The music of Mozart

How Titan picked a classical tune for the brand

Published - December 27, 2018 12:15 am IST

Titan: Inside India’s Most Successful Consumer Brand is a story of innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, and fortitude. It narrates how the Tatas launched the quintessential Indian brand against all odds. Titan’s founding managing director, the late Xerxes Desai, had worked with ad agency Ogilvy & Mather (then OBM) to select the signature tune for the brand’s television commercials, which was a piece of Western classical music. This extract from the book by The Hindu BusinessLine’s Associate Editor recounts how the tune was chosen:

The next move by OBM was in television advertising. Xerxes Desai was a creative person with a keen eye for detail, language and aesthetics. He was a Western classical music and jazz aficionado, and in Suresh Mullick he found the perfect collaborator. Suresh, too, had a keen ear for music, both Western and Indian classical, as all his work revealed. He had made several landmark short films for Doordarshan in the 1980s such as Spread the Light of Freedom featuring the country’s top sportspersons running with a torch, and the famous Mile Sur Mera Tumhara featuring India’s top musicians. He was also the brain behind Cadbury Dairy Milk’s successful relaunch campaign in 1981 with the line “Sometimes Cadbury’s can say it better than words”. Best of all, Xerxes and Suresh shared a great rapport.

A range of choices

In order to derive maximum synergy, it was decided that the television ad would be an adaptation of the catalogue-styleprint ad. It was an easy decision to make the watch the hero and showcase Titan’s entire range. The big question was what soundtrack should accompany the visuals. A commonly used audio track was to offer a product description, but this was ruled as being too boring and likely to detract from the visual. The second most popularly used track was a jingle. But the success rate for jingles was under 5 per cent. Also, jingles needed to be translated owing to the linguistic and cultural differences across regions, and that made it a challenging task. No one had managed to do this effectively.

After much discussion, it was agreed that a catchy piece of instrumental music would work best. Here again there were many choices: Indian pop music or classical music were considered and dropped because they did not have universal appeal. That left Western pop or classical. Eventually, they decided upon a piece of Western classical music with mass appeal. Xerxes and Suresh were well placed to make the right choice, given their knowledge and affinity of Western classical music. Suresh zoomed in on Mozart’s 25th Symphony, and picked the track from the 1984 award-winning movie, Amadeus , on Mozart’s life. Jaideep Samarth had picked up the CD for him while holidaying in London. So confident was Suresh that he had a scratch television ad prepared and presented it to the Titan team as an almost finished product. Xerxes immediately liked what he heard of Mozart and decided this was it. He had made his choice. The campaign was proposed and approved in its entirety in one sitting.

The first television ad showed a series of watches one after another. As the second hand ticked, the watch face changed. The ad conveyed the message that you didn’t have to go abroad to buy a quartz watch any more; you could buy it in India. This television campaign was a seminal achievement that defined Titan for the next 30 years.

A world-class feel

It was unheard of in the mid-1980s to use Western classical music for an Indian brand aimed at an audience little exposed to that genre of music. But it struck a chord. Xerxes felt the music gave the brand a world-class feel. “Of all the symphonies of Mozart, this one has a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and spirit about it,” Xerxes would say. Titan’s signature tune would go on to entrench itself so deeply in the public mind that television audiences knew it was a Titan ad the moment the music came on even if they weren’t watching.

Subsequent ads used many variations including Indian musical instruments to essay the symphony. As Xerxes said with a chuckle, “I don’t know if Mozart will turn in his grave or get up and applaud with the kind of things we’ve done to his symphony using so many other instruments.” Mozart’s 25th Symphony remains Titan’s signature tune to date.

Extracted with permission from Hachette India

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