Give the devil his due

A brilliant example of how sometimes negative becomes positive is the Onida Devil ad campaign. Don’t we remember the face of the devil, his sinister laugh, his fingernails and his tail all too well?

December 07, 2014 04:20 pm | Updated 04:25 pm IST

Ad from the “Neighbour’s envy” campaign

Ad from the “Neighbour’s envy” campaign

Probably never before in the history of advertising, a green, horn sporting devil, a negative character became such a huge selling point that the product became number one in the premium segment and stayed there from 1985 till 2000. Remember the devil who would emerge from behind an Onida TV with a smashed screen and mouth wearing a wicked smile, ‘Neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride’, the tagline that would join the gang of unforgettable one-liners. Onida TV had arrived, all the way from Japan with this visual shocker of a campaign, led by Advertising Avenues — founded by Goutam Rakshit, Ashok Roy and Gopi Kukde for Mirc Electronics. Indian company Mirc Electronics collaborated with JVC Japan some time around 1981 and introduced Onida to the colour TV market which had players like Crowne, BPL, Videocon, Salora and Dynora, etc.

“We decided to position it negatively for which we got a lot of flak. Our stance was when you have limited money, you can’t be doing casual communications. It had to be emotional and intimate. To get on top of our mind it had to strike a chord which not many ad campaigns manage to achieve nowadays. Our research showed that 50 per cent people hated the ad and 50 per cent loved the ad, but in private. The worst would have been to get ignored,” says Rakshit, Managing Director of the Mumbai-based ad agency.

To begin with, children were terrified of the devil and parents disliked the campaign for bringing a devil right into their drawing rooms, according to the feedback the agency received. But gradually, the devil became quite lovable. “He wasn’t a villain, people realised but someone who understood their desire to own a good TV,” adds Rakshit, who handled the marketing side of the campaign.

Model coordinator David Whitbread indeed made for a cute devil. “David had a cute face, funny teeth, expressive eyes and that’s why fit into the role well. But he was extremely conscious in front of the camera,” remembers Kukde, the man who created the devil. The art director of the campaign, Gopi based the character of the devil on what he had come across during his school days. “The image was close to what David looked like,” he says. The need for such a shocker emerged from the fact that the colour TV scene was already crowded.

“Onida was a late entrant. There were 20 brands already present but all of them were talking technical stuff which the audience didn’t get a hang of. Nobody had a story to tell and here was Onida which had 67 channels. It looked different and had a look similar to that of a flat TV of today. So we decided to give the viewers an emotion which conveys it all,” explains Kukde.

First came the print ad in 1982 and then came the TV commercial some time in 1983-84. The devil went on to become the brand mascot who would even appear in some spots without the product and the logo. “He had become quite popular and such a big brand ambassador for the TV. For a long time, the devil never sold the TV. What he would say was why envy your neigbour’s TV set when you can buy a quality TV yourself,” remarks Kukde.

Buying a TV was an aspirational and emotional thing those days and Roy, copy director of the ad, admits having exploited the fact through the campaign. “There was logic based on a weird thought. Those days, in a building six flats out of 10 would have a TV set. One would always be concerned about the brand the neighbour has and there would be comparisons. That someone would envy your TV was completely believable, and that’s how I came up with the line ‘Neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride’. We thought of a green-eyed dragon and so many other things and then Gopi created this devil,” says Roy. And the negative became positive.

Onida finally dropped the devil as its mascot in 2009 but before that, it had Ashish Choudhary, Rajesh Khera and Aamir Bashir playing the role of devil.

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