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Surf Excel’s new ad campaign looks to update ‘dirt is good’ philosophy - Narayan Devanathan

07 Dec 2017

Surf Excel’s new campaign takes forward the brand’s decade-old ‘dirt is good’ philosophy by telling parents that if kids get dirty in learning to defeat failure, then dirt is good

New Delhi: Surf Excel, the detergent brand from Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) stable, which advocated that soiling one's clothes is good if it is for a good cause, is back with a fresh take on failure in its new campaign ‘Haar ko harao’. Made by advertising agency Lowe Lintas, the minute-and-a-half-long film features a team of young cricket players in conversation with their coach after losing their fifth consecutive match.

Instead of lifting their spirits, the coach decides to quit. Disheartened as he leaves the field, one of the young players named Ayush decides to convince the coach to return and conveys that giving up is not an option. The campaign refreshes and takes forward the brand’s decade-old ‘dirt is good’ philosophy by telling parents that if kids get dirty in learning to defeat failure, then dirt is good.

“The latest campaign picks up a relevant parenting challenge of helping kids cope with failure. India is an achievement oriented country where failure is considered a taboo. The brand wants to start conversations around failure with the eventual aim of changing the perspective on failure to it being a learning experience,” said a HUL spokesperson in an emailed response.

The multi-media campaign is being promoted across television, print and digital this month. The objective, the company said, is to take this philosophy to as many urban parents as possible over the coming few months. “We thought the best way to defeat failure and stigma surrounding it, is to embrace the learning that comes out of it. That is how the thought ‘Haar ko harao’ was conceived. The message we wanted to give out is that if kids do fail, it is not the end of the world. Instead, it is the start of a journey to find themselves,” said Arun Iyer, chairman and chief creative officer, Lowe Lintas.

Prior to launching a television film, the brand also did a social experiment called ‘The Falling Test’ on Children’s Day where young kids along with their parents were asked to walk on a log of wood without any support. While most of the parents gave up after trying once, kids continued trying and finished the task without giving up. The campaign explained that children do not understand the concept of failure and it is often the parents or society that conditions them to accept defeat. 

Jagdish Acharya, founder and creative head at advertising agency Cut The Crap noted that the ‘Daag achhe hain’ is a powerful yet emotional proposition which glorifies instead of vilifying stain. “The new ad too has its best moment when the voice over concludes ‘Haar ko haraane mein’. The ad is well-made from a film making point of view with an impressive acting and casting. It manages to pull off an in-your-face kind of emotional punch,” he said.

Narayan Devanathan, group executive and strategy officer, Dentsu Brand Agencies India thinks that although the kids, cricket and dirt angle has been done by Surf earlier, the new ad is fresh and watchable. “Also, for the first time, they’ve looked what other dimensions “accha” can be brought to life accepting defeat of defeat (Haar ko harana) as a good thing which is quite interesting. Given the newness of the proposition, perhaps I’d have tried to see if the storyline could have looked at situations beyond cricket. Defeat and victory in a non-sporting context would have been interesting, may be more metaphorical, a little more difficult to pull off as well,” he added.

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