Castrol Active ad: Analysis

Before & After: You must have seen this format.

[before / after]
Gyms, diet plans and hair loss repair clinics practice a crude form of such advertising. Dishwashing liquid/bars also advertise in this format. Fair & Lovely made an assembly line of such ads, though their ads are one level higher on the story bit.

It is quite a general way of selling you something.

“Without our product, your life wasn’t that great, you had such & such problems, and when our product entered your life, it changed, for the better.”

But there has to be a connect in this line.

Which is what the makers of the last two Castrol Activ TVCs seem to have forgotten.

The script of both the ads is similar: An elder is teaching a young one (son/brother) to ride a bike. The drill is simple: clutch, accelerator, brake! Why brake? Because in city traffic, you need to brake more often than accelerate. Enter the helpful mechanic, who tells him that he’s right, but braking too often leads to extra pressure on the engine, which is harmful. Which is why you need Castrol’s new Activ engine oil. Problem solved. And the after scene shows a happy father asking the son if he’d only keep braking or ride the bike after all, or the younger brother just riding off without waiting for his elder brother to get on the bike, to which an elated big brother says “Munna rider ban gaya!”.

Castrol ad: father & son
Castrol ad: father & son
Castrol ad: brothers
Castrol ad: brothers

What is the issue with this, you ask?

Well, let’s analyse.

The ad has 3 parts – problem, intervention, solution (before, product, after – familiar?). The problem was two-fold – the young rider is not happy with the pillion who is not letting him ride and is asking him to brake too often (to simulate city traffic), and the elder pillion is not happy because city traffic is a b*tch.

The intervention is an engine oil, which reduces the strain on the engine which it faces in city traffic.

The after (solution?) is a happy father, who is not asking his son to brake anymore, or a happy elder brother who is happy that his younger brother is riding well now.

Did you notice the disconnect?

The problem that the mechanic mentioned was not on the minds of our protagonists until he came in the picture. He solved a problem they were least concerned with. In fact, he does not address their problems at all – city traffic still remains a b*tch, and thus elder person should still be concerned with it. What does his intervention do? It assures you that your engine will be OK even if you braked like mad in city traffic.

And somehow, this intervention manages to make both the protagonists happy. The elder one is not at all worried about the b*tch like city traffic anymore, even though common sense says that now that he knows the bike’s engine can take the strain of repeated braking and traffic has not at all improved, he shouldn’t be worrying about the engine’s health and should be pushing the rider to keep braking more and more. But he doesn’t.

Fantasies can crash?

If Microsoft made cars, goes the story. And it’s been ringing true for so long.

I was reminded of this story, because I saw a web ad for MS’s masterpiece browser Internet Explorer 8 today. The storyline of the ad goes thus: a lissome damsel in a frock is busy eating a sandwich in such an engrossed manner that would remind you of good ol’ Liv Tyler, while our hero is busy watching her from a distance. In the midst of this, we see the worried hero trying to look around an insurmountable obstacle, followed by the text “Fantasies can crash”. And then we see a rather rotund gentleman just standing between the two, while all we and our hero can see is his posterior. Then the hero starts making faces, from which I can only guess that the rotund gentleman has just performed an act with his posterior which causes considerable noise & air pollution.

We then see the Vista-esque dialog box asking whether you want to restore your last session or go to your homepage. And then we are informed about the groundbreaking new innovation in the new IE8 – Automatic Crash Recovery (where is the ™ guys?)!!! Of course now you are dying to use the new & improved IE8 right? With this automatic crash recovery feature that was not present so far in the IE, IE is now complete and can take on the other browsers like Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome, which anyways used to restore crashed browsing sessions (they can even save sessions when you are closing the window, if you preferred). Heck, even MS’s Office software do a half-decent amount of crash recovery.

But the best part of the ad is the sort of self-aware admission that “Fantasies can crash”. Refreshing to see MS admitting in their promotion itself that their software crashes, and we have to just live with it. But look at the new shiny feature — Automatic Crash Recovery! Don’t you just love the IE, now that it can restore your session after crashing it? Make it more stable and reduce crashes you said? No sir, can’t do. We’d much rather advertise the most irritating thing we can show you — our crash screen telling you that your browser crashed last time you opened it.

Coming back to cars, wonder if cars advertised like this. “Your car can crash or break down, but look at this feature — it puts you back on the road you were going on (after 3 months in the hospital or garage maybe)”. Do you want to advertise that your product does not fail (or that you have made efforts to prevent it from failing), or do you advertise that your product can fail, there’s nothing wrong with it, just look what we have added — it remembers what you were doing when it failed.

And then there is the copy — “Let’s you start from where you had stopped”. Weren’t copywriters supposed to be good at language? But then maybe in the new age of freestyle apostrophe usage, I am a purist.

TLA anyone?

TLAs, for those of you unaware of that acronym (which suprisingly isn’t an acronym itself), stands for Three Letter Acronym.

After the initial WTFness has subsided, I would just like to raise one simple question for marketers with the big brands out there – is OBA taught at whatever business classes you’ve attended? Now OBA, for those unaware of that too, stands for Obfuscation by Acronymisation — with that, I have scored double points for not only inventing an acronym, but also inventing a new word. Thank you, thank you.

First we had seen the ever-so-reassuring safe-for-my-health All Out mosquito repellent, which kills more mosquitoes in my bedroom because it’s loaded with extra MMR. After a big sigh of reassurance, I take another look at what the MMR stands for. It stands for Mosquito Mortality Rate. So let me get this straight — the liquid will kill more mosquitoes because it has extra mortality rate? Talk about causes and effects getting mixed up.

The second case-in-point is our good ol’ Parachute. With its misspelt (but a smart branding tactic) Advansed. You ofcourse are aware of the Parachute therapie (another one, but smart) hair oil. And its advertisements. They said their scientists have done research and found out the reasons for hair fall. Do you know what those are? They are (gasp gasp!) RDF!! Wow, you think! They have finally found what destroys the roots of hair to make them fall! This is great news! Until you look carefully to see what RDF stands for. Root Destroying Factors. Had the brand owners not come out with that advertisement, would you have known that hair roots are destroyed because of Root Destroying Factors? I am bummed!

The business world apparently loves acronyms, and those of us who have lived a part of our lives in the SGAs, the RTMs and the CRISPs, even swear by them. But such OBA leaves even the likes of us gasping for air.

And ofcourse, when the consumer gets curious and looks for the real meaning of your TLA, like I (and many others) did, do you think the brand would come across as honest and trustworthy? To me it looks like, the people developing the product did not do much work in research, but they still want to tom-tom their “efforts” and want to sound important by using acronyms and smart-looking animation. Can your brand afford such an impression?

What do you think? And do you know of any other such examples of OBA?

Why do I need to lie about myself in my own country?

In my own country, I had to lie about myself. No I am not a fugitive. I am simply a person with Bihari roots.

Yesterday I went to see a flat (we’ve got to shift), and the landlady kept asking us, among other directives like “don’t bring girls here…”, “Is any of you Bihari? Because we don’t want to have Biharis in our house.”. Even though we kept telling her that one of us is a Marathi (to which she looked visible pleased) and I am a Bengali (owing to the “truth” that I come from Calcutta), it felt wrong, and I decided not to ever return to that place.

I never came across anyone in my 20 year long stay in Calcutta, or year long stay in various places in Jharkhand, who would tell me that they would not want a Marathi, Tamilian or Gujarati as a tenant.

Having said that, she has not done anything illegal. She owns the place and she has the right to have her reservations. But the underlying assumptions and intent behind that decision disturbs me.

Why do I need to lie about myself in my own country?

Wish Karo, Dish Karo

Have you seen Shah Rukh Khan on TV sitting on a terrace in a couch, hair flowing back in the wind, asking the world why they are content with their current cable connection, and aren’t switching to DishTV immediately?

Remember what he’s been telling us lately? “Aasman me live Dish TV…”


So, in India the only airline which offers in-flight television is Kingfisher, and what I see there is no live TV. No sir.

KF’s in-flight entertainment list contains NDTV Good Times, a Hindi movie (on air premiere), a channel showing Star One or Star World, an animation channel, an English soap, maybe one or two visual channels and some ten radio channels while the screen shows a map or information screen.

And none of those channels are showing anything “live”, that is what the people down there on the ground are able to see through their cables, Dish TVs, Tata Skys, Big TVs etc. It is programming that is pre-set for the flight. And what is worse? The content repeats. For each flight that flies in a day, the content is identical.

How do I know this? At times I have to fly Kingfisher twice or thrice in a day, and I find the same Friends/Khichdi/Sarabhai vs Sarabhai episode running on the Star entertainment channel, or the same feature on the NDTV Good Times channel, the same “premiere” movie, the same cartoon film. So the entertainment is entertaining in the first flight, but in subsequent flights during the day, it gets stale.

Anyways, the point is why advertise something (and give the public guilt over it), when it is obviously not true? Why lose credibility?

Stop spamming me!

What is the problem with Just Dial?

I have never visited their site before today. Nor have I ever called on their number and left my email address.

Yet, everyday I get three to four emails from them which would be titled “Response to your call for X-Y-Z”. And for around 80% of the time, I would never have even heard of X-Y-Z. The mail starts with a section on what the media is writing about Just Dial, and then “the information I requested”, which would be the name of the company – X-Y-Z, and then their address.

This company is being covered by newspapers and such is the problem with them.

I checked their site, and there is no “don’t send me these emails” link.

From one of their articles: “Just Dial connects the seeker to the sought”. Why is it trying to connect me, when I am neither the seeker nor the sought?

I think I should send them an email with the “information” they didn’t request but require direly.


I have a branded laptop from a renowned company.

It has 1 GB of RAM.

Now I need to upgrade, and want 2 GB of RAM.

I should be able to buy one more stick of 1 GB and have 2 GB of RAM, right?


The 1 GB of RAM in my laptop is not in one stick of 1 gigabyte. It is in two sticks of half a gigabyte each. If I now buy a 1 GB stick, I’ll have to take out one half-gig stick and replace it with the new 1-gig stick. Which leaves me with 1.5 gigs.

I could buy two sticks of 1 gig each and replace both the half-gig sticks. But then I have bought the entire RAM anew, and I have two half-gig sticks which are of no use to me. I cannot sell those easily, because if I need 2 gigs on my machine today, there would hardly be anyone in the market who would want a stick with capacity below 1 gig. With passing time, these half-gig sticks would become more obsolete and less in demand.

And this is not just my story. All laptops come with just two slots for RAM, and both sticks are occupied with contemporary capacity sticks. Which means that upgradability goes out of the window when laptops are designed/made.

I remember when I had a replacement VC820 motherboard shipped from Intel, because the CC820 I had bought was defective, they gave me one stick of 128MB RAM and an empty CRIMM (because the memory technology being used, RDRAM, did not work with empty slots). In short, if I wanted to double my memory I had to buy another 128MB stick and replace the CRIMM with the new stick.

How difficult is it to leave one slot empty, or ship laptops with three memory slots, so that users do not have to face such situations when they want to upgrade? Or is it a tactic to force users to either spend more by either wasting money on memory that’d be useless to them, or buy a new laptop?

Earn it, Cadbury’s!

Cadbury’s relaunched their premium chocolate bars, Bournville recently. With new rich packaging and a new format, reminiscent of their other premium range, Temptations, Bournville looked promising.

But then, advertising happened.

Take a look at the following two print ads for the brand:
And then, this TV spot:
Link courtesy aFaqs!

All this has left me befuddled. With such finishing and the obvious amount of money spent on the campaign, what is the level of thought and creativity that’s gone behind it?

The positioning is simple: You don’t buy a Bournville, you earn it. So far so good. Shall we see what the “creative” has done with the idea?

In the first one, “Booker, Oscars, Nobel, Bournville… Hope you get the drift”, it took me a while to understand that they are trying to hook on to the “earn it like an award” idea. Oh right, Bournville is such an earnable thing as a Nobel Prize or a Booker.! And then “hope you get the drift”. No I don’t. You have to do better than that. Preposterous at its worst, unimaginative at its best.

Then I saw the TV ad, where a reporter tells us that the way to eat it is to break the bar (trying to own the sound), smell it (like wine) and then tells us of the “legend of Bournville”, again that “you earn it”, which according to him is British mumbo-jumbo. Then he proceeds to eat it without having earnt it, and gets lifted off by a giant bird, reinforcing the idea that “you dare not eat it without earning it first”. Hence, we know the agency is short of ideas.

And in the end, you have “The food of the gods and other top management”. Had it just been “The food of the gods” it’d still have been okay. A bent enough headline, though dated. But “… other top management”? What does that mean? It doesn’t add to the “earn it” idea, neither is it funny.

Neither of the three ads have been able to give me any impression that Bournville is a premium product or that the advertising is smart,or at least clever.

To Cadbury’s: you earn your place in the consumer’s mind and in the advertising world, and this time you haven’t. Sorry.

Why is it?

Why is it that when I buy stocks using an online trading service, money is instantly deducted from my account, but when I sell stocks using the same service, I will get money after two working days?

Why is it that when there is a false transaction in my telephone/credit card/travel bill and I raise a dispute, I have to pay first and then prove that the transaction is false and then if proven, expect the refund in some weeks?

Why is it that when I purchase something using my credit card, the dues on my card go up immediately, but when I make an online payment, it would take 2-3 days for the “transaction to reflect” in the balance?

Why is it that when I use a prepaid service (shopping card, mobile phone) and the company has deducted an elephantine sum from my balance, I have no way of talking to a human in the company about this?

And after all this, why am I being given the sugar-pill that I, being the customer, am a King, and am most important to these large corporations running these businesses?

Is the individual so downtrodden and helpless in this corporation-led economy?

I pay here, there, everywhere…

All motorised vehicles in India are supposed to have paid a road tax, which among other things, is supposed to pay for construction and maintenance of roads on which these vehicles would ply.

So what exactly is the rationale behind charging toll for the fancy new highways, toll bridges, expressways?

Apparently these new facilities are of superior quality and put extra load on the funds in their creation and maintenance.

So if I need to pay extra when I travel on such a road, shouldn’t I get a refund when I travel on a road that has not been constructed properly or has not been properly maintained, which would mean almost any Indian road apart from these fancy ‘tollable’ roads?

What say?