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My 11 All-Time Favourite Commercials

26/12/2014 7:50 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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A pedestrian walks past a Nike Inc. advertisement in the window of a sports store at South Extension Market, New Delhi, India, on Sunday, June 9, 2013. India's consumer price index (CPI) figures for May are scheduled to be released on June 12. Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Every once in a while ever since I joined the advertising industry, I've been subjected to some baffling questions and fine opinions. "Is that actual chocolate or is that paint?" "Would you work on a fairness cream commercial?" "Can Aamir Khan only drink Kinley because, Coca-Cola?" "Advertising is bad karma, baby." "Advertising professionals don't have a conscience."

Questions and opinions aside, you can't ignore the industry that has helped you choose and pick your toothbrush, underwear, shoes, phone, vehicle, mosquito repellent, beer, salmon, insurance, and nearly everything you come in contact with in day-to-day life.

The possibilities are endless. I don't know any other industry that allows the kind of creativity and mediums that advertising does.

It's hard to pick favourites when a dozen commercials and more are released every day if not in a week. Here are some of my all-time favourites:

1. American Express - My Life. My Card. My Wes Anderson.

Year: 2004

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, USA

Director: Wes Anderson

Production: Alice Mintzer

- Cut. Cut. Cut. Not enough smoke and the snow was too loud. We'll go again right away.

- Making movies. How do you do it? What's it like?

Starring American Empirical Pictures' usual suspects Jason Schwartzman and Waris Ahluwalia, Wes Anderson directed and acted in this commercial that takes us behind-the-scenes, literally.

Arguably the best film of the 2004 campaign, it was Anderson's tribute to La Nuit Américaine a film by one of his biggest professional influences, Francois Truffaut, who also directed and acted in the movie.

You can view the trailer of the Oscar winning film here:

- She's a huge fan of yours.

- Is it true?

You bet it is.

2. Panda Cheese--Never Say No To Panda

Year: 2010

Agency: Advantage Marketing & Advertising/Elephant Cairo, Egypt

Director: Ali Ali

Producer: Hossam Fawzy

Song: True Love Ways - Buddy Holly

- No, I'm not hungry.

- This order is without cheese.

- There's no need. We've got lots of food.

Pop culture has introduced us to all kinds of Pandas--DreamWorks' Po Kung Fu Panda, Beijing Olympics' mascot Jingjing, South Park's Petey 'Sexual Harassment' Panda and an Indian audience exclusive, the food delivery panda of the recently-launched website Foodpanda.in.

But hey, you haven't seen no panda if you haven't seen Panda Cheese (bipolar) Panda.

Needless to say, the bunch of commercials went viral worldwide and received all sorts of reviews. Here is an interesting one: "Perhaps the evil mascot was the panda-embodiment of the now deceased dictator Hosni Mubarak?"

(Courtesy: Lumen Student - Cempaka Damansara Online Newsletter)

Panda Cheese for thought?

3. Lurpak Cook's Range

Year: 2014

Agency: Wieden+Kennedy, UK

Director: Dougal Wilson

Production: Blink Productions

- Tonight, as we stand on the edge of possibility we choose the path less trodden.

- Who can say what the journey might throw at us?

For some of us who can't cook, who have difficulty differentiating a spatula from a whisk, this commercial is a must watch. Besides the mouth-watering execution, it is a filmic CTA to 'Be Bold and Venture Forth to New Frontiers' in the most dreaded area of one's house--the kitchen.

Inspired by the greatest science fiction movie of all time, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, the VFX has been done by MPC. The print campaign for the range is just as gorgeous.

One of these days I'm going to play Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra for the entire housing society to hear and embark on a Lurpak kitchen adventure. Wonder Awaits, indeed!

4. Happydent White - Palace

Year: 2007

Agency: McCann-Erickson, India

Director: Ram Madhvani

Production: Equinox Films

- Tera Dil Roshan, Tera Mann Roshan

- Muskura Le, Jagmaga Le

While working for Equinox Films not so long ago, I came to the conclusion that Director Ram Madhvani is a walking talking Indian aesthetics' encyclopedia by himself. Prasoon Joshi couldn't possibly have found a better person for the job.

Produced by my favourite ex-boss Manoj Shroff, this commercial for Perfetti Van Melle's Happydent White is one of the most popular ones to have ever to come out of the Indian sub-continent. It won a Silver and a Bronze for India in at the Cannes Lions.

The background score was composed by Shantanu Moitra and was sung by Kailash Kher, Prasoon Joshi, Pranav Biswas and Moitra himself.

You can view the making of the film here:

5. Federal Express - Fast Paced World

Year: 1981

Agency: Ally & Gargano, USA

Director: Joe Sedelmaier

Production: Joe Sedelmaier

- Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful.

- In this fast moving, high pressure, get it done yesterday world, aren't you glad there's one company that can keep up with it all?

In this superfast moving, superlative pressure, get-it-done-the-day-before-yesterday, new millennium world, it is not hard to believe that there are human beings who can articulate five hundred plus words per minute.

Mutual funds' voice-over artistes were the closest I'd come to motormouths, until I saw John Moschitta as chief executive Jim Spleen in this 1981 commercial for FedEx, then called Federal Express. The man made it to The Guinness Book Of World Records for this rather extraordinary talent.

The agency that created it all may have shut down ten years since its release but this commercial from the campaign, 'When It Absolutely Positively Has To Be There Overnight' is one of the most memorable in advertising history.

It was so popular that Lois Griffin of Family Guy claimed to have dated him ('The FedEx Guy') when she was younger.

Jim Spleen absolutely, positively went places!

6. Nike - Cricket

Year: 2007

Agency: JWT, India

Director: Abhinay Deo

Production: Ramesh Deo Productions

- Kya kar raha hai yaar.

- Eh balcony, ball dena.

Indian advertising has interestingly integrated and (sometimes) abused cricket and its top players in campaigns for brands ranging from electrical appliances and clothing apparel to fairness creams. So it is no wonder why this commercial is a breath of fresh air, even today.

Conceptualised by Agnello 'Aggie' Dias and directed by Abhinay Deo, It captures the sheer frenzy of cricket lovers of all age groups, our one-lucky-day-a-week traffic jam situation and an umpire that bears a somewhat striking resemblance to the Khada Parsi at Sir JJ Road, Mumbai.

Cricketers Zaheer Khan and S. Sreesanth appear as onlookers, for just the right amount of time.

With a distinctive track sung by Konkani musical sensation Lorna Cordeiro that enhances the pace of the film and a cool freeze-frame brand logo appearance, this commercial still sets hearts racing seven years post its release.

Rao Patrao Rao = Wait Partner Wait.

7. Discovery - The World Is Just Awesome

Year: 2009

Agency: 72andSunny, USA

Director: James Rouse

Production: Outsider

- It never gets old, huh?

- Nope.

- Kind of makes you want to... break into song?

- Yep.

Discovery talent Bear Grylls (Man Vs. Wild), Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs), Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman (MythBusters), Richard Machowicz (Future Weapons), Josh Bernstein (Into The Unknown), Les Stroud (Survivor Man), James Cameron and Stephen Hawking, sing along to a reworked version of the contagious camping classic 'I Love The Mountains.'

Step aside pets, lovers and other immortals. This commercial makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, way more than any of you ever will.

The World Is truly Just Awesome.

8. Ikea - Lamp

Year: 2002

Agency: Crispin Porter + Bogusky, USA

Director: Spike Jonze

Production: Morton/Jankel/Zander

- Many of you feel bad for this lamp.

- That is because you crazy.

- It has no feelings and the new one is much better.

Admit it or not, there is a hoarder in all of us. From old clothes and broken furniture to antique hairbrushes and that jar of pickled capers sitting pretty in the fridge since time immemorial, we are almost always pushing the envelope when it comes to our attachment to things.

This commercial proves that a simple idea can be a powerful one.

Directed by Spike Jonze, this Cannes Lion winner (Film Grand Prix) tells you quite simply that these things have no feelings and that you should get rid of/replace the things that have outgrown their terms.

Non-living things. But feel free to be Unböring.

9. Volvo Trucks - The Epic Split

Year: 2013

Agency: Forsman Bodenfors, Sweden

Director: Andreas Nilsson

Production: Smuggler

- I've had my ups and downs.

- My fair share of bumpy roads and heavy winds.

- That's what made me what I am today.

If you are reading this blog, you are internet-savvy. But if you haven't watched The Epic Split already, you most certainly were living under a rock/North Korea/Facebook-free country or you may be one of those underage children who has just about come of internet age.

This is your chance. With over 70 million views and a tremendous return on investment, Volvo Trucks perhaps does not need your esteemed viewership, but this is your chance. Carpe Diem.

This is one of the few precious times in advertising land wherein a brand's collaboration with a celebrity makes absolute and perfect sense. The commercial befits Jean Claude Van Damme. Jean Claude Van Damme with adorable accent, martial artist body and life experience befits the commercial.

Watch this one multiple times over days and months to relieve yourself of gooseflesh on recall.

You're welcome.

10. Nokia/AMC Theatres/Cingulars - Return Of Kwan

Year: 2005

Agency: Best Buy Advertising

Director: Mike Nelesen

Producer: Barth Ward

There are some things we have all gotten used to while watching a movie at a multiplex/cinema/theatre by now:

- People stumbling or stepping on ones toes during the journey to their respective seats.

- Waiters half-crawling their way to deliver ones order of hot coffee and nachos.

- Flashing phone lights around your seat and into the depths of your bag to fetch your wallet.

- Babies wailing.

- Elaborate hairdos.

- People making hasty exits thereby blocking your view as the movie reaches its climax.

Personal experiences have taught me to make the smart choice of sitting far, far away from Ranbir Kapoor's and Quentin Tarantino's fans but nothing in the world takes the joy out of the movie watching experience as much as the phone on loud mode.

That is just why I love this commercial.

Silence Is Golden.

11. Zazoo Condoms

Year: 2002

Agency: Duval Guillaume, Belgium

Director: Frank Devos

Production: Lovo Films

This one is self-explanatory.

I love children.

I also love birth control.

That will be all.

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