Google Pixel x Mr. India: Exciting idea, perfunctory execution

I found the Pixel 8 campaign from Google (agency: FCB Group) with Anil Kapoor reprising his role as Mr. India to be interesting enough, but not as exciting as I assumed it would be.

The idea of officially using the Mr. India character is truly exciting. I presume the agency made the connection because of Pixel’s Magic Eraser feature that’s now available in other Android phones too (like my OnePlus 10, with a Google One subscription). It’s a natural fit from that perspective.

But, despite the potential, I was underwhelmed with what eventually materialized (so far).

There are 3 ads so far (including a teaser), and possibly 2 more in the pipeline, going by the hints thrown in.

The teaser sets the tone with the ‘rules’ that make the flow of subsequent ads quite obvious: one who gets the gadget,

  1. gets the power to make anything invisible (and not become invisible, himself, like Mr. India)
  2. can silence any sound/noise
  3. can bring a smile to anyone’s face
  4. would remain steady even if the world shakes

Now, anyone who followed the Pixel 8 launch and reviews would know that each ‘rule’ is meant to signify a specific feature in the device. So, it’s clear that point 1 is about Magic Eraser, while point 3 is about Best Take.

I’m assuming that point 2 will be about the Audio Magic Eraser, while point 4 should be about the Photo Unblur feature.

All this sets the stage for an exciting use of the famous character within the context of the device’s marketing. But it didn’t quite land that way for me.

Why? For starters, unlike the movie, Mr. India uses these fantastic features for utterly petty things like getting off Roopchand’s selfies and changing the expressions on the faces of the underlings on Mogambo Day. The ‘what can I do with it?’, expressed from the users’ perspective, is left to the viewer’s imagination.

For example, consider how you would use the Magic Eraser feature. Or rather, what would you use it for? A standard use case would be to remove people or things that unnecessarily occupy the background of a photo of you with your loved ones. I have done this with a lot of vacation photos. This is obvious too, but think of it from a communications perspective of the brand – what would be more exciting for people to see in a campaign that showcases the feature:
1. You being able to remove unnecessary photobombers in your family photo?
2. Mr. India removing himself from a selfie with Roochand?

Similarly, what would be more exciting:
1. You being able to ‘update’ the expression on the photo of your child/spouse/parent?
2. Mr. India ‘updating’ the expression of Daga (Sharat Saxena) and Captain Zoro (Gurbachan Singh)?

To be sure, Pixel 8’s global campaigns already do this adequately well! Take a look.

Audio Magic Eraser:

Best Take:

Photo Unblur:

I do understand the fact that the agency has an iconic character (Mr. India) to use within the context of selling us these features. But a small narrative twist could have made it more sharper and emotionally resonant. Instead of Mr. India using these features for himself—extending the film’s do-gooder theme where he uses his invisibility to help others—he could have used these features to help others (and thereby showcasing personally relatable use cases for people) and make them happy.

This would flow naturally too, within the chosen Mr. India theme. He could easily demonstrate the Magic Eraser feature to one of the kids who takes a group photo and wants to remove some photo-bomber by saying that he could make them disappear just like how he himself disappears. That is, the power of Mr. India is in your hands now!

Best Take too could get a contextual twist within the do-gooder theme. How? Imagine a group photo being taken in the orphanage (from the original Mr. India film) and some of the kids looking distracted in the photo. Before the photo is taken, an invisible Mr. India could run to the other side and drag the cheeks of the sullen-looking kid (on both sides) just in time for him to ‘smile’ for the photo! So, the power of Mr. India is in your hands now!

If you think through this, there are ways to incorporate the same idea—the power of Mr. India is in your hands now—into the other 2 features (Audio Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur—as well. Instead, what we now have is simply Mr. India using such magical features for himself, quite removed from his image as someone who uses a superpower to help others.

Of course, there is also the larger question about the kind of target audience that the Mr. India theme would appeal to. The film is a landmark, no doubt, but it is from the year 1987 – 36 years ago! For present-day 20-25-year-olds without lived-in knowledge of the film’s cultural significance, the theme may not be really exciting considering they would have seen better fantasy films recently. So it makes all the more sense to merely use the Mr. India theme’s outline (man gets the power to become invisible and helps people/kids in need) and make it about people and not about the character and his life/motivations.

I feel the agency correctly started off with the nostalgic Mr. India narrative (which, in itself, is a hugely interesting starting point) because it naturally gels with Magic Eraser’s ‘invisibility’. But then they assumed that the rest would flow on its own, and made it all about Mr. India himself, almost as if the excitement of finding characters from that film (Roopchand, Daga, Mogambo, Captain Zoro, etc.) is enough to carry the ads through. The result feels like a clinical use of what is otherwise a fantastic theme!

It’s good for people who love/care for the film, but for the large number of people who don’t care enough to excitedly look out for characters from the film besides Mr. India, it feels like a perfunctory use of the theme. And hence, the ads (so far) end up without exploring the theme’s full potential.

PS: It’s mind-boggling that 66-year-old Anil Kapoor continues to look exactly like the 31-year-old Anil Kapoor we saw in the film!! 🙂