From promoting religious harmony to urging the audience to keep their inner child alive, how Surf Excel’s Daag Acche Hain has evolved over the years
Holi is a natural fit for Surf Excel. We all stain our clothes while celebrating this festival of colours and the brand...

From promoting religious harmony to urging the audience to keep their inner child alive, how Surf Excel’s Daag Acche Hain has evolved over the years

Holi is a natural fit for Surf Excel. We all stain our clothes while celebrating this festival of colours and the brand...
  • Surf Excel’s ‘Daag Acche Hain’ was conceptualised by Lowe Lintas in 2005 and the brand has made us look beyond the obvious through each of its advertisements since then.
  • This Holi, we look back at Daag Acche Hain’s evolution and its popular advertisements.
Every year, during the Hindu festival of Holi, detergent brand Surf Excel drops a campaign that never fails to win our hearts. Holi is one of the most important occasions for the brand as it brings an opportunity for Surf Excel to talk about colorful stains and celebrate togetherness.

Over the years, through its core message of ‘Daag Acche Hain,’ Surf Excel has tried to mirror the ever-changing socio and political issues in its campaigns and reminded us that the most powerful virtue is kindness. It has been able to carve a niche for itself in the market through this powerful proposition.

Its latest Holi advertisement is about keeping your inner child alive. The heart-warming campaign shows a little girl who reminds her aunt how to bring back colours into her life.

The spirited child protagonist is seen playing colours with her friends when she notices her aunt setting the table of colours and sweets, and enjoying their game, subconsciously wanting to join in. When the little girls insists that her aunt join them, the aunt moves away, saying it’s not her age to play like them. As the girl watches her aunt consciously throw away the colours she had unconsciously picked up in her palms, she covers herself with the colours and runs to her aunt for a hug. This action imprints the aunt’s clothes with a colourful silhouette of the child. Pointing towards the imprint, the girl suggests that this child could play with them. The heart-warming message “Jo rang bachpan lautaye, woh rang achhe hain” makes us examine the boundaries that keep us away from finding the joy of keeping our childhood alive.

Daag Acche Hain’s evolution

It came at a time when advertising in the detergent category was limited to its functional aspects of cleaning and adding fragrance to your clothes. Surf Excel, in association with Lowe Lintas, thought of moving away from this functional proposition in 2005. The company already had a campaign ‘Dirt is good’ running in Brazil which was conceptualised by BBH, and ‘Daag Acche Hain’ was an extension of this proposition in India, with a desi twist.

In the 80’s, Surf Excel (then Surf) was carried forward by an iconic character ‘Lalitaji.’ The white sari-clad woman educated the audience about the difference between cheap and effective products. Surf’s Lalitaji was also an answer to rival Nirma’s catchy and evergreen ‘Hema, Rekha, Jaya aur Sushma’ campaign.

In 2012 came ‘Dhondte Reh Jaoge’ starring a woman in a white sari again, she tells us her husband that he would have to really look for the ‘daag’ once she washes his stained shirt with Surf Excel. He stains his shirt as his kids’ carromboard’s coin hits his Samosa. He blames the wife for spoiling ‘her kids’ and she cleans his stain with a handkerchief for him.

It is only now that detergent brands have woken up to realise that household chores are equally a man’s job. Until the early 20’s, detergent brands were only targeting women and portraying them as nurturers of the family, who didn’t have the agency to make a decision for themselves. Women were seen as someone’s wife or mother, who is supposed to be a good role model for her family by taking care of them, even raise her husband like a baby who can’t wipe a stain off his shirt himself.

Before Daag Acche Hain, stains were just stains that people would think about washing away because, who likes dirt on them? Bollywood has also compared Daag with women’s ‘pride’ and for a long time, had us believe that stains cannot be washed away, especially if you are a woman.

Surf Excel, on the other hand, made us accept our flaws and reminded us that flaws make humans, humans. Through its metaphorical campaigns, it said stains are only temporary and with just one attempt, relationships can be mended and differences are washed away. (It also subtly comments on our country’s poor infrastructure where you can manage to find a puddle anywhere you look).

While it was easy for Surf Excel to walk away from this stereotypical representation of women because they cast kids, Daag Acche Hain was still like a fresh breath of air that didn’t push career-oriented women down a guilt trip.

Surf Excel’s first ‘Daag Acche Hain’ ad featured two siblings. The little sister steps into a puddle and starts to sob. Seeing her little sister upset, the big brother does what any desi parent would do if an inanimate object hurt their kids. Hit it. He also apologises on behalf of the puddle and this innocence, we are certain, does not fail to bring a smile to your faces even today. The ad concludes with a voice over, “Daag lagne se agar kuch accha hota hai, toh daag acche hai na? (If something good comes out of staining, stains are good).”

Below are a few campaigns and the common themes Daag Acche Hain has used over the years:

Using your privilege to help out those who aren’t as lucky:

Helping others out

Surf Excel’s colourful relationship with Holi

Holi is a natural fit for Surf Excel. We all stain our clothes while celebrating this festival of colours and the brand has never missed this opportunity to replug ‘Daag Acche Hain.’

Surf Excel’s Holi ad from 2019 titled ‘Rang Laaye Sang’ had evoked a controversy. As its beautiful Ramadan ads, Surf Excel had chosen to portray Hindu-Muslim harmony in 2019. The only difference, however in 2019, was the political scenario.

Surf Excel’s minute-long Holi ad ‘Rang Laaye Sang’ (colours bring people together) featured two kids, a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy. The girl dressed in white, rides on a bicycle and challenges neighbourhood kids to splash her with Holi colours. It is later revealed that it was in order to protect her Muslim friend who had to go to a nearby mosque for prayers. As she drops her friend at the mosque, she said, “I will colour you later” and he agrees, with a bright on his face. However, Twitterati took the ad rather badly and said that the ad portrayed Hindus in a bad light and promoted “Love Jihad.”

However, the last two years have been unusual. We haven’t celebrated Holi like we did before the pandemic hit our country. We don’t get to see our relatives, play Holi or cherish sweets together like we used to. So, in 2021, Surf Excel showed the audience how to play Holi while maintaining a safe distance from their loved ones.