This usually doesn’t happen with me. It all started with a frenzied desire to watch it again! And when I saw it online, twice, I liked it even more. Drawn towards it, the next day, I watched it yet again!
Before you start getting any ideas, I want to clarify that I am referring to the Swiggy advertisement aired during this World Cup. When I am watching a cricket match, I don’t want it interrupted by advertisements even if they are aired after an over gets completed or when a batsman gets out. I want to absorb it all in – the commentary, the analysis and also air my own observations, which range from how beautifully a shot was played, a yorker was bowled, or the utter lack of talent and poor captaincy. Despite my complete abhorrence towards ads (only during the cricket season), I was drawn by this exceptional advertisement.
Now that I have watched it several times, I will share my observations and will try and link to elements of a good comedy.
- Exaggeration: Comedies rely heavily on exaggeration. Usually the traits of the characters are exaggerated to bring out the comic elements. Even in this advertisement – from the contrasting physical characteristics of the two characters (remember Laurel Hardy, Motu Patlu), to the manner in which they incorrectly pronounce the dishes yet order them, to the initial confidence and then the immediate panic after placing the order – everything is exaggerated.
- Incongruity: It’s a well-known fact that audiences laugh at unexpected outcomes or surprises. There are two types of incongruities in this Swiggy ad. The first one being that it sets up a situation, which is unexpected. The setting where two old men are watching the match together and ordering unfamiliar dishes online does not conform to the audiences’ expectation. The other and the more striking one being the surprising and contradictory ending of the advertisement. Once the old men order the untried dishes, the audience start expecting that they will not like food and will order something again or cook something themselves. However, at the last moment they change their mind and also order their staple and familiar Indian dishes. According to me, the contradictory outcome is a masterstroke.
- Superiority: Stand up comics often use this element extensively by allowing the audiences to laugh at someone’s weaknesses or shortcomings. Think of some of the most well-known stand-up comedians and you can recall them making fun of certain ethnicities (Russel Peters), political leaders (Trevor Noah on Trump), relatives, classes of professions or professionals (HR / Marketing, etc.,). In this advertisement as well, the superiority is implicit in the plot about two old simpletons who are relatively unfamiliar with various cuisines yet attempting to break the shackles.
- Linking the unrelated: By linking the commentary to what the two protagonists are going through, the creative team has created a masterpiece. It tells the story without actually using a host to narrate it and creates its own unique comic magic.
- Strong plot: The plot is so robust that in less than 20 seconds it takes the audience through a flurry of emotions, from interest, to incredulousness, to pity and finally to comic relief. It removes the need to introduce any strong characters / stars. Let’s imagine for a moment that the brand had initially thought of casting Amitabh Bachchan and Naseeruddin Shah as the two characters. With such a strong plot and treatment, the team would have realised that they have a winner at hand and the stars are not required. Therefore, they would have decided to cast unknown faces. The difference in outcome would be almost negligible, however the savings in costs would be substantial.
I must add that it was not just one advertisement that was exceptional during this world Cup and there were a number of others which captured the audiences’ imagination and went viral. The top one that come to mind is the Pepsi ambush featuring the 87 years’ young Charulata Patel. The Pepsi team moved in extremely fast and cashed in on the frenzy deserving the Chance Pe Dance award (if there was one!). Coke also did very well with their creative and emotional advertisement on the concept of the twelfth man. However, in my book Swiggy delivered the Cup!