50 years on, looking back at the Liril commercial that changed advertising in India

Mumbai, April 10 (IANS) The Indian advertising industry is one of the biggest industries in the world, given the sheer consumer volume and the diversity of the consumer groups across the country. While the current ecosystem of advertising encompasses digital, broadcast, radio, print, and outdoors, it was the year 1974 that proved pivotal in shaping the landscape of advertising in India.

It was the year when the Liril advertisement, featuring Air India stewardess Karen Lunel, came out, and it forever changed how Indians engaged with the medium.

The advertisement film showed a bikini-clad Karen enjoying nature as she bathed under a waterfall.

The advertisement, which was shot at the Pambar Falls in Kodaikanal, was created by Lintas (Lever International Advertising Services) advertising agency.

The agency was headed by Alyque Padamsee, who is known for portraying Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Richard Attenborough’s multiple Oscar-winning film ‘Gandhi’.

The idea behind the commercial was shaped by a deep insight about the targeted female consumers and what they wanted from a soap.

The consumer survey shed light on the fact that the only time a typical Indian housewife had to herself was when she went for a bath.

The idea, born from consumer insight, harped on the escapist fantasy of transporting women from the packed indoors of the bathroom to the open space of a waterfall that replaced the showerhead. The physical setting struck a chord with the consumers as it broke the monotony of bath time and brought in elements of freshness and nature where one could still enjoy their ‘me time’ without the fear of being watched.

A good commercial is one which not only banks on good storytelling but also drives product sales, and this advertisement film not only skyrocketed product sales but also became an instant hit among the Indian masses. It turned into a legacy and a stepping stone for many Bollywood actresses, like Preity Zinta, the owner of the IPL team Punjab Kings, Pooja Batra, who would go on to star in the Hindi remake of the Kamal Haasan-starrer ‘Thevar Magan’, ‘Virasat’ and Deepika Padukone, who would make her Bollywood debut opposite megastar Shah Rukh Khan in ‘Om Shanti Om’.

However, as refreshing as it may seem on the screen, the commercial was logistically quite challenging to shoot. It was shot in the winter when the mercury slipped to 5 degrees Celsius in Kodaikanal.

Karen had to gulp brandy between shots to keep herself warm in the bone-chilling cold of the south Indian hill station, which further ascends to Coonoor and Ooty towards the north.

The advertisement became the foundation for the electronic advertising industry, which peaked in the 1990s in terms of creativity with iconic advertisements like that of Fevicol (created by Padma Shri awardee Piyush Pandey), Pepsi (Ye Dil Maange More campaign), Coca-Cola, Captain Cook Salt (voiced by Javed Jeffrey), Dhara Jalebi Commercial and Cadbury Dairy Milk’s Asli Swaad Zindagi Ka (sung by Padma Shri Awardee and Grammy winner Shankar Mahadevan).



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