What ad land’s big guns think about Cadbury’s move to give nostalgia a gender swap

Cadbury’s latest campaign, wherein it refreshed its iconic almost 28-year old ad with a gender swap has been the talk of town last week. People of all walks have praised the ad, a lot of people recalled the original ad released in the 1990s, there was a strong nostalgic connect in the mostly 30-35+ generation, and there was all round appreciation for the shout out to gender equality and women cricketers in the ad.

For those who ‘somehow’ missed out on all that buzz – the ad film sees a women’s cricket match underway, and there’s a young man intently watching the action on the field while munching on a bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk. The batswoman is one run short of scoring a century and as the bowler moves forward, the young man fervently prays for that magic score for the batswoman, who presumably is his girlfriend. After a few tense moments when it seems like the fielder at the boundary will take the catch, the ball crosses the boundary line and the crowd explodes in celebration. Meanwhile, the ecstatic young man dodges the security and runs to the field and does a celebratory jig to the familiar “Kuch khaas hai zindagi mein” song playing in the background.

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Watch the ad film:


The story began almost 28 years ago, but with a male cricketer and his girlfriend whose impromptu dance on the cricket field won over the entire country and made Cadbury a brand for the young generation too, apart from children.

Watch the old ad:


A walk down memory lane

Not many may remember or recollect, but way back in the early 80’s Cadbury launched a memorable campaign – ‘Sometimes Cadbury’s can say better than words’, which had caught the attention then. This was created by the then Creative Director Suresh Mullick at Ogilvy & Mather. But there was always a need to grow the chocolate market and the brand was very ambitious to grow exponentially and looked at increasing the consumption within the adults. The brand wanted to keep pushing the bar both from the marketing and communication point of view to garner a larger share of the growing chocolate market.

It was nearly after a decade when the agency was defending the account after a pitch was called for, when Piyush Pandey, Chairman of Global Creative & Executive Chairman, India, created the ‘The New Taste of Life' campaign and rewrote the chocolate category and won the business for Ogilvy. Pandey’s interpretation was very simple, where he expressed through the ad that there is a child in each one of us and that’s the way the new commercial with cricket as the core idea germinated. That memorable piece of work is still fresh and evergreen in everyone’s minds. The iconic campaign featured model Shimona Rashi dressed in a floral outfit and dancing with gay abandon.

Can you guess the singer of the Cadbury song? It’s none other than Shankar Mahadevan. This is what the singer posted on Instagram: “After 27 years it is back!! The roles are reversed!! The company has decided to retain the same song that I had recorded then in 1994. Nostalgiaaaa!!!”

Brand & agency speak


Commenting on the new campaign, Anil Viswanathan, Senior Director – Marketing, Mondelez India, said, “From acing in the corporate world to winning Olympic medals, women are at the forefront of creating new milestones, every single day and our film is an ode to each one of them. As a brand that has always promoted gender inclusivity, contemporising an iconic campaign is our way of recognising the changing times and extending support to all the women trailblazers. An extension of our ongoing generosity narrative, the film also lands the message of how taking small yet significant steps to acknowledge the achievements of women would make the world a better place to live in. We hope this film brings back a gush of nostalgia and are confident that this refreshed version will find as much love as the original one.”


Giving his perspective on the new Cadbury film, Piyush Pandey, Chairman of Global Creative & Executive Chairman, Ogilvy India, said, “It needed a brave client back in 1993 to go ahead with the original Cadbury Cricket film that became so popular. It needed an even braver client to attempt something with an iconic film and make magic out of it. I am delighted that the team at Mondelez India and at Ogilvy India has done this magic, made it relevant, exciting, and so Cadbury, in its bold and front foot fashion.”


Sukesh Nayak, Harshad Rajadhyaksha and Kainaz Karmakar, Chief Creative Officers, Ogilvy India, added here, “The excitement and the stress in our heads were competing with each other. To recreate such a big hit is like setting yourself up for a million opinions. The only reason we went ahead was it felt right, and it felt awesome. We loved the idea from our gut. Luckily, so did the client. Hats off to the all girls’ team who thought of it and hats off to Bob from Good Morning Films for making it so well.”

How has the ad fared with advertising honchos?

Speaking to Adgully on Cadbury’s latest ad film, Dr Sandeep Goyal, Managing Director, Rediffusion, said, “It is sometimes nice to spoof yourself! It is a good fun idea. But one should not get carried away by this kind of lighthearted stuff. First, the generation that saw and loved the earlier ad is now in their 40s and 50s. No longer the core audience of Cadbury’s. The younger generation of current consumers would not have seen the original. So, for them to know that it is a recycled old idea would not be universally known. Second, the spontaneity and effervescence, and the element of surprise in the original is really not there in the copy. So, it is a good laugh, no more concluded.”

Rahul DaCunha, Owner, daCunha Communications, likes the 2021 ad a lot, as much as he liked its prequel when it was aired in the 90’s. “It was fresh, there was something wonderful about the young lady dashing out from the stadium, ducking to avoid the security, and then that dance! It had a certain spontaneity that went beyond chocolate,” he said.

He further said, “Now, 20 years later the genders have been flipped, the batsman is now a woman, which I like because women’s cricket has become a huge phenomenon. But the question that I would ask is why have they chosen to do this 20 years later? Why now? The brand has created so many different ads and positionings over the years. In purely marketing terms, why didn’t they continue this campaign, why return to it now? But my biggest question is this, have you seen the 90’s TV commercial to get the context? That ad is still talked about and that’s always a good thing for a brand, particularly among the young people. Kudos!”


As an advertising veteran who has handled several challenging creative assignments for many brands for over three decades, KV ‘Pops’ Sridhar, Global Chief Creative Officer, Nihilent Hyper Collective at Nihilent Limited, remarked, “The new film from Cadbury seems like old wine in an old bottle upside down! In the early 90’s the first ad was a classic ad, there were so many barriers that they broke, women in a cricket match, and secondly, adult consumption of chocolate which was a no-no then, was broken, besides the gender sensitivity factor. The earlier commercial worked in so many ways. The ad had broken so many records and was known as the ad of the decade and ad of the century.”

According to Sridhar, seen in today’s context everybody is trying to be politically correct and showing women in good light so that they would get a pat on their backs. “While there’s nothing wrong in doing that, but can you place that in the same league as the old one? Never. They borrowed the idea because it’s the same brand and same agency, and hence, they can afford to do that. There’s nothing surprising in that today,” he added.

Sridhar further said, “The ad which was showcased in 1993, scored 9 out of 10 and had broken all advertising and entertainment records. While the new ad film is a nice commercial standalone, but criticism will always be there that the previous commercial was way too brilliant. This was merely copying the same commercial ad. I feel the thinking needs to be way better. When they did this ad 28 years back, it was done so beautifully and people from that time can relate to it even today. There are certain insights that are relevant and some ideas which will be contemporised and will seek relevance, but unfortunately people have misunderstood what the idea is and what the insight is in the new Cadbury ad.”

(Edited and Additional Inputs by Shanta Saikia.)

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