The new ad campaign for Tata BlueScope Steel’s flagship product Durashine (by the agency FCB Interface) may seem simple and functional at the first glance. It sure is, of course.
After all, it’s indeed a basic script geared towards the positioning: “VIP-like feeling”. The humor is basic, and the story-telling is thoroughly predictable.
But there are a couple of things worth observing, specifically.
1. The product’s superiority is asserted not by the buyer but by others around the buyer
The usual advertising narrative places the buyer in the shoes of a viewer/reader and lets them imagine the buyer’s thought process while considering a product inside a category. So you become the voice/mind of the protagonist buyer in the narrative.
Here, the buyer has already chosen the product (for various reasons)! The perspective then moves to the people around the buyer who reiterate to him (the buyer) why he chose well.
Such a narrative is quite common in those segments where the product can be showcased to the external world. So, for instance, cars and bikes have used this narrative where the focus is on the kudos the product gets. Ditto with deos and perfumes – we see the looks and compliments the protagonist gets as a reiteration that they chose correctly.
Within the construction segment, the paints category has used this quite well in the past. Here’s an example from Asian Paints’ Tractor Sparc Emulsion, made by Ogilvy in 2021.
In this narrative too, Sharma has already chosen the product. He knows why he chose it too since he explains it with excruciating detail to his senior. So we see the product from the eyes of the senior and his wife just like how we saw Durashine’s effect through the eyes of the people passing by in the Tata BlueScope ad.
The impression made on people other than the buyer forms the core of the communication.
2. How would the inverse of this narrative look like?
That is, the others deride the lead (not yet a buyer, obviously) and that forces the lead to eventually buy the product.
Here’s an example from the same construction industry – another paint brand: Nerolac Suraksha Plus’ 2015 campaign made by Publicis India.
In this narrative, Dr. Ghanshyam Das is not yet a buyer. But his neighbor, Ramcharan is, and he is not the protagonist of the ad! Imagine – the product’s buyer is not the lead, the one who hasn’t bought into the product is!!
But because Dr. Ghanshyam Das has not yet bought the product, he suffers ignominy at the hands of the postman! This is obviously played for laughs and the way the postman enacts his role does make it quite funny.
No matter how well the doctor is dressed or changes his nameplate showcasing his impressive credentials, the postman refuses to change his impression of the doctor. The doctor finally realizes that it’s not him, the individual, that causes his behavior in the postman, but it’s the way his house looks externally. After all, postmen move by the house, house-to-house and all they’d be bothered with is the outlook of the house.
Just like the Durashine ad, we see the narrative through the postman’s perspective but before the product has been purchased! His impression obviously changes in the end once the product has been purchased.
3. The mistaken identity as a positive
In the Durashine ad, the buyer of the products gets mistaken for a magistrate, a minister, and a police commissioner. He is not a ‘VIP’ at all – just a regular guy. But the choice of roofing makes his house seem more impressive than what his social status would otherwise afford him. In other words, like that of a VIP’s home. His reactions make for a fairly enjoyable ad even within the predictable and functional premise: he is first bemused, then he gets jumpy with surprise, and finally, plainly shocked given the presence of a cop at his home.
But even as the onlookers do not see him for who he is, and see him based on the quality of his house (the roof, in specific, obviously), this mistaken social identity is framed as a good thing to have.
This mistaken identity to severely exaggerated (beyond just a mere positive) in deo ads that end up being both stupid and sexist, like this ad for SetWet Zatak ad where a lady dentist forgets all about her profession, mistakes the schmuck for a stud and is tempted, to put it mildly… all because of the guy’s choice of deo.
The equivalent of the Zatak ad’s exaggeration in the Durashine ad would be a group of star-crazy fans landing at the lead’s house and asking for their favorite film star.
But when done within the confines of decent humor and common sense, it works to the narrative’s advantage, like in the Durashine ad and the Asian Paints ad.