#BTSwithInsiders: Arun Iyer on how Surf Excel’s ‘Daag Acche Hain’ came into being
The Daag Acche Hain campaign was conceptualized by Lowe Lintas under Arun IyerLowe Lintas
Surf Excel still has 'Daag Acche Hain' as its core proposition

#BTSwithInsiders: Arun Iyer on how Surf Excel’s ‘Daag Acche Hain’ came into being

Surf Excel still has 'Daag Acche Hain' as its core proposition
  • Surf Excel's 'Daag Acche Hain' was a unique proposition from a detergent brand back in 2005 when all other brands were simply talking about how to get rid of 'ziddi daag'.
  • The first 'Daag Acche Hain' ad featuring two siblings was conceptualized by Lowe Lintas and aimed at presenting a different proposition, in an attempt to stand out in the category.
  • Arun Iyer, the brain behind the ad, shares some heart-warming anecdotes from the making of the campaign.
Over the years, Surf Excel has evolved its communication with changing times. While in the eighties, it was the iconic Lalitaji educating people about the perks of buying the detergent with ‘Surf ki khreedari mein hai samajhdaari’, the brand later came up with ads like ‘Dhundhte reh jaoge’ and ‘Surf Excel hai na’, that spoke about what made the brand special and most effective.

It was in 2005 that we were introduced to the cute siblings, one of who slips on a puddle, and the other, who then punishes the puddle for hurting his sister. That’s when Surf Excel’s ‘Daag Acche Hain’ came into being. The brand already had a campaign ‘Dirt is good’ running globally, and ‘Daag Acche Hain’ was an extension of this proposition, while Indianizing it. In India, the campaign was conceptualized by Lowe Lintas. We spoke to Arun Iyer, the brain behind the campaign on our latest episode of #BTSwithInsiders, to unearth some never-heard-before stories behind the ad and he did not disappoint.

While the campaign was launched in 2005, the groundwork had been done in 2004, shares Iyer, who was working on Surf Excel since 2003. “At that point of time, we were trying out a bunch of things because the brand’s growth had stagnated. The competition was coming down heavily, Ariel was doubling down on India and there was a lot of stuff happening in the category at that point in time. At the same time, ‘Dirt is Good’ had been launched in Brazil and there were attempts to bring it to India in various forms but it didn’t really resonate with people here because in India, dirt isn’t necessarily a good thing,” he shares.

In 2004-2005, Gopal Vittal, who is now the CEO of Airtel, along with Sudhir Sitapati, Executive Director, Foods & Refreshment, Hindustan Unilever Limited, were a part of the brand. It was Vittal who said that talking about values could work because mothers want to instill values in children. “It is also during this time that children stop sharing what’s going on in their lives with their mothers.When they come back home, the stories are actually carried by the stains. You can make out what’s transpired through the stains. We realized that behind every stain there’s a beautiful story and that was the starting point,” says Iyer.

However, it still took the team sometime to come up with the perfect story. “We came up with alot of stories until one day, it was around 8 pm when Preeti Nair, R Balki and I were sitting together in Balki’s office and there was this moment. Its classical, how we hit a table if I kid gets hurt by it. We reassure a child saying we will punish the table for what it has done to him. It’s a very innocent thing that people do and that was the behavioral insight we picked up. We thought why don’t we do this with stains? So this is how the story panned out,” he revealed.

Once the idea struck, the creative team decided to share it almost immediately with the brand. “It was at 10:30 at night and Gopal was at a dinner with his team at Olive in Bandra. And Balki and I called him and told him we are coming there. The meeting was supposed to happen the next morning at 8 am but we drove down to Bandra at night and shared the script with him. Then Sudhir came over, we did a bit of research and that’s how the campaign saw the light of the day,” added Iyer.

The film was directed by Abhinay Dev and was shot by Hemant Chaturvedi in Ooty, and there was a reason for choosing the venue too. “In India, too much dirt is considered a bad thing. Too much interaction with dirt can lead to illnesses and that’s not something mothers are generally comfortable with. So we said it should be a place where even if you get dirty, it feels clean. A very innocent thought was, where was the place where if you dropped a chocolate, you could simply pick it up and eat it. That’s when Ooty came to our mind,” shared Iyer.

However, in Ooty, for a child to play with a puddle full of water in the cold weather was a big challenge. The team had to think around this problem and they came up with an innovative solution. “While we were shooting there, it was really cold, muggy and was even raining a little. The shoot kept getting interrupted. And this was for the first time that the boy was acting in anything, and since it was really cold, he couldn’t take it after a point. So we devised a strategy and put hot water in the puddle. What happened after that was quite fascinating. After that, he just did not want to come out of the puddle because it was so warm and cozy in there,” laughs Iyer.

It was perhaps this ad that helped the brand stand out in the category because while every other player was talking about how to get rid of stains, here was a brand saying something quite the opposite, that stains are good. And it has worked well for the brand as that still remains the brand’s core proposition and we have seen many more gems from the brand’s stable on similar lines over the years.