Iconic Ads: Eveready – Give Me Red

Give Me Red – Three simple words that held out a brash promise of raw power, energy, exciting and young to appeal to the youth

In 1991, Eveready batteries, the market leader, were under severe threat in the emerging urban youth segment. Traditional products rely on D-sized large batteries, torches, and transistors. The new-age Walkmans, remotes, and calculators run on slim AA-sized Japanese pen cells. And Eveready’s new offering in the AA size segment was six months away. The Japanese brands were going from strength to strength.

Eveready needed to burnish its imagery to counter the Japanese. Give the boring brand, a makeover with imagery the urban youth would gel with  – the brand for the new age electronic products, hip & latest.

The answer lay in Eveready’s product range. While the simple, no-frills White Eveready had become synonymous with torches, the metal-clad, techy-looking Red was the more urban product.

Rediffusion worked it out and how! Interestingly and strangely, Rediff has lost the account. And it was at V Shanthakumar’s insistence that the agency decided to work for one last time!

Subroto ‘SG’ Ghosh (account director) gave a great brief. It was exciting times, markets were changing, Pepsi had come in, and Star TV too. MTV was arriving soon. People were buying new stuff. Batteries were not just for “transistor radios”.  That was the old Eveready-The Chosen One for Your Transistor. “

When Shantakumar and SG were smoking later, SG proposed, seemingly out of the blue, that they base their movie on a song by the band Queen, namely “Give me money, Give me fame, Give me love.” For consistency with the brand’s colour scheme, SG also proposed switching out the word for the colour red.

The brief came to Gavin Barrett. He was told by Shanta that the idea would be a Cathay Pacific commercial. Not much music but multiple visuals. Furthermore, he informed Barett, “A tale you will tell is the story of power, since there’s nothing in this battery that is distinctive.” All that’s changed is that the chloride battery is now packaged in metallic wrapper”.

Gavin came up with options which Shanta (V Shantakumar) rejected. For instance – Barett proposed utilising this to create a catchy tune. Shantakumar was certain that there would be nothing except ‘Give Me Red,’ which was a little perplexing to Barett.

And finally, the big idea happened.  Forty minutes had passed by the time Barett finally produced a script. That was only the first concept for the commercial.

Around 3 AM is when the song was recorded in its entirety.

The group travelled to Calcutta the next day with nothing more than a narrative, no storyboard, and no pictures.

ACD Bugs Bhargava was part of the team. He dressed like an old man to represent the old brand. During the presentation, he hid behind the screen so he could work on his dhoti and old umbrella look. He made an appearance and in an elderly tone, he said, “I am Eveready, the most powerful thing for young people like me.”

The customer was certain that there was no way that an older person could successfully market themselves as “hip” to millennials.

He then left the board room & came back later as a hip young college student with a Walkman and gear, to announce, “I am Eveready, Give me red.” The clients were convinced.

Sharad Nigvekar did those new zany layouts for the ads. Ehsaan Noorani did the peppy track and the films were by Mahesh Mathai

The iconic campaign came to light. Three simple words held out a bold promise of raw power/energy. The in-your-face brand, and served as the anchor for a commercial that was like no other seen on Indian television. Very MTVish

The campaign became the benchmark in terms of style, pace and sheer energy.

And boy, did it energize Eveready?  The AA Red raced to 38% market share and boosted the entire range. And it was not just the urban youth who connected with it, but the brand’s loyal rural base as well. Lal became as much of a buzzword in the villages as Red was in the cities

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