Iconic Ads: Thums Up – Taste the Thunder

The background on how Thums Up’s famous line – Taste the Thunder evolved and the campaign thereafter.

Thums Up was at the crossroads again. The “Happy days are here again with Thums Up” followed by “Food, Friends and Thums Up” & “The Refreshing Cola” had done their part. 

But things needed to change with Pepsi on the way.

The main features of Thums Up are that it is more carbonated, stronger and less sweet than the rest – a masculine/manly taste.

The call was to move Thums up away from the teens having fun to renowned action-driven men who would go to any extreme to sample the intense taste of Thums Up. 

But Ashok Kurien of Ambience who handled advertising for the brand was stuck creatively. 

Exasperated, he reached out to his friend, Bugs Bhargava Krishna who was working in Contract and shuttling between Bangalore and Mumbai. 

Ashok briefed Bugs on the issue. Bugs went back to Bangalore and drank many bottles of Thums Up. He liked the ‘Hit’ which the Thums Up gave after every drink.

In Bangalore Airport, while returning, he was having yet another Thums Up and a strong burp hit him resembling a more thunderous bellow!

Just then a Bangalore summer storm hit. The rumbling in the sky sparked the fact that drinking Thums Up was like tasting thunder. He wrote the line on a napkin and kept with it himself.

He met Ashok the next day and before presenting the line was building his case. The impatient Ashok said, “ F&^% the preamble, just tell me the line”. Bugs gave him the napkin. Ashok read it, kept quiet and finally blurted out “you ba@$^#%, you have done it!

And then they got themselves drunk in celebration.

The following evening they met again with Elsie Nanji (co-founder and creative director) and her husband Hossi Nanji, who composed the Thums Up jingle. They discussed many ideas for the TVCs and finally came up with 6 for the launch of the campaign. It was lifestyle advertising, but not too much, more a way of life.

The stories revolved around situations where Thums Up was the winner. Which also tied to thunder, as a round of applause. 

Shantanu Sheorey, a popular photographer, had recently entered film production, and he filmed the commercials

A secret not known to many is that Ashok wrote the Hindi translation – Toofani Thanda

The team at Parle was not convinced though. They questioned how a sound can be tasted. But Ramesh Chauhan decided to go with the recommendation from Ambience.

Apart from this, Ambience knew that Pepsi would follow a certain formula and adapt what works internationally. So Ashok studied Pepsi’s tactics and pre-empted them in India. Like 

A) Since Pepsi was the ‘The Choice of the New Generation”, they signed up Salman Khan for 10 years. 

B) They did a taste test between Pepsi and Thums Up using Pooja Bhat, and she obviously selected Thums Up 

C) Since Pepsi leveraged Top Gun for its advertising, Thums Up used the IAF fighter jets for a Top Gun feel commercial

Bugs Bhargava Krishna

Many years later, Bugs was working with Saatchi & Saatchi and was in London. It started raining, and so he took cover under the canopy of a newsstand. An Indian also ran and joined him. He asked him whether Bugs was in advertising, to which he replied ‘Saatchi’. The man invited Bugs to have a drink with him and the others at a pub.

Bugs was introduced to an old gent and young man with multi-coloured hair saying ‘Look what I bought from India.” 

The older person was from Mccann and was interviewing the young man. Bugs offered to excuse himself, but he was told to stay. 

After the interview and the talk turned to India. The multi-coloured hair guy had visited Goa recently. Talking about India, the older gent mentioned the problem McCann had in India. “There’s this bloody homegrown brand of Cola, that is giving Coke hell in India. The brand just has too much traction. Has a line ‘taste the thunder’ and the drinkers won’t change for anything”

Bugs diffidently said he wrote the line. On hearing this, the older gent got up and shouted to everyone in the pub. This is the guy giving us all the trouble in India, all the drinks are on him (Bugs) today.

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