I came across this new campaign by Santoor soaps – the offer is simple; buy two packs of Santoor soap and get a free Reynolds pen.

And I seem to have a small problem with that.

I have seen brands adding low value freebies and advertising it, but there used to be some USP to it. For instance, the Fundoo Bendoo thingy from Britannia cakes. It is enormously interesting for kids, even though it may barely cost Rs. 10. I should know, my son threw a massive tantrum to ‘attain’ it as soon as he saw it on Cartoon Network.

But Santoor?

The first TV spot for this ‘offer’ was with film star Madhavan. He actually – quite playfully – chides viewers that they should be buying 2 Santoor soaps, so that they can get the Reynolds Pen.

Then, I noticed a new TV ad – a bank queue; the cashier lady asks the queue lady to sign some form, along with a pen; the queue lady beams and says she uses Santoor and hence, has a Reynolds pen.

Are you getting what I mean?

Ok, let me explode – it’s a Reynolds pen, for heaven’s sake. Worth barely Rs. 10 odd or below – I don’t know – been ages since I purchased a Reynolds pen. And those 2 soaps cost less than Rs. 30, mostly.

For this earthshaking offer, should a brand spend big money on prime time advertising across multiple Indian languages? Isn’t there a better way to spend money at all, Santoor? In fact, there are other brands advertising low value freebies – like Cinthol’s offer of a solitary battery, when you buy 2 Cinthol soaps. But those are more of end, parting shots in an otherwise product-related ad. Not the entire ad, by itself.

Funny thing is, in PR, some clients ask us to ‘communicate’ such offers too, to the media. Advertising at least can buy space and ‘communicate’ – how are we PR folks supposed to sell such news to journalists? There are marketing/promo columns in newspapers, beyond which we PR folks will get the phone slammed on our ears, if we even try.