From Lalitaji to Google reunion: 67 years, 67 great Indian ads

As we celebrate 67 years of India’s independence, the Internet age that we live in suggested a list. The 10 greatest Indian ads? The top 25 ads? There are no right answers, and here we go, with a list of 67 ads that make my cut. It’s a list of just TV ads, as ads in other media are just too difficult to access and source.

 From Lalitaji to Google reunion: 67 years, 67 great Indian ads

A screenshot from the Ericsson 'One black coffee' ad

The list is not based on any research or data – it’s just a Firstpost self-indulgent list. We might have left out some ads that you like – or included some that you dislike. Either way, use the comments option to add your two bits worth.

Here it is, in no particular order. It’s not chronologically arranged, not arranged by category or brand or agency.

Have fun.

1) Lalitaji. What can one say about this ad? It taught an entire generation of Indians that more expensive can also be more sensible and deliver better return on investment. Hard-working, effective and memorable.

Surf Lalitaji:


2) All of us who saw this wanted to know who the model was, where this waterfall was and, of course, we went and bought the soap.



3) Breaking down Indian myths is always tough. Here we were, believing that eggs were not to be eaten in the summer as they were ‘bad’ for you. NECC told us that this was rubbish, and that eggs could be – and should be – eaten every day. I eat eggs every day.



4) Why should boys have all the fun? Why? Because this is India. Hero and Priyanka Chopra get into the debate and they win. Scooters, made for women. Hmmm.
Hero Pleasure:


5) The orange flavoured sibling of Thums Up and Limca got the short end of the stick, never becoming as cool as the other two. But this spot did a lot for it – imagine coining a phrase like the ‘Zing thing’ at the time that it was coined…

Gold Spot:


6) Tata Steel. Keeping shareholders happy, taking care of the environment and, of course, making steel. “We also make steel.” What an awesome thought.

Tata Steel:


7) Over the years, I’ve often said that every line in this commercial could have been written by a planner, not by a copy-writer. And the film? No pun intended, but what a breath of fresh air.

Close up:


8) There was a time when the entire focus of mobile handset manufacturers was to make the instrument smaller? How small, you ask? So small that you can’t even see the damn thing. Terrific.

Ericsson 'One black coffee':


9) There was a time before electricity existed, but people still needed light, especially at meal times. What on earth did they do? Well, they could have chewed gum. Gum that made your teeth sparkle.



10) This was a landmark film, featuring the new Indian woman: young, confident, vibrant and not afraid of anything. It also featured the new India, in which boys and girls transformed to boyfriends and girlfriends and shared a laugh with each other. With some Cadbury Dairy Milk, of course.

Cadbury dance:


11) This is no ad – it’s a how-to tutorial. When you introduce a brand new category such as 2 minute noodles, there’s nothing to do but demonstrate how simple it is. That’s what this TVC did – taught people how to cook Maggi Noodles. Yes, there was a time when we needed to be taught.



12) To think this was one of India’s biggest brands once upon a time, with the biggest showrooms that we had seen in the country and the biggest advertising. Here’s Viv Richards for Vimal, when Viv was the West Indian all Indians loved to love. And he was stylish. So, Vimal.

Only Vimal:


13) A saree was a saree was a saree. Till Garden came along. The saree then became a style statement, it became cool, it became a thing of beauty. And Garden was the saree brand to buy – aided and abetted by cool advertising.

Garden sarees:


14) One of the few non-TVCs in this list. What can you say about this? Sheer brilliance. If only inanimate objects could talk. The rotis could.

Roti reminder:


15) How do you ‘show’ something as invisible as a network and as connectivity? BPL Mobile tried it with their red chunni flying all over the place, but Vodafone used a little pug. Little pug, big impact, big love.

Vodafone pug:


16) And when Vodafone needed a device for their value added services, genius struck again. If the pug was mute, these creatures are noisy as hell, yammering away in a language that you just couldn’t understand. How on earth did these TVCs work? Well, the consumers seemed to understand this gibberish.

Vodafone Zoozoos:


17) Once upon a time there was an actor who was, simply, the greatest actor we had seen. He wouldn’t ever, ever, act in something low as a TVC. He wouldn’t? He would, he would, for what was once India’s #1 white goods and durables brand, BPL. What a great ad.



18) One could have included many Times of India ‘A day in the life of India’ TVCs in this list, but I’ve included just two. This one tells the story of Pakya. What a celebration.

Times of India ‘Pakya’:


19) You said consumers were getting put off by product windows? Then how in heaven does this film work, selling and hustling the brand every single second, showing the logo zillions of times?

Google reunion ‘Search’:


20) This is not an ad. It’s sheer brilliance, dragging consumers away from thoughts of money and fame and luxury and consumption and making them stop and think about the underbelly of India, the India that urban affluent Indians do not want to see or even hear about.

Lifebuoy Help a child reach 5 ‘Gundappa’:

21) Who knows the price of a Coke? No one, and retailers often take advantage of this fact. In a business like the cola business, where small percentage points in market share matters, every rupee is important. So Aamir Khan steps in to teach all and sundry that a Coke costs Rs. 5; no more and no less.

Panch matlab Coca-Cola:


22) This is why India has been an unhappy hunting ground for expat advertising professionals. How could anyone but an Indian think of this, the Indian’s daily focus on small things that matter?

Maruti 'Kitna deti hai':


23) Hyperbole is a wonderful part of advertising and this Nike film is a delightful example of hyperbole. The chaos is overdone (just a bit), the passion for cricket is overdone (by more than just a bit), the madness on Indian roads is overdone (by much more than just a bit). And the exaggeration makes this film oh, so brilliant.

Nike Bus:


24) Still with Nike, but none of the hyperbole. Terrific idea, terrific editing, terrific music. Even if one has never heard of cricket and has never seen cricket, you can still love this commercial.

Nike ‘Make Every Yard Count’:


25) Uh oh. In the age of the BJP and the RSS and moral police, a brand puts two girls into a closet. The problem is that the two girls want to come out of the closet and they give a damn about who sees them. A young brand, talking to a young India in a simple, tasteful, elegant manner.

Fastrack ‘Come out of the closet’:


26) The hallmark of all Fevicol ads. A lovely idea, brilliant casting, no frills and fancies but a guarantee that you will smile. And that you will watch the TVC again and again and again, and yet smile each time you re-watch it.

Fevicol ‘Egg’:


27) Use Fevicol and ensure that your chairs last really, really long. But that’s predictable. Use Fevicol and ensure that your next government lasts really, really long – that’s novel, entertaining, smile and share-worthy. And, like all Fevicol ads, you can watch this again and again and again.

Fevicol ‘Chairs’:


28) In an India, how do you get someone to buy more than one watch, when all that any watch will do is to tell you the time? It’s easy, get Aamir Khan to tell you why he needs so many Titan watches for a short trip and you begin to wonder, should you buy yourself another watch? Or two? Or three?

Titan Aamir Khan:


29) What can one say about this film, except that it makes one see Madhya Pradesh in a way one never saw earlier. A beautiful Madhya Pradesh, full of culture and flora and fauna, in a story told in a manner that captivates and entrances.

MP Tourism:


30) Much before Anna Hazare was becoming a pain in the butt of all politicians, Tata Tea decided to take corruption and misgovernance head on. And unlike Anna Hazare, Tata Tea’s commitment to the cause hasn’t waned, it’s grown and grown. As has the brand.

Tata Tea ‘Jaago Re’:


31) Much like the Nike traffic jam film, the hyperbole is what makes this so watchable. And, like the Nike ‘Make every yard count’ film, the music elevates the film to another beautiful level. Perhaps does more for Kerala tourism than it does for The Times of India…

Times of India Kerala:


32) Still with newspaper brands, still in the south of India, but across the border to Tamil Nadu where The Times of India and The Hindu are locked in battle. Unlike immediately previous ads by The Hindu, this one doesn’t get into the battle with The Times of India, but attacks a national issue…

Hindu ‘classroom’:


33) In a country where the only predictable aspect of all travel, whether by road, rail or air, was the unpredictability, Indigo saw the opportunity and told us that they would always be on time, and that on time was a wonderful thing. They also made a wonderful TVC to tell us so.

Indigo ‘On time is a wonderful thing’:


34) Blackberry was for the consultants, the bankers, the senior management. In short, Blackberry was boring and for the boring people. Until the Blackberry Boys were born. The amazing thing is that, if Blackberry was now cool, it took Vodafone to make it so.

Vodafone ‘Blackberry Boys’:


35) How can a commercial for shoe polish be fun and entertaining? Well, take something that’s fun and entertaining and then bring in the polish. Take a dose of Charlie Chaplin and inject some Cherry Blossom into it.

Cherry Blossom:


36) Free. That’s a word that every Indian consumer loves to hear. But suppose that something was not yet free, but could be, given a set of circumstances? Dominos introduces us to a new game. If we win, the pizza is FREE. Lovely. But if you lose, you still win, because the pizza gets to you in under 30 minutes.



37) What does a debit card do? Not much. All it does is to create a new world where you do not have to carry a wallet full of cash. That’s all. That’s all? No, the debit card brings the world closer to you – and could change the way you think and live.



38) Should this be here? After all, when Bajaj made this commercial, we lived in a shortage economy. This commercial created demand that the production capacity of Bajaj could not meet. So why advertise? Perhaps because your agency created a beautiful story – and told it beautifully.

Hamara Bajaj:


39) This was the precursor of the Maruti ‘kitna deti hai’ ad. Maruti, the car with such awesome fuel efficiency that you never run out of gas. How do you tell the story? Through the innocence of a child. In a patka. That makes it more enjoyable.

Maruti ‘khatam hi nahin hunda’:


40) How permanent is the permanence of a permanent marker? It’s so permanent that it can change the life of a widow. Of course there’s exaggeration, but the exaggeration is great fun.

Camlin permament marker:

41) How dangerous is a leaking roof? Well, it depends. We can ignore a small leak. Wait for the problem to get bigger before you address it, no? No. You could lose a fortune because of a little drip here. A little drip there. And you start smiling.

MSeal ‘Will’:


42) How does a girl born to traditional, conventional parents get to travel to Goa with her boyfriend? Simple, tell the parents that you do not like males. Virgin Mobiles. Their communication was so much better than the product.

Virgin mobile ‘Tensing’:


43) There are electrical wire brands and electrical wire brands. The wires look the same, but some are a lot cheaper than others, and some a lot safer than others. The unsafe ones can do untold damage. How do you communicate the danger of unreliable wires? By getting people to laugh.

Havells ‘shock laga’:


44) Neighbour’s envy. Owner’s pride. Again, such a wonderfully India insight. And who sells the pride to you, urging you to make your neighbour envious of you? The devil. In person.

Onida ‘devil’:


45) In a country where many grew up eating chocolate only on receipt of extraordinarily good news, the market is disappointingly small. Unless you keep ‘creating’ extraordinarily good news. When Pappu passes, is it extraordinarily good news? It is! It is! Bring on the chocolate!

Cadbury ‘Pappu pass ho gaya’:


46) One more occasion to have chocolate. Salary day. Make the day you receive your salary a day of wonderment and magic; transport your wife to a special world where the two of you are all alone. The only interloper is Cadbury Dairy Milk.

Cadbury ‘Pehli tareekh’:


47) How do you demonstrate how effective and how quick-acting an adhesive is? Not difficult at all. All you have to do is to take it with you when you next go fishing.

Fevikwik ‘Fishing’:


48) Selling a new concept or category is never an easy thing to do. And when there a number of points of resistance, things get worse. How do you get people to overcome the fear of using cards online and get over the obsession of needing to see, touch and feel before purchasing? Get kids to show you how easy it is. And give the kids adult voices, just to add some fun.



49) This is a wonderful phase in Indian media and advertising, when brands want not just to sell themselves but also do good for society. KBC does a great job of making us stop and introspect about how many Indians see our fellow Indians from the north east.

KBC ‘Kohima’:


50) How do you get Sachin to look good in a commercial? There are two ways to achieve this. The first is to add a touch of SRK to him, as Pepsi did in this memorable piece of communication, where SRK became Sachin for a short while.

Pepsi Sachin and SRK:

51) The second way to achieve the objective of making Sachin look good is something Adidas achieved, by preventing him from talking on camera. And they didn’t get SRK, they added a stick figure. You thought that making Sachin look good was impossible? Impossible is nothing.

Adidas ‘Impossible is nothing’:


52) Guarding the border must be a terrible, stressful job. Yards away from the enemy every minute. Your countries hate each other. You look at your opposite number and you hate him, too. Or do you?

8 PM Whiskey:


53) It’s a complex world, where every situation seems to be such that it can be interpreted in many, many ways. Whose interpretation do you value and trust? The Economist’s. Why? This made-for-India made-in-India TVC gives you an idea.

The Economist:


54) Everyone knows (as Nike showed us) that India is a cricket-crazy nation, even foreign prisoners. So if you have to plan a prison break, do it on a day when everyone is stuck in front of the TV set, watching a big game live. Right? Wrong, says Tata Sky. Life is not jingalala for those who attempt to escape.

Tata Sky ‘Prison Break’:


55) We’ve had girls coming out of a closet, we’ve seen a girl telling her parents that she’s not into men, what else could we see? We see a little girl attending – hold your breath – her mother’s wedding. Tanishq makes the second marriage cool. Lovely.

Tanishq ‘Second marriage’:


56) What are friends for? Everything that you can dream of. What are they like? Everything that you can imagine. The important thing is that friends, whatever shape, size and other attribute, are essential. Airtel said it wonderfully. Again, though, the advertising better than the product?

Airtel ‘Har ek friend’:


57) When you can just about afford a train ticket, air travel is a distant dream. Is it? Keep dreaming, hold your dream close to you – and you’re dream could come true.

Air Deccan ‘Old man and the sky’:


58) How durable is the paint used on the walls of the house? How do you explain the durability to the consumer? By showing, while all else changes, the house looks the same: as bright and as colourful as it was decades ago, even as the owner and other protagonists visibly age.

Asian Paints ‘Sunil Babu’:


59) In a country like India, unemployment is a big, big worry. How does one get a job or change a job? What was once thought to be impossible is now real. Tell your boss to take a hike.

Naukri ‘Hari Sadu’:


60) You had no clue what this gum could do to you, did you? But the old barber who has a small, run-down operation just around the corner knows exactly what impact the gum has. And you love it.

Centreshock ‘Hair cut’:


61) Truly Indian. The joint family breaks up, the property is halved, now divided by a wall. One fine day, love between estranged brothers blossoms again, and the divided family can come together again. No, it can’t.

Ambuja cement ‘Deewar’:


62) It was one small step from the nimbu paani, but Limca was much, much cooler. It still is. And communication like this made it oh, so cool.

Lime and lemoni Limca:


63) Do we really, really hate Pakistanis? Ages before Aman ki asha and before Zee launched a channel packed with Pakistani soaps, Godrej got Imran Khan to sell their Indian soap – Cinthol.

Cinthol Imran Khan:


64) This works because we’ve seen this before, a zillion times. And because we will see this again, a zillion times. What have we seen and what will we see? The extraordinary bond between a teacher and his students. A complete film.

Raymond ‘Teacher’:


65) There’s nothing in this film but milk. That’s what makes it terrific. Product window from beginning to end, with just a sprinkling of music to sweeten it.

Doodh doodh:


66) This is all sugar. Mothers bought Rasna for their kids because this girl was the daughter they wanted to have. Rasna was the sugar fix their kids wanted. The twain met.



67) The spin machine of Hindustan Motors and Premier Auto tried to stymie Maruti’s growth by talking about how any roadside mechanic could repair the Ambassador and the Premier Padmini and how mechanics would struggle with the Maruti when the Maruti had a problem. Maruti tells them to get lost.

Maruti ‘Service station’:

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Updated Date: Aug 13, 2014 12:42:43 IST