Iconic Ads: Vicks Action 500 – Haan Bhai Haan
The advertising was intended to discourage the usage of analgesics for colds. Instead here was a cold specialist
In the 1980s, after Proctor & Gamble took over Richardson Hindustan, there was a fair bit of innovation to extend the Vicks brand.
As a part of this exercise, it launched a caplet (tablet in the shape of a capsule), which was the first Over-The-Counter (OTC) medicine for cold when all other medicines were prescribed. It was also a single dose versus a double dose of the others. And unlike the white of the prescribed medicines, this was yellow.
It was named Vicks Action 500 to signify getting back into action. The number, 500, was selected to make it easier for the rural folks to remember.
OBM (Ogilvy) took the challenge of advertising. It was a challenge, as until then, analgesics were the preferred medication for colds.
Interestingly, a young, US returned Ranjan Kapur (later Chairman, Ogilvy India) was the first account manager. The famous line Haan Bhai Haan was written by Suresh Mullick. The first ad featured film star, Dheeraj Kumar. Later, Tiku Tulsania made it even more famous.
The advertising was a ‘slice of life’ wherein the person with the cold is distressed due to a blocked nose, cold etc. The voice-over (Vinod Sharma) plays a pivotal part by deriding headache tablets and asking the person why he is not taking a specialist.