The 10 best Indian ads of 2023

Year 3 of making this list. Here’s the list from 2021 and 2022.

As usual, the caveat stays: this list is not about *effectiveness* since that data would be available only to the brand managers (and advertising/media buying agencies). Also, effectiveness is a function of the amount of money thrown into buying media.

Instead, this list is based on my assessment of over 1,100+ Indian ads throughout 2023 and picking my top 10 in terms of how engaging they were and how well they sold what they aimed to sell in terms of narrative and storytelling.

1. Brooke Bond Red Label tea – World Social Media Day (Agency: Ogilvy India)

My detailed blog post on this ad film.

This is easily the most enjoyably inventive Indian ad in 2023, in my view. Even if I quibble about the source of the basic theme of framing tea as a social network being observed in a 2014 Hindi book (as I had explained in detail in a post), the way the idea has been expanded in the Brooke Bond Red Label tea ad makes for an incredibly relatable watch!

Do read my detailed post on this ad where I refer to the Hindi book from 2014 and another beverage ad from 2015 that holds a similar idea.

2. Dream 11 IPL 2023 (Agency: Tilt Brand Solutions)

My LinkedIn post on this ad campaign.

Most people have resigned to the fact that IPL is more entertainment than sport. Within that spirit, Tilt’s phenomenally entertaining series for Dream 11 (IPL’s title sponsor) was bang on target! Here was an ad series that had the biggest names from the world of movies, starting with the otherwise reclusive Aamir Khan. That this was framed (via PR) as a 3 Idiots sequel before the ad series launched was a neat idea too!

Then, the way the cricketers and actors jabbed playfully at each other was the core of the series that made it so much fun! It was on the lines of roasting, but very dignified and respectful roasting, if I may add 🙂 Much of the fun in the series was to see who would roast whom and how, given that the opening ad showed the extent to which you can expect the unexpected!

3. Subway Hotsellers, ft. Vishwanathan Anand (Agency: Moonshot)

My LinkedIn post on this ad film.

Even if I was not able to relate to the premise of Subway diluting its very famous make-your-own-sub concept by pitching a ready-to-order sub, I found the creative device of exaggerating the trepidation of responding to every query from the Subway store partner to be outstanding. And getting Vishwanathan Anand to frame the asks from the store partner from the perspective of chess moves was a brilliant ploy to infuse into the already terrific premise.

4. Colgate – The Sweet Tooth (Agency: Ogilvy India)

My LinkedIn post on this ad film.

Timed perfectly before Deepavali 2023, this nifty ad’s creative device gets the focus perfectly right – not just a generic ‘brush before sleeping every day’, but ‘brush before sleeping if you have had something sweet’. The ad film exaggerates the thought beautifully and impactfully, in a way that you cannot get that imagery out of your head. Considering you can brush your teeth with any toothpaste, and not just Colgate, the larger, brand-agnostic, category-building message deserves a special note of appreciation.

5. Ather – ‘AutoHold’ (Agency: in-house)

My LinkedIn post on this print ad.

A really, really clever print ad, and one that was done in-house!! Because of the tilt, the ad instantly attracts attention, but what you need to observe is *which element* in the ad they have titled. No, the photo above is not tilted; that is an actual slope – they have titled the copy portion at the bottom (and the headline), and that creates an illusion of the entire ad being tilted, giving a disorienting feel to the ad (which also catches the eye)!

The best part is that this intentional tilt is at the service of the feature being sold. AutoHold automatically activates while the vehicle is on a slope and prevents rolling back or forth!

6. Maruti Suzuki Driving School (Agency: MullenLowe Lintas)

My LinkedIn post on the ad film.

In a country known for horrendous driving sense and mounting fatal road accidents, we perhaps need a LOT more focus on the process through which people are given a driving license. Given this backdrop, it is a miracle that we have a national-level ad campaign for a driving school, a category that exists in every Indian city but also one that barely advertises beyond local wall posters and banners!!

But the agency doesn’t treat the script indifferently just because it is a driving school. There is so much nuance and heart in the writing, topped with a winner of a quip by the father in the end! The plot understands the way (slightly old-worldly) fathers *praise* their sons – not outright praise, but jab-filled praise as if their egos won’t allow the former 🙂 And the cast, featuring Tigmanshu Dhulia and Gagan Arora, sells the nuances so convincingly!

7. Zebronics – Soundbar & Projector (Agency: Collective Creative Lab)

My LinkedIn post on this ad film.

This creative device of showcasing *immersive* audio and video has been used in so many different ways to create a humorous effect. But this version, by Zebronics, despite being yet another iteration, gets the humor and timing wonderfully right, including an incredibly timed fart, of all things!

Hrithik’s acting pulls off the humor impeccably, and the script builds a genuine sense of intrigue for about 13-14 seconds at the beginning that leads organically toward the reveal!

8. Nykaa – Kya Khoob Lagte Ho (Agency: The Script Room)

My LinkedIn post on this campaign.

Nykaa’s ‘Kya Khoob Lagte Ho’ campaign was a brave series that put the brand behind the users’ real selves! The narrative idea acknowledged that no matter how much they use Nykaa to buy products and beautify themselves, the inner person remains the same. But where the idea’s brilliance shines is to situate *to whom* the inner person remains the same – it is to/with the people we love and who love us. To the outside world, the products help put up an accentuated version of ourselves, not very different from how we behave when we are on the stage and know that the limelight is on us. But when we are with the people we love and care about, no external product is going to change us.

9. Sleepwell – Did you sleep well? (Agency: Sideways Consulting)

My LinkedIn post on this ad film.

Much like Colgate’s ‘The Sweet Tooth’ and Nykaa’s Kya Khoob Lagte Ho, Sleepwell’s ‘Did you sleep well?’ campaign too goes beyond merely selling mattresses. The brand could still sell mattresses directly using far more direct levers to shift our consideration, but that it also chose to sell a larger story about our health—on which sleep has a humongous bearing—indicates a level of maturity that has hitherto evaded this category.

Underneath that simple question that we rarely ask others is an innate empathy. To even consider asking that question, we first need to identify the signs of poor sleep in someone when we meet them first thing in the morning. The ad’s narrative acknowledges this nuance subtly.

10. UTI Mutual Fund – Happy Diwali (Agency: Havas Worldwide)

My LinkedIn post on this ad film.

The Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) has already spent an enormous amount of money over the years (and continues to do so) in drilling the benefits of investing in mutual funds. But AMFI’s long-running ‘Mutual funds sahi hai?’ campaign uses a fairly dumbed down creative route of one person wondering something about one of mutual funds’ disadvantages or her/his own needs, and the other person literally spelling out how MFs can benefit that person. This is all ‘Tell, don’t show’ territory. In contrast, UTI Mutual Fund’s Diwali campaign is in the ‘Show, don’t tell’ territory!

The creative device is at once relatable and enjoyable, comparing the discipline required to invest in mutual funds to the discipline required to maintain sugar levels in our body, an incredibly topical theme in India, known as the Diabetes Capital of the world. But it’s not just about sugar avoidance; the ad’s narrative is about control, for a reason! Beautifully written narrative that is a great fit for the occasion (Diwali) and the cause of educating about mutual funds.