Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Cadbury dancing girl to My SRK ad: What's so khaas about Mondelez's 75 years in India?

A one-of-a-kind meeting of executives who have managed Mondelez and its iconic brands like Cadbury for many years. Take a trip down memory lane with Ogilvy's Piyush Pandey and the company's key executives

Published: Jul 17, 2023 03:53:42 PM IST
Updated: Jul 17, 2023 04:45:50 PM IST

Cadbury dancing girl to My SRK ad: What's so khaas about Mondelez's 75 years in India?Mondelez India completes 75 years of an eventful journey in India on July 18. It all started with the company launching Cadbury’s Dairy Milk in India in 1948, which has since become a leader in the chocolate category in the country. Image: Stills from the ads

The joy of receiving a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk or 5 Star from a relative visiting our homes for lunch on a Sunday, a glittering box of Cadbury’s Celebrations on Raksha Bandhan, sipping a hot cup of Bournvita on a rainy day after school…..these are the stuff of childhood memories, with Cadbury’s being the defining factor in all of them. During its strong seven-and-a-half-decade journey in India, the brand has created a sweet spot in the minds and hearts of consumers across the country with some of the most iconic ads that this country has seen. Whether it is ‘Asli Swad Zindagi Ka’ or 'Kuch Meetha Ho Jaaye’, 'Tyarri Jeet Ki', to Ramesh Suresh, or the most award-winning campaign that recently garnered a Grand Prix at Cannes Lions ― ‘Shah Rukh Khan My Ad’ ― all of these had significant roles to play in the 75-year journey of Cadbury’s or Mondelez, in India.

Interestingly, many of those managing or working with Mondelez and its brands have stayed with the company for years. For instance, Piyush Pandey has been with the brand for the past 40 years. He was introduced to the brand through a campaign that was created by his boss, Suresh Mullick. "Even in 1982, it was the campaign of the year ― ‘Jo baat baton se na ban paye, woh Cadbury’s se ban jaye’.

Then times changed. We were falling into the trap of buying chocolates only for children. This was the first real challenge that the brand faced, as chocolate was seen as a childish novelty in comparison to the country’s wealth of homegrown sweet treats. The most critical task at hand was to create category adoption for chocolates. That’s when the famous "Asli Swaad Zindagi Ka’ came into play.

Everyone fondly remembers the ad that had a girl dancing on the cricket field after her boyfriend hit a sixer. Reminiscing about the times, Pandey says that the agency faced a stiff challenge as multiple agencies were trying to grab Cadbury's business at that time. "But when the then client Rajiv Bakshi saw the ad, he said nobody else had a chance to win," recalls Pandey.

Two years ago, the company re-created the ad, with gender role reversal ― the girl hits a century and her boyfriend dances on the cricket field to celebrate it - with the tagline ‘Waqt badla hai, zindagi ka swaad nahin."

Also read: Storyboard | Mondelez and Ogilvy put a new twist to remake the iconic Cadbury 'Cricket' ad

Nitin Saini, Vice President Marketing, Mondelez India, feels that this was one of the most important milestones in Cadbury's journey in the country. "The work that we did to build relevance for Cadbury's Dairy Milk in the late 80s and then in the 2000s, with the whole ‘Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye' campaign, has played a huge role in building the relevance of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk as a ‘Modern Meetha’. Saini took on his new role a few months ago, succeeding Anil Viswanathan, who was elevated to Managing Director, Vietnam and Southeast Asia, Mondelēz International. Saini celebrated 20 years with Mondelez this May; he joined the company as a management trainee in 2003.

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Viswanathan, his predecessor, has been working with Mondelez for the past 23 years. He says Mondelez India has always stood for creative excellence. When asked how Mondelez’s journey in India has been seen by the global entity, he says, "The consistency with which they are able to do great work is almost looked at with a sense of jealousy. And this creative excellence has led to category creation and business growth as well."

With Viswanathan fronting the marketing for India, Mondelez India introduced a new line of thought in the form of the ‘Generosity’ campaign ― ‘Kuch Achha Ho Jaye, Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye’ ― that aimed to focus the spotlight on small acts of goodness. Under this campaign, the company created ' Shah Rukh Khan My AD', a campaign that allowed local store owners to create a free ad with Shah Rukh Khan for their little shops, around Diwali 2021. This campaign won many accolades globally, including the most prestigious Grand Prix in the Creative Effectiveness Lions at Cannes Lions 2023. The campaign showed us the problems faced by small business owners who were still hurting from the destructive impact of the pandemic and were finding it difficult to recover from it.

 The ad used AI to allow the shopkeepers to create their own custom ads through a dedicated website, given they agreed to share basic information about their businesses. It highlighted how big brands enjoyed the heft of being able to afford marketing budgets big enough to feature A-list stars, while small businesses found themselves unable to compete in the market. So, Cadbury's came up with a brilliant solution ― to make Shahrukh Khan, India’s biggest film superstar, the face of all these small businesses. By using machine learning (ML) to recreate Shahrukh Khan’s face and voice, a number of these small businesses were able to make videos using Shahrukh Khan’s likeness and market their shops on various social media platforms like WhatsApp.

"When we presented the idea, none of us in the room knew how we were going to do it. That is when great teamwork came into play. All of us got into it and found a solution that was seamless, unique, and amazing. Going forward, the stuff that we are creating now is exciting. I see youngsters in my team who are dying to work and find new amazing connections," says Sukesh Nayak, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy India.

"The kind of journey that has gone into each of these ideas is amazing," adds Shekhar Banerjee, Chief Client Officer and Office Head – West, Wavemaker India.

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In the first year, it was Not Just a Cadbury Ad’. This was followed in the second year by the ‘Shah Rukh Khan My AD’. It aimed at targeting buyers at the hyper-local pin code level. "A lot of tech technology that we used was actually nonexistent. In the second year, when we did it, all these efforts came in handy and another tech got layered on top of it. The journey that we have done, the persistence, is amazing," added Banerjee.

With the upcoming festival season, a lot's cooking in the Mondelez India kitchen. As Banerjee and Nayak put it, it’s all hands on deck with the festive season coming up. Adds Pandey, "The number of people we had in the agency back then was much smaller, but the proportion of hands is the same as now."