9 Indian ads that (thankfully) deliver the social message well

Here is a list of 9 Indian ads that break stereotypes and give a refreshing take on today’s society.

We see them everywhere, yet the ones that stay in our heads most are the ones that tell a powerful story. Here is a quick recap of  9 ads from 2013 that went beyond, leaving the issue, message and the brand etched in our minds:

1. Tanishq Jewellery -The double knot

The popular jewellery brand Tanishq features a dusky-skinned mother getting married and came as a refreshing breeze amid the overdose of fair and “perfect” people on television throughout the year.

Created by advertising agency Lowe Lintas and directed by Gauri Shinde, the ad starts with a woman getting ready as her daughter peeks from behind the door. They both walk into the mandap and the mother joins the groom for the traditional satphere. The daughter asks if she can join her mother in the pheras. The ad caught a lot of attention on social media and was shared massively on Facebook and Twitter.

2. Dekh Le – One for all those gawking and leering men

Staring, whistling at and passing lewd comments on women has always been a “duty” for some men in India. This public ad by Whistling Woods International, directed by Ketan Rana, brings home the message quite smartly.

The ad portrays four instances where women handle lechers by flashing mirrors or glasses on their faces to let them know how they look when they stare. The men, after coming face to face with their actual self, feel embarrassed and look away.

The song “Dekh le tu dekhtey hue kaisa lagta hai” (Look at your face when you stare), used in the ad, has been composed by Ram Sampath and sung by Sona Mahapatra. The ad received more than 2.7 million hits on YouTube within a month of its launch.

3. Idea Cellular – Taxi-wala

A passenger forgets her cellphone in a taxi. The driver first takes the phone but then his conscience asks him to “kill the Raavan inside”, and he decides to return the cellphone.

How many times have we forgotten something in an auto, train or a bus and got it back? The 40-second ad, created by Lowe Lintas & Partners, shows honesty in our daily lives and breaks the stereotype that all socio-economically underprivileged people are out to rob whoever they come across.

4. Havells Fans – Hawa Badlegi

A newly wed couple walks into the registrar’s office and the husband tells the officer that he would like to adopt his wife’s last name.

Another scene shows a couple getting discharged from a hospital after delivering a baby girl, while they fill “Himu” in the religion column on the sign out forms. When asked, the father explains that it is the combination of ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ and how their daughter can adopt any religion she likes when she grows up.

Yet another instance shows a maid being asked by the family to join them on the same table for the dinner. Aimed to tell a powerful story within common circumstances all of us relate to, the ad has captured a lot of attention and have received more than 20,000 YouTube hits together.

5. Google – Reunion

This was the most shared ad of 2013. The three-and-a-half minute film poignantly capturing the reunion of two friends who meet for the first time after the partition of India and Pakistan, with help of Google search, struck a resonant chord across the nation.

The O&M video has, so far, notched up 10 million views and counting.

6. The Times of India – Tum chalo toh Hindustan chaley!

The ad starts with a traffic jam due to a massive tree fall blocking a road. While a special way out has been arranged for the VIP, the rest continue to criticize the country as it rains. Suddenly, a kid comes around and tries to move the big tree. Seeing him struggle, other kids and commuters join him and manage to remove the tree to clear the traffic.

The inspiring music was composed and performed by Indian musical trio Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy. The ad gives the message: wake up and the country will follow automatically.

7. The Hindu – Behave yourself India. The youth are watching

Students are asked to enact a mock Parliament in college. As the debate starts, the classroom turns into a fight club and the teacher watches them with surprise, as “Vaishnav jan to” plays in background.

8. Lifebuoy: Help a child reach 5

This could probably go down as one of the most powerful ads made in this decade.

Every year, millions of children under the age of 5 die due to infections from unhealthy living practices.The film is set in Thesgora, an Indian village with one of the highest rates of diarrhoea in India. The ad starts with a man walking on his hands, followed by his son Muthu, and then slowly accompanied by a big mob. He walks miles and finally reaches a temple, and thanks the god and priest as his son has turned 5; none of his previous children lived to the age of 5.

Capitalizing on virality, Lifebuoy donated over 3.5 lakhs to children, 1 rupee for every social media share of the ad.

9. Airtel: Barriers break when people talk

The premise: Two boys, separated by border fences. One of them asks another one to kick a football and they end up crawling under the fences and start playing football together. The core idea is that simple act of communication can bring people together. The film has been created by Rediffusion DY&R.

All of these ads work as they tell a good story, leaving brand etched in the audience’s mind. And two steps towards some form of behavioural change, we hope. Tell us which Indian ads left an impact on you in the recent past.

Shreya Pareek is a development journalist who is passionate about grassroot change and sustainable living. Follow her on twitter @shreya08 more


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Shreya Pareek is a development journalist who is passionate about grassroot change and sustainable living. Follow her on twitter @shreya08 more

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  • Manjunath

    Nice list … though you missed a tenth … Jaago Re ads from Tata Tea!

  • Bob

    In the Dekh Le ad, there was nothing wrong with the dude looking at that muslim chick’s face. He wasn’t doing anything inappropriate. What a little bitch to act that way. It seemed more as if the lady was classist rather than the guy being rude.

    • you dont need to know

      Bob you are an asshole you know that? Maybe you do this yourself hence you say that he is justified
      You should have been a blowjob.

    • Matt

      Um no. You’re clearly missing the point.

    • KH8712

      Really ? There was nothing wrong with a man staring at a woman ? U dont have always have to stare at certain places to be called inappropriate. Staring itself is bad !

    • sarah

      It has got nothing to do with being classist. It was a very sleezy look that he was giving her and he kept staring at her. That is not decent in any way

  • A truly impacted human

    I thought that all of the ads were very moving and they really displayed some strong messages about things that society should work on. A big thumbs up to all of the ads!
    One of favorite was the Airtel because it showed the braking down of barriers and how with communication we can meet in the middle and have a good time. It also shows that communication can bring us together and then we should all try to communicate so we can make the world a better place.
    Also the Lifebuoy Ad was very touching and reminds me that other people in the world need our help or don’t always make it past the age of 5.
    Great job!