I grew up with the Vividh Bharati and Radio Ceylon, tuned to the programmes and songs and of course the ad jingles. I still remember the Mumbai VB programme airing Marathi songs at 11-30 AM as I walked to school. It took me about 25 minutes and the shops along the route were tuned in to this station and so I could listen to the songs without interruption, the sound from one shop fading as the next one picked it up.
But it was the jingles punctuating the songs that helped me time my walk, sometimes with friends and sometimes alone. I would be watching out for the particular ad which would tell me if I was a tad early or late depending upon at which point that jingle normally played on the route. As I grew up I used the jingles to time my work in the morning as I rushed to school/college/work. The songs were often incidental. And when some jingle was removed from that slot, it would disorient me for a few days till I got used to new one and associated it with the time I should be bathing, rolling out rotis or packing lunch. Now tell me, has it ever occurred to you to use a jingle as a timer? More importantly, would I have done it had they not been catchy and grew on me?
The radio ads of the 60s and 70s with the voice-over by the likes of Hamid Sayani, Pratap Sharma, Ameen Sayani and Brij Bhushan were as delightful as the jingles and the fact that I remember them a half century later proves how good they were. And what’s more, they were effective without help from visuals as in TV ads.
They were not just catchy but evocative too. When one heard the tandoorusti ki raksha’ Lifebuoy jingle, it brought to mind cleanliness and health, the unforgettable ‘la…la la la……’, of Liril, conjured up freshness long before one saw Karen Lunel cavorting in the waterfall; the beautiful Ok bath soap jingle which I loved (but never felt like buying), made one imagine a huge bar of soap that it told us about; the Only Vimal jingle convinced the listeners that it was really the only one and sold a million saris in the bargain. They were worth dying for, believe me!
Likewise, the ‘gale mein khich khich..’ Vicks lozenges ad, Glucon D’s ‘jaan mein jaan daal de…’, Elpar Suitings jingle with its lilting tune, that of S.Kumar Saris (ever heard of them?)….and the Dipy’s jams and ketchups jingle of ‘Dipy Dee Dipy Doo, Dipy dum dum…’ (oh how I loved that one!), Vicco Vajrdanti toothpaste jingle, were all uniformly good. I could go on and on but will leave you to recollect and share some of your own favourites.
Some jingles like the ones advertising cold drinks actually made one experience whatever they said about the brand. ‘Gold Spot, the zing thing!’ peddled lifestyle as most cold drink ads do today, but one actually felt a zing going up the spine as one sipped it. (I doubt if we feel as if we are doing something ‘toofani’ while drinking Thums Up.) And then the simple yet evocative Frooti jingle – ‘Mango Frooti, fresh and juicy,’ conjured up the juiciest mangoes and one felt as if one was actually drinking from the fruit while sipping Frooti!
Some of these famous radio jingles went on to become memorable TV ads in the 80s and 90s. (Lifebuoy, Nirma, Frooti, Glucon D, Gold Spot).
The Nirma jingle was so effective in imprinting the product on my mind as a washing powder that when they came out with a toilet soap I wouldn’t touch it, even though it was called Nima with the R removed from its original name! And you can only imagine my feelings when they introduced salt. I could actually smell soap in the subzi!! Incidentally there is a Nirma University in Gujarat. I am not even beginning to visualise anything about it!
Anyway, Nirma made Hindustan Lever run for cover — a classic case of David and Goliath and the fairy tale birth of an Indian brand. HLL had come up with a series of ads including the one with Lalitaji played so ably by Kavita Choudhary, to fight the threat posed by Nirma. But the company didn’t know that it had created a powerful brand enemy in me.
If I may go off at a slight tangent, some ads are effective because they are irritating. I must probably have been the only Indian woman consumer who hated the Lalitaji ad and it effectively put me off the product for life. With her superior air and tone as she talked of ‘samajhdari’, she made me feel like an idiot if I even thought of buying the detergent. So when Ariel came along, I jumped into its bandwagon with relief. It has been my brand for over a quarter century now. So loyal I am I to the brand that even the mortifying Mrs.Tip-Top ad of Ariel, featuring a doormat housewife preening when her husband calls her that because her clothes are sparkling clean — wasn’t repugnant enough to push me into Lalitaji’s arms!
Another ad that put me off a product was the Promise toothpaste ad where the beautiful Maya Alagh ‘uf ohs…’ her children to brush their teeth looking like a million dollars at the end of an exhausting day. Bah! Who wants to see such role models who are held up unfavourably to you by your own brood?
Coming back to jingles, TV spots took jingles and visual ads to a new level in the late 70s and after. Some of the signature tunes are hummable even today. ‘Take the world in your stride,’ of Dinesh Suitings with the debonair Sunil Gavaskar signing a baseball bat immediately comes to mind, the Titan watches’ signature piano tune, the delightful Bajaj bulbs and lights jingle, ‘ab main bilkul buddha hoon,’ are other great tunes with visuals which are my favourites.
The latest trend is to have full-fledged songs doing duty as ads. Take for instance the tribute-to-indian-values-and-culture ads of Bajaj scooters with the catchy ‘Hamara Bajaj’ song, the immensely uplifting ‘Ummeedon wali dhoop’ Coca Cola song, the youthful ‘Har ek friend’ of Airtel, the Hero Motocorp theme song, composed and sung by A.R.Rahman and the Indigo Airlines song.
But no matter how well made and popular these TV spots and their songs are, I would still vote for those long ago radio jingles with the great voices that managed to carve a niche for so many small and big brands with the consumers. Besides, today’s ads don’t help me in keeping time — what with so many channels on both radio and TV. And who wants to listen to pathetic clones of Ameen Sayani and Pratap Sharma anyway?