicis, South Asia, says of the Vatika ad, “It does not look like a campaign and makes a point that is larger than the brand. There is a natural affinity of the message with the brand and the song is beautiful.” Pawar, however, feels that it could have been shorter. Long format ads are increasingly being embraced by advertisers, to be first published in the digital medium.

The song, by Sharma, underlines women’s greater mental strength at overcoming difficulties. The campaign, titled ‘Brave & Beautiful’ will see the narrative being taken forward in later installations. The stories submitted by cancer survivors would also get incorporated in it, says Chutani.

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