Fun UX Example:

[This site uses cookies, but not the kind you eat]

Today I clicked on a link to a page, and a popup opened up, for the now ubiquitous cookie/privacy notification. Only this time, the words used were not the dry jargon filled trope we are now so used to seeing everywhere. Instead, the popup made it lighter by saying that this is about cookies, just not the ones you eat.
[This site uses cookies, but not the kind you eat]

Cute, isn’t it? It’s also noteworthy that they describe how they use these cookies in simple terms.

But wait, there’s more!

Why does the fun take on actual cookies work here? Because it’s Starbucks. And they know it.

Which is why, right after you dismiss the popup, up comes another one. Are you annoyed by two consecutive popups? I wasn’t. Because the next popup is this one:

[How about a real cookie?]

Colour me impressed!

This is awesome UX! You have to put up a notification because of regulations, you see an opportunity to connect it with a popular product of yours, and in a cheeky yet cute move, you create an opportunity to induce a sale!

I was so pleased with this experience that I opened the page in another browser just so that I could see the popups again (and take screenshots for this post in the meantime).

Lessons learnt:
Always look for opportunities to make UX of your product fun for the user. And quite often there might be an opportunity in the decisions that you don’t have much control on – you need to be able to spot it and make it work for you.

Impact: Ceat Tyres ‘idiot’ ad

If you ask me to recollect an impactful tyre ad, you’ll see a confused me. As far as I can remember, I don’t remember having seen any powerful tyre ads. I might remember the Ralson ads from the 80s (for sheer frequency of appearance), the MRF man (but no ad) or a vague idea that Ceat used to have a running rhinoceros, but any powerful ad? No.

Enter the “new” Ceat. And their new advertising.

Ceat seems to be focusing its marketing efforts around the idea of grip, and the new campaign is built around that.

Short, crisp, impactful.

So what really works here?

  1. The message: Ceat tyres have better grip. Better grip means holding on to the road. Which means powerful braking. Which translates to safety.
  2. Empathy: If you drive or ride anywhere in India, you of course are fed up of that set of people called ‘everyone else on the road’. People who don’t care for traffic rules. Who cross roads in peak traffic at any spot other than a zebra crossing. Who talk on the phone while walking on the road, while riding a bike, while driving a car. Who would come in your way out of nowhere while you are trying to rush to office or rushing home from a party late at night. Ceat has called this set of people ‘idiots’. And we all agree, don’t we? These people would put everyone’s life in danger with some stupid action of theirs, then look at you indignantly as if it’s all your fault! You, the good law-abiding driver, are left flummoxed at the sudden turn of events, and just swear at him under your breath.
    Doesn’t this happen a little too often? Which is why Ceat proclaims – The Roads are filled with Idiots. And we all nod in agreement. Which is why you need to get your tyres from the tyre company which already knows this universal truth that you feel so deep inside. Classic convincing!
  3. The scripting & execution: both the TVCs that have aired so far (family coming back from the movies cut off by a speeding SUV, office executive suddenly has to brake for a man with a pram) start on a relaxed, slice of life note, with dialogue which makes you wonder what it’s an ad for, and the blow is delivered when you least expect it. The protagonists are shown to be shocked. The background music aids in the impact. And the line is delivered. Crisp, impactful, winning.

Oh, and Ceat has not stopped at just making TVCs. They also have an online campaign which is tied in to their bike tyre portal And they are doing some really innovative magazine advertising – the last of which I saw in the xBHP magazine’s 2nd issue. Go give it a look.

Mohabbat Kare Khush Rahe Muskuraye: How Anchor changed toothpaste advertising!

Quick question: When I say oral care products advertising what comes to your mind? Most common answers: doctors in white lab coats, cute children in dentists’ chambers, cute children talking to their parents in metaphors about tooth decay (daanto me saDan!), people holding their cheeks because their gums/teeth hurt, and lots of information about roots of the teeth, gums, salt content, fluoride content, whitening strips and what not.

Too much information, then some more information, then scaring the audience (especially children) about the scenario in absence of the product.

How about some positiveness people? How about some classic emotional advertising? Something smart? Something snappy in thought, not just execution?

Well, here you go:

Video shared on YouTube by richacsaxena

Anchor, a very new entrant in the already over-saturated, over-crowded toothpaste market, that bored us with their Kajol-asking-when-you-changing-your-toothpaste-huh-huh advertisements in the past, turns a new leaf and does the daring but smart job of breaking the clutter by going back to the basics.

Too much jargon eh? Not really.

The ad became an instant hit with many advertising professionals I know, and whenever I played it back to anyone I knew, the instant reaction when the ad ended was never short of “wow!”

So, what works here?

  1. Back to basics: advertising at the very basic is a sales pitch delivered emotionally. It has to be engaging & fun. Because if you bore your customer he will not listen to you. And it has to have a story. Because who doesn’t love a story? Apart from lukewarm “my dentist papa says XXX prevents tooth decay” ads, there have hardly been any stories in oral care ads. We have been bombarded with component messages (triclosan anyone?), fake (as in actors playing) doctors endorsing the products on TV, and lately a father talking to his kid about oral care (which is somewhat interesting, and can be a topic of another post), but none of them comes even close to what this is.
  • The story: it is a story. A complete story. A story in the truest sense. There’s a hot wife, obviously madly in love with her husband, baking something, obviously for her husband. We get to see the husband momentarily in the photo-frame which she kisses out of overflowing love. The context is set. The mood is set. And then as a consequence to an accident arising out of her happy & carefree moves, we see the disastrous obstacle she (and her husband) has to face now: the cake is hard as stone! It’s so bad that it creates a dent in the refrigerator’s door! It’s so bad that it causes the tiles on the floor to crack ! Then we see the husband, a clearly average looking guy (played by Sharib Hashmi) – a clear contrast from the hot model wife he has, and the way they hug and are happy together, you start wondering how is this even possible. He is happy to see that his darling wife has baked a cake for him, and he lunges at it. The wife, who by now is clearly aware of the obstacle, tries to stop her dear husband from trying to eat the cake and losing his teeth, but stops short when she sees the miracle! The husband effortlessly bites into the cake, and overcomes the obstacle like a true hero! “How is that even possible?”, you think, forgetting your original dilemma of the unmatched pair. It is at this moment that the product comes in, and you get to know that it is in fact a toothpaste commercial – Anchor is the ally which helps our hero defeat the evil “stone” cake.
  • Suspension of disbelief: suspension of disbelief is a potent tool to engage the audience – it keeps them thinking and wondering. Like the dinosaurs living alongside humans in The Flintstones. Like the ultra-modern weapons in medieval looking arenas in the Quake franchise. The first disbelief moment is the husband-wife pair – everyone wonders what has this guy done to get such a wife, and then everyone wonders how is she so in love with him. The audience is so engaged wondering and thinking that they are now not taking their eyes off the screen. The second disbelief moment is the obviously exaggerated strong teeth our hero has. However ludicrous it looks, it engages you, and gets the message across.
  • Story-like tension and relief: a happy scene becomes tense when you see that her ultimate symbol of love for her husband (with two sweet pink candy hearts on top!) is in reality a nemesis for human teeth, and then it’s released when you find that the hero of a husband brushes with Anchor daily in order to be able to take such minor obstacles in his stride effortlessly.
  • Benefit: Strong, healthy teeth – that also are shiny white (as seen in every frame that the man smiles in – his dark complexion helps here). What else do you need from a toothpaste? Very strongly communicated, with such a sweet emotional backdrop. You won’t forget this message for a long time!
  • Underlying message: you know what proposition Axe sells on, right (nudge, nudge, wink, wink)? Now here’s an average-looking guy, who has a hot model of a wife swooning over him, using her half-baked (forgive the pun) skills to make him a cake, and worrying over the fate of his teeth, and he turns into a hero – for her and everyone else – due to this product we have here – Anchor toothpaste. This guy is a winner, and he uses this product. Why wouldn’t you?
  • Life connect: a toothpaste is an integral part of one’s life, not just a product comprising of chemicals who is supposed to “stop tooth decay” because your dentists says so. The health of your teeth affects your life. But instead of going the “ouch my teeth hurt because I didn’t use XXX toothpaste”, we have a positive story that says “look how awesome my life is, and how I am nothing short of a hero, because I use XXX toothpaste”. And of course our hero & his wife are happy once again, thanks to our product!
  • The production values: excellent execution. But what did you expect from a certain god called Prasoon Pandey?
  • The soundtrack: I love this part. The old Noorjehan song works as the perfect backdrop for the dreamy-eyed love story we witness, and the phrase “mohabbat kare khush rahe muskuraye” works well for the category – love, be happy and smile.

While I was writing this, I was wondering who the agency was, and only one name was repeating in my mind: Ogilvy. I confirmed it, and it is Ogilvy India. Love them for bringing in a breath of fresh air in the (ironically) stale category of toothpaste advertising.

Asian Paints: dada-dadi

I have been seeing this advert on television for some days recently, and think it’s effective.

Now why do I think it’s effective? In line with the previous posts on advertising (which include quite a few reviews and dissections of ads, now that I look back at it all), let me write about this ad right here right now. Okay? So here goes.

What works:

  1. Humour. Whichever ad has humour as a strong point, it’s always the first point for me. It grabs attention, entertains and makes the ad memorable. One person’s misery is another person’s humour. And in this case, the dadaji’s misery emanating from his weak memory provides moments of pride for dadiji and amusement for the rest of us.
  2. It’s a story! Stories engage us. We love hearing and telling stories. Once upon a time we painted the house… nice! And the characters from the story tell the story in autobiographical mode… nicer!!
  3. Lather, rinse, repeat. The story is in loops. We get to understand it after two of the loops – dadaji is reminiscing about an incident from old times and remembers one artifact of the story, while dadiji knows that he has made a mistake, and corrects him. By the third time, the audience is onto the game. We already know dadaji would again be making a mistake, and dadiji would correct him.
  4. The product. The yellow bungalow is prominent in the frames throughout the ad. I think the way Asian Paints present a house in their ad is well-defined in their minds, and they do it exceptionally well. Right from the first frame I could tell it is an ad for an exterior paint, most probably from Asian Paints.
  5. The story communicates the benefit very well. Memories may fade with time, but the paint would not.

Spread the cheer

Long time Flickr users, especially the “Explore” enthusiasts obviously know BigHugeLabs and their Scout service, which lists out any user’s “Explore” pictures, either those currently in the charts or those which have ever been in the charts, depending on the settings.

Those photographers who get a kick out of seeing their photographs on Flickr’s Explore frontpage keep visiting Scout to see how many of their snaps have been touched by the Magic Donkey, and whether the number has gone up since the last time they checked. It’s an addiction for some.

So I was sort of taken aback, pleasantly, when Scout tells me today that 405 of my 407 Flickr photographs are “totally awesome”. Turns out this is part of their Christmas cheer programme. A cute red Santa cap accompanies the message which tells me that. You can go back to your routine “normal” Scout. But there’s no way to get this back as far as I can see.

They brought a smile to my face no doubt, albeit with a cute li’l lie.

How are you spreading the joy in the holidays?

Merry Christmas!

Special treatments

Last Friday I was flying from Delhi to Bombay on an IndiGo flight. Knowing that it is a low-cost carrier, I was not expecting anything apart from getting me from point A to B.

So it did come across as a surprise when one of the stewardesses selling the eatables addressed me by name (though I was not sitting on the seat my boarding pass mentioned), and offered me one food and one drink item free of cost, because I was a corporate customer. At a maximum cost of one fifty rupees they left a good impression on me.

But then I flew IndiGo again twice earlier this week. Again for official reasons. But this time I did not get such a ‘surprise’ (which it would hardly have been, come to think of it).

Later I find out from a colleague that there is a line mentioning this perk on these low cost airline tickets for corporate customers. And that you can ask the stewardesses for your free items.

The pleasant experience lost its pleasantness during the later journeys.

Sure I could ask them for it. But I don’t see how corporate fliers would say “I should get a freebie” when stewardesses are asking them if they would like to buy something, especially when the value of the freebie is not more than two hundred rupees.

It’s not the money I save in not having to buy something to eat. It’s nothing compared to the money we spend on the travel. It’s the gesture that says that the airline cares for me and remembers me.

Does not take too much effort, is not too costly. The keyword here is, consistency. If they cared enough to check their roster of passengers in every flight and make sure they did such things every time they flew, the experience will be pleasurable every time.


Which do you think makes a better connect with you, or whom would you buy from?

We are your only choice
The only company selling blah-blah with blah-blah technology.
We are the only option if you want blah-blah on your blah-blah.
(In other words, if you want blah-blah and not choose us, you’re doomed. Where will you go, eh?)


We appreciate your choice
We are equipped with blah-blah on our blah-blah, but we appreciate that you have a choice of going to other people but have chosen us.
We appreciate that you have chosen us amongst many others who are giving similar (not the same) offerings.
(In other words, we are better, because you chose us; The blah-blah on the offering might be just one of the reasons you did.)

The Good, The Bad and The Excellent: Recent Telecom Ads

Here I pick three new advertisements from the stables of three Indian telecom houses — Idea, Reliance and Vodafone.

The Good: Let’s start with Reliance, which I’ll call the good. It’s not actually an ad I’m talking about, it’s a campaign — to advertise Reliance’s new caller tune copy service. The advertisements show one person swinging to some popular song that is playing with colourful musical notes surrounding their head. Then the person tells you that this is their caller tune, and you can press * on your Reliance mobile phone to copy it to your number. Then some other person who is in the frame, but not facing the first one hears this, presses * on a virtual keyboard that pops up in front of them and gets the same colourful notes around their head, to denote that the caller tune has been copied. The service has been around for quite some time on some other operators, and if I’m not mistaken, Idea Cellular was the first one to come up with this service and an advertisement (probably made in a south Indian language and dubbed in Hindi/English later on?) to promote it.

The execution is well-done. The camerawork and the graphics etc. along with the choice of songs is good, and the ad grabs attention. The “Hi this is my caller tune…” approach has been consistent in Reliance’s communication regarding caller tunes now, with the first campaign with lots of spots featuring different celebrities.

Interestingly the spots also have a karaoke-style line on the screen while the character is speaking, with the familiar ball-bouncing to denote the word being spoken. This is quite an unnecessary frill in the overall well-done ad, and ironically, this is the one thing where they’ve goofed up. If you look carefully, the words appearing on screen are not the ones being spoken. Why would you have it then? Especially in karaoke-style?

The Bad: Then you have our new Vodafone “musical greeting” promotion. O&M has done some really good spots in the Vodafone VAS campaign, with the man waiting in the lift for his soulmate, the man stocking up on onions in a supermarket, and the cutest one so far – the girl chasing a goat for its milk. But I think they have gone a little too far with the “down to earth, real, slice of life” approach. Three girls, holding a guitar and some other instruments standing beneath a man’s window, singing “pehla nasha”, all out of tune, rhythm and in my opinion, the guitar is being insulted in being handled that way. The idea could have run if the execution was any good. But the execution has left the idea, which is a decent one by the way, struggling. Are the greetings that Vodafone is offering us as “musical” as these girls are? If they are, then thank you very much. I’ll prefer silence.

The Excellent: My favourite commercial from the recent days is the new Idea commercial. Abhishek Bachchan is playing a tourist guide in Agra, who tries to talk to a foreigner lady for selling his services, but she seems not to understand. He assumes there is a language problem so he hands her his card, and turns around. He turns around to see her friend come to her and talk to her in sign language — they were both deaf-mute. Just then he receives a text message from her that they need a guide. We then see Bachchan tell a group of tourists about the Taj Mahal, and along with that he texts the woman whatever he is telling the others. She replies with a text – ‘what an idea’.

Truly, what an idea! To position text-messaging as a communication tool for deaf-mute people and thus increase the user base of mobile phones is truly a marvellous idea. This one is a fitting sequel to the earlier Idea spot, with Abhishek Bachchan playing a village head who replaces the usage of names for people with their mobile numbers, thus solving the caste problem plaguing his village. The spot is executed well, and the actors have played their part well. Hats off to Lowe people for an excellent campaign and another excellent advertisement in that series.

Irony? Hypocrisy? Need a job?

Do the top Indian placement websites have a pact among themselves to not air their commercials when the other parties’ are on? For quite some time now was advertising like crazy with its “caught in the wrong job” spot while was off-air. Now that Monster is not that visible on air, Naukri seems to have woken up.

Let’s keep the market dynamics aside for a moment to discuss another issue, shall we?

The spots, the most famous of which has been the ‘Hari Sadu’ one, where an employee spells out the name of his bad-tempered and abusive boss as “Hitler Arrogant Rascal Idiot”, all have one idea – that if you have lost your job, the place to go to is Pretty strong idea I must say. Everyone who is working in a job either empathises or sympathises with the protagonist. The ad simply rocks, because it demonstrates a problem most of its target segment is troubled with – that of a bad boss. The commercial is indeed one of the most famous ones of these times, especially among office-goers. We have all played the ‘game’ of expanding the names of our respective bosses at some time or the other after this commercial started airing.

Now one of the reasons for changing or quitting every placement consultant out there will ask you to avoid mentioning is that you and your boss could not get along. It is a taboo to mention in an interview that you had a ‘bad boss’. Isn’t it ironic then that the most famous and talked about placement agency advertisement is centred around exactly this one issue? The sticky-ness of this ad bears testimony to the fact that this remains the leading reason for people to look for change from their current jobs, so why are we so wary to own up to it and say clearly to a prospective employer that “yes I quit because my previous immediate superior and I could not get along, and I hope that you and I will not go down that path”?

Classics Revisited: Tata Safari DiCOR

After reading the content of the last ad-dissection post someone on the same Orkut forum recounted a favourite ad of his – the Tata Safari DiCOR ad, the one we are familiar with as the “Reclaim your life” ad, and requested a writeup on that. Guess what? I also love that ad, and loved writing the following.

Company: Tata Motors
Brand/Product: Tata Safari DiCOR
Tagline: Reclaim your life
Storyboard link: courtesy agencyfaqs!

What is this advertisement selling, if it does not talk about the mileage, the grip on the road, the boot space, the leg room, the head room, the interiors, the paint, the look? It does not talk of the car at all. What is it trying to get at?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs places esteem (not the car from the Maruti stable) at the fourth level, above physiological needs, safety and love/belonging and lower only to self-actualization. What needs does a car satisfy? There is a basic (call it physiological if you will) need, which Kotler calls “core benefit”, of transportation, and there is safety – you would prefer a car to a motorcycle to a bicycle because it is safer to the latter options. Lastly, there is one need that a car satisfies, more in the younger crowd, and that is esteem. A 14-year old is thrilled about getting to drive a car, and a 24-year old is thrilled about owning one. The world over, a car is one of the most treasured possessions of a man. Your car in a way defines you. Why else would wannabe playboys drive around in big shiny sportscars hoping to impress the women?

With the economy moving the way it is and with the average age of the first car buyer coming down (with the result that people are buying their first cars at 25 rather than 35, which was the norm 15 years ago), along with the fact that more and more younger professionals are getting their dream jobs with dream salaries, dream locations etc. (with the result that even the first car can be a B+ or C segment instead of the earlier 800/Alto/Santro class), it is a good idea for a SUV to focus on the young professionals as their consumer segment.

So what this ad does, is that it takes the aspirations of young and otherwise successful people, people whose parents would no doubt be proud of them, and shows that the ‘normal’ life is keeping them from pursuing what their heart desires. They would rather be doing something else.

Now what works here:

  1. The positioning – bang on. The car for the young successful professional who wants to be a maverick. With the new-style Safari, the designers at Tata successfully moved away from the boxy Bihar/Jharkhand-road chhaap Sumo image and delivered a sleek, sophisticated looking SUV.
  2. The immediate connect – if you are a young successful professional, you definitely have a wish to do something extraordinary with your life which you are unable to do right now because of the rat race you are stuck in. You have to identify with the faces in the ad.
  3. The tagline – reclaim your life. This urban life with the 9 to 5 job and pressures of the family etc. have taken away your life from you — the life that actually belongs to you, which you should be able to live your way. You should now get up and reclaim it for your sake. Notice the direct call to action – it’s not a ‘buy now’ or ‘hurry till stocks last’. It is so much of a non-hardsell line that it appeals to you much less like an ad but more like a caring friend or a movement that you’re part of (why am I reminded of Woodstock?).
  4. The production – there are two parts to the film: the first where the people talk about their unfulfilled dreams, and the second where the car is shown. First you feel connected to the people and as soon as you feel comfortable, a high-speed unstable film appears with a powerful SUV negotiating tough roads like you would like yourself to be doing right here right now. The director of the spot has done his job brilliantly in getting both parts of the film to talk properly to the target audience.