Iconic Ads: Surf Ultra – Doondte Rah Jaoge

Surf Ultra needed advertising which could show it working on the tough oily stains but in an entertaining manner.

Procter & Gamble (P&G) entered the detergent market in 1991, with Ariel at the premium end. Surf quickly reacted with Surf Excel.

The 90s also saw the emergence of concentrates and mid-priced powders. A new variant was launched – Surf Ultra with enzymes.

Initially, the focus was on getting oil stains out. It was felt that oily stains were the toughest type, and removing them was the holy grail.

Ariel had an entertaining TVC and the Surf Ultra one was functional – even removes oily stains!

But the consumers wanted to be entertained. Bharati Shankaran of Lintas was working on creatives. Many scripts were written, rewritten. One of which was based on the Mahabharata lingo. (The serial was on air then and a lot of people used to mimic the language). The kids talk to the mother in the Mahabharata style, saying Matashree etc., and she replies in the same way.

Bharati says “that I felt was the turning point. The client now wanted a housewife who spoke to the kids in the language they spoke. Although Mahabharata per se was archaic, the fact that the mother could think on her feet was the need of the hour.”

The hook was war and peace. This was from international Oxo flavouring commercials of that time, which always showed conflict in the family and resolution thereafter. The mother is the central figure- all-knowing and super-efficient.

Lintas with Usha Bhandarkar and B R Sharan leading the creative team of which Bharati was a part of, was handling this.

In fact, ‘Aisi Safedi Daag Dhoondne Par Bhi Na Mile’ was the original tagline. In the script, when the husband gets cross, because of the stain, the mother tries to pacify him. But in research groups, the women felt the woman should say something sassy. That’s when Bharati shortened the line to “Dhoondte Reh Jaoge”.

Bharati had to rewrite the script many times more to accommodate all the feedback.

Bharati remembers – “The original ending after the product window when the father sees the clean shirt and looks for the stain, the mother says Kyun Nahi Mila? He jokingly says ‘Ab To inquiry commission Bhitani Padegi. ‘Doordarshan objected to it, so while I was at the shoot, they changed it to James Bond Ko Bulana Padega”.

Pooh Sayani directed the film with Asawari Joshi & Kunal Khemu starring in it. Harish Bhimani (who did Mahabharat) and Pt Vinod Sharma gave the voice-overs.

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