New Nirma Advance Ad Featuring Hrithik Roshan Breaks Stereotype But Fails to Connect with Masses

By: Sourav

Hema, Rekha, Jaya aur Sushma who represented the female lot of India and their choice of Nirma as an essential household necessity from the 70’s till the mid 90’s are out from the new Nirma Advance advertisement featuring Hrithik Roshan in his best. The fans and followers of Bollywood’s Greek god, as Hrithik is often referred to for his chiselled look, sculpted frame, brawny physique and exotic machismo, have gone gaga over their revered deity or idol’s drool-worthy dance moves in the semi buff. This is where and that is why Nirma ceases to connect with common people like and including me.

In the old advertisements of Nirma washing powder, a group of women including doting mothers, caring wives, young girls and dancing kids soaked in the beauty of whiteness and the glory of cleanliness from household interiors to the world outside. The new advertisement of Nirma Advance is more about Hrithik Roshan as a ‘star’ personality whose charm seems to eclipse the impact of Nirma as a whole. The recall value of Nirma detergent as a basic need of households in everyday life is lost in the glare of celebrity endorsement.

Nirma Advance ad, Hrithik Roshan ads, old Nirma washing powder ads, Indian advertisements

The new ad featuring Hrithik is not the first celebrity endorsement of the detergent powder. Sangeeta Bijlani was the first celebrity to endorse Washing Powder Nirma in one of the nostalgic advertisements on Indian Television in the non-digital era. Unlike Hrithik Roshan, Sangeeta Bijlani was neither an overpowering presence nor a standalone face in the old advertisement. The ad featured her alongside other women from various reaches of society in order to position Washing Powder Nirma as a basic commodity in demand across the diverse demography of India.

Even after two decades, the jingle of the old Nirma detergent ads, ‘Dudh si safedi Nirma se aai….Sab ki pasand Nirma,’ stays with me and others who grew up watching Madhuri Dixit and such Indian TV serials as Mahabharata, Alibaba, Mowgli, Chandrakanta and Shaktimaan. To be honest, I found the jingle irritating at times for a personal reason. The frequent airing of the ad prolonged intervals during my favorite programs and the once-a-week cine time on Doordarshan. At the same time, I used to refer to the jingle whenever cleanliness was a matter of discussion in home and the neighbourhood.

I have had a love-hate relationship with the old advertisement of Nirma washing powder.

No doubt, the new ad featuring Hrithik Roshan will reach out to a maximum audience in a short time. It has already managed to be trending on Facebook and Twitter, the most popular and frequented hangouts these days. But I doubt if the new tagline “Naye Zamane Ke Ziddi Daagon Ke Liye” will have an enduring impact given the decreasing shelf life of our memory in current times of fleeting social media feeds.

I might be misunderstood as someone from the old school of thoughts for holding on to the nostalgic and ignoring today’s popular culture, for sticking to the old and not welcoming the new. To the contrary, I myself believe that advertisement is changing and evolving in India. There has been a sea change in advertisement over the past few years. These days, advertisements are less about brands and more about target audience, their emotions, their needs and their problems. It’s humanized and personalized. (Read more about the changing face of advertisement in India)

Unlike such unconventional and less self-promotional advertisements as KFC’s ‘Flaming Crunch Chicken’ ad, AMUL’s ‘Har Ghar Amul Ghar’ ad, Lifebuoy’s ‘Hand Washing Roti Reminder’ ad, Nirma chose celebrity endorsement which is, needless to say, an age-old formula.

An influential male celebrity helps to connect with the new generation of Indians, according to Anand Karir, creative mentor at the advertising agency Boing which planned and executed the new ad for Nirma Advance. I do both agree and differ with Anand Karir. Undeniably, Hrithik connects with the new generation. But the impact of mere celebrity endorsement devoid of a contemporary connection, a mass- appealing message, an emotional undertone, or social relevance is questionable in the long term.

What I do appreciate about the Nirma Advance ad is that it broke the stereotype either in its answer to HUL’s Wheel detergent ad featuring Salman Khan or in support of gender equality which has recently gained momentum in popular media.

I may sound cynical in saying that showing support for or talking about gender equality in advertisements and promotional campaigns is a trendy gimmick for brands or advertisers to draw attention by striking the raw nerves of India where gender equity vs gender disparity is a long-debated, sensitive issue. (Read more about it in my article on gimmicks of popular media.)

If the replacement of common women with a male celebrity in the new advertisement of Nirma Advance is aimed at conveying the message that washing clothes is not just a household chore to be done by women solely but a responsibility to be equally shared by men with their counterparts, I must say that the message lacks authenticity and credibility because of its poor packaging and insincere treatment.

I found no difference between the Nirma Advance ad and the Sony Ericsson ad. Both ads feature Hrithik in a dance sequence with focus on his machismo and glamour, which helps accentuate the appeal of lifestyle goods of high luxury quotient to youngsters or young consumers with disposable income. Nirma, which can be anything but a luxury commodity, needs to win the trust of masses through a humanized and personalized connection.

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