When Entertainment Overtakes Product – Views From Prabhakar

When we grew up in advertising we were told that you needed to sprinkle a little bit of entertainment into a commercial for it to be likeable and effective. Now turn that axiom on its head. Take a piece of pure entertainment and sprinkle it with a little bit of information on a product. #RanveerChingReturns, the video for their brand Ching’s Secret from Capital Foods has done just that. But there is no doubt that it is a spectacular piece of entertainment. So here goes another piece of communication that is a 5 minute video where a lot of creative people had fun, and now they are all going to call it ‘digital’ like every other 5 minute video. Which digital marketing guru might have predicted that the 5 minute video would be dubbed ‘digital’ just because it runs on youtube and only because television is prohibitively expensive. So youtube now has become a surrogate for very cheap TV, although I can’t ever remember clients to have had enough money to run 5 minute videos either in cinema or TV even 20 years ago. And besides putting films on youtube helps you to call yourself a digital expert. (sic!)



The film borrows heavily on the dystopian future recently portrayed by Mad Max – Fury Road, showing us a world where humanity is broken because of a shortage of food. And Desi Chinese from Ching’s Secret then miraculously comes to the rescue. In fact it looks like an Indian version of Mad Max – Fury Road. But Bollywood has always been good at copying, and in their defence after all imitation is the best form of flattery. It is also the first time an advertising commercial or video, or whatever you would like to call it, has had a trailer to build expectation and suspense for the 5 minute video to follow.

To complete the Bollywood loop, the video of the song is also released separately and the video even saw a premiere and a press conference like a real feature film. In fact maybe we are using the wrong nomenclature so far – maybe it’s just a 5 minute feature film with in-product placement sponsored by Capital Foods. To their credit the makers shared a note with the video which said “The Chings audience is a really smart, young and cool one. And instead of boring you with another ‘bhookh lagi hai, khaana do’ ad with moms and kids — we’d rather entertain you! We’re just having some fun — not trying to change the world — this is our Max Mad tribute to Mad Max with a Bollywood twist. It’s got all the ingredients of a masaaledaar blockbuster including Gaana, Heroine ko pataana, Villain ko bajaana, mazedaar khaana — all with a Desi Chinese tadka.”

And once having pretended that putting videos on YouTube represents ‘digital’, we move on to the second parameter for determining digital success which is views. So PR around the film is replete with information on how the video has crossed 2 million views in 2 days.

Positive web analytics can brighten a digital publisher’s day in all sorts of ways — including some rather misleading ones. An increasing number of publishers (and the advertisers who support them) are turning away from views as the dominant factor in determining digital success. In fact, views have been usurped from their throne by the new crown prince of the realm, audience engagement. Unfortunately, if we looked at likes or comments as a more firm predictor of engagement than the Ranvir Ching video clocked just 23k likes and 9k comments for the 4 million + views this far (which means likes < 6% of views).  But of course, India has always been fascinated with large numbers and therefore views takes preference over engagement.

To add to the confusion no doubt everyone is going to claim what a big success this has been on social media.  But on examining the tweets  more closely one can see that all the adulation is for Ranveer Singh and the video as a piece of cinema rather than a piece of advertising. I didn’t see many people mention either the client or the brand.




So no doubt we will have another 5 minute video that will go down in the annals of digital success and hitting metals at all the awards. And have more clients asking for ‘Hey give me something viral yaar!’.

And if you think I have been unkind so far, it is because I guess as a critic you need to take a slightly different view of a cinematic extravaganza that is masquerading as a piece of advertising.

Desi Chinese is a brilliant product idea. Because all Chinese in India is in fact Desi Chinese. Ever since the first South Indian restaurants in Mumbai started inventing the first Desi Chinese dish called ‘Gobi Manchurian’. Which was quickly followed by the fast food stalls serving Chinese bhel instead of the traditional bhel.

As a client I think Capital Foods has taken a bold step forward. It makes brand managers at global multinational FMCG majors look like a bunch of scared chickens.

But will the commercial work for the brand?  I am frankly not so sure what it will do for the sales of Ching’s Secret.  But let’s say that it is an outstanding piece of entertainment, superbly directed with outstanding performances by both Ranveer Singh and Tamannaah.

But watch it. Is this the death of advertising as we know it?  The client says he didn’t involve an advertising agency. Might explain a lot of things about this 5 minute commercial in retrospect!



About the Author:

Prabhakar Mundkur is an ad veteran with over 35 years of experience in Advertising and Marketing. He works as an independent consultant and is also Chief Mentor with Percept H.