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Rock On

Jingle on a song

It's a busy Saturday night at a bustling South Delhi pub. Teenyboppers jostle for space with middle-aged couples who are out to extract every drop of fun a weekend and money can afford them. The music is the quintessential blend of Hindi chart-toppers and cheesy club mixes of the Billboard 100. Suddenly the crowd erupts. There's vigorous limb movement and everyone knows the words. Even though the track has been remixed by the in-house DJ, who's very cleverly worked his name into the mix, no one minds. The crowd loves Har ek friend zaroori hota hai.

The jingle, composed by Ram Sampath and written by Amitabh Bhattacharya - both of Delhi Belly fame - catapulted Airtel from a brand that earlier relied on tinsel-town celebrities like Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor to one that used 70 unknown faces to create one of the strongest advertising campaigns in recent times.

Hero MotoCorp needed an advertising campaign that made the change in nomenclature from Hero Honda more permanent in customers' minds. AR Rahman's superb composition Hum mein hai hero, which is also the company's new tagline, did that with consummate ease. It took just a few repeats on TV for everyone to start humming the new Rahman creation.

Two of India's biggest advertising successes in 2011, released within weeks of each other in August, reiterated the change that Indian advertising has undergone in the last few years. Music that used to be in the background is now used to tell the story. And these 'songs' are an active part of our cultural consciousness.

Take the latest advert from the Coca Cola stable, Believe in a happier tomorrow, conceptualised and written by Prasoon Joshi. It's a collection of images emphasising the need to look forward with hope, interspersed with shots of children gleefully singing Umeed waali dhoop, sunshine waali asha, rone ki wajah kam hai, hasne ke bahaane zyaada. The Shantanu Moitra-composed tune has become a viral hit, with thousands sharing the ad film on social media. "In the last six or seven years, the treatment of the song has undergone a change, " explains Moitra, an old ad hand who returned to the profession after a hiatus of a year to work with old friend Joshi. "Today it's the song being sung that tells the story. "

Sampath, who was approached to compose Har ek friend... (HFZ) after the success of DK Bose and Delhi Belly, was asked to create a song that used the sounds of the classroom and made the brand sound or seem younger. "The Airtel concept was one that offered a great insight into how friendships are affected by the social media, and a great soundtrack helped tell that story, " he says. The composer, who has hundreds of jingles to his name, believes that music is the only form that offers the maximum bang for one's buck. "Sound is a valuable value-addition. George Lucas said that the sound and music are 50 per cent of the entertainment in a movie. HFZ was a great idea that was complimented by a good song, " he adds modestly.

Agnello Dias, recognised as one of the brightest and most creative minds in Indian advertising, is the man behind Airtel's anthemic jingle. He was also the brain behind the rambunctious Nike ad - the company's first on cricket - and also the riotous Nakka Mukka commercial for the Times of India's foray into the conservative Chennai market. Nakka Mukka, incidentally, won JWT India, Dias' previous bosses, two Golden Lions at Cannes, the first ever for an Indian ad. "I think while working on the Nike commercial, I stumbled upon something which subconsciously I always knew, " says Dias, who's now CEO of Taproot. "It's not always necessary that the music blend with the visuals. It's fun to watch something that's quirky. The Nike ad was fun and weird because it had a Goan Portuguese folk song as a soundtrack to people playing cricket through a traffic jam. "

Limca, the soft drink from the Coke family, has over the years carved a niche for itself with its very melodious and romantic commercials that became very popular as caller tunes. Its latest offering Do pal taazgi is a rejuvenated, naughtier avatar of the same philosophy. Composer Amar Mangrulkar knew he had a tough task but his cheeky take, sung beautifully by Suzanne D'Mello, quickly became a favourite. "Songs are ingrained in our culture because of movies, and very simply it's a formula that will never go out of fashion. Look at the Hero ad that Rahman did. It just lifted the whole concept to another level, " he says.
Interestingly, when compared with the iconic jingles of yesteryear, one thing that stands out is that ads today don't mention the brand in their jingle. According to Ajay Gahlaut, executive creative director of Ogilvy Delhi, people get turned off by sales messages. "Hard-selling your brand is not the norm anymore. Today people are bombarded by ads on 500 channels. We have to use a more subtle approach, and music is a great way to internalise that message. A great soundtrack makes an advertiser's job simple, and music has always been used by advertisers to connect. Ads today have been freed from sales pitch, and a fair bit of experimenting is happening, " he says, referring to the Airtel ad as an example.

Gahlaut sees nothing wrong in getting celebs like Sampath, Moitra and Rahman to compose for ads and lyricists like Swanand Kirkire and Bhattacharya to write jingles. "Why not?" he questions. "It's not a turf thing. Having these guys is only making the advertising space richer and the ads better. "

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