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We derive happiness and joy from multiple sources, as the meaning of joy varies for everyone. Based on the same reasoning, happiness and joy can also be expressed in diverse depictions. However, a chocolate bar is invariably associated with happiness as it increases the levels of dopamine, serotonin and other such ‘happiness hormones.’ Most campaigns for chocolate imbibe a spirit of joy and attempt to convey the same to the consumers.

Cadbury’s iconic campaign ‘Kuch Khaas Hai’, has now found appeal across generations thanks to its latest rendition with gender roles reversed. The campaign dimensions of happiness at different points of time in the Indian milieu. But what makes it the object of interest for this article is its transformation from a remarkable advertisement to a hybrid of ad and branded content as achieved by ‘Chatpat for Cadbury’.

Kuch Khaas Hai - 1994

Released in the era of a newly liberalised India, Cadbury’s ‘Kuch Khaas Hai’ managed to capture the imagination and the aspirations of a wide set of consumers. Even though these targeted customers were largely limited to the urban elite, the advertisement achieved an iconic status that has been sustained over the years due to nostalgia.

The camera opens up on an anticipating young girl in the audience as the batsman hits the winning six.  He becomes the cause for the team’s victory and the hero for the moment.  The girl (who we assume must be his girlfriend or wife?) then jubilantly leaves the stand and runs to the ground to hug the cricketer- all while luxuriously eating a big chocolate bar. Melodious lyrics, that exemplifies life as something special and all individuals as unique, accompanies the video. Without saying so explicitly, the storytelling implicitly leaves it to the audience to infer that these celebratory moments are incomplete without chocolate. The ad presents an urban, modern, elitist representation of the core Indian cultural belief that all celebratory occasions must be marked by the sharing of sweets.

To elaborate upon the mechanism that made the ad cater to the urban elite, we note a few elements, the casting for instance consists of spotless pretty people with fair skin tones. The sartorial taste is elite showing men in the audience wearing suits, quite similar to Wimbledon. The girlfriend herself is wearing a pretty summer dress. It shows the segment of Indians who had greater access to the West and the products manufactured there.

Thus, the ad by Cadbury captured the zeitgeist of the post-1992-era by depicting pretty looking young people in good clothes, enjoying themselves and full of aspirations.

27 years and a full generation later, following Olympics 2020 (that took place only in 2021), Cadbury recreated the 1994 reel with the gender roles reversed:

Kuch Khaas Hai - 2021

The ball in 2021 is sent out of the park by a powerful shot hit by a female cricketer, and this time it is a young boy who runs into the stadium to congratulate her. Cadbury’s re-furbished campaign acknowledged the changing cultural codes, vis-a-vis gender and its manifestation, especially in sports.

Women players and teams are increasingly making their presence felt in competitions. With biopics being made on players like Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal, Geeta Phogat - women sportspersons are now a part of popular culture. Cadbury’s ad reel meaningfully engaged with this contemporary cultural phenomenon to partake in today’s cultural conversations.

Apart from acknowledging the change in gender codes, Cadbury’s new ad also took into account the general demographic changes and awareness, including the movement against skin colour normativeness (fair is beautiful, dark is ugly). The batswoman is depicted with sweaty hair and a darker, more ‘Indian’ skin tone. The boyfriend looks quite like a regular guy. Similarly, for the audiences, the casting incorporates an element of the ordinary and thus the people in the ad become more relatable for more Indians.

After having briefly discussed two related ads by Cadbury, we finally arrive at the point where this Cadbury ad makes a segue into branded content.

Is branded content just an ad by another name?  Or just another new buzzword in marketing?

Since ads are made to sell branded products, the design of ad is coded such that the product placement is absolutely central to the narrative. In terms of reaching audiences, ads interrupt the content viewing experience of the audience. This makes ads irritating and annoying to audiences, even if they try to tell interesting stories.

Whereas branded content is structured more like mainstream content. The focus in branded content is on engagement through a powerful storytelling technique. The goal is not to sell a product, but to leave behind a message, provoke a thought, evoke an emotion and stop there. Brand logo placement follows once the storytelling is completed and the engagement has been achieved. Branded content is supposed to sustain consumers’ attention and engagement as a route to increasing brand value.

Let’s see where the latest rendition of the cricket story from Cadbury aims to get to.

Chatpat for Cadbury

Created by a 10-year-old content creator called Chatpat, the video is simply a scene to scene replication of Cadbury’s “Kuch Khaas Hai” ad. But instead of adults, all characters are played by underprivileged kids. As opposed to a lush green cricket stadium, the backdrop to the video is the dhobi ghats of Dharavi and the audience is sitting amidst piles of washed clothes.

Even though the video does follow the codes of an advertisement, it develops its own distinctive flavour. For instance, the shot showing preparation of a ‘Dairy Milk’ chocolate in the previous two versions consisted of milk being added to melted chocolate. It happens so in Chatpat’s version too, but with a very interesting set-up. The kids are shown to be preparing chocolate in a ‘kadhai’ placed in the slum area. So, till this point, it is a witty take on an already iconic ad that was in news due to the re-creation.

The transition of this particular ad to branded content takes place in the last ten seconds when Chatpat breaks the fourth wall to engage with viewers directly. He addresses Cadbury, telling the brand to take note of the amazing take on their ad and in return do something for the kids who are all part of the SOS organization. A link for donation to SOS is provided in the description.

Chatpat for Cadbury is a hybrid between an ad and Branded Content. It is also self-referential for the brand, assuming that Cadbury = Chocolate = Culture of chocolate eating in India. It is a fascinating occurrence in the world of branding and marketing. The video attempts to take part in an ongoing cultural dialogue through its own angle. It aims to generate engagement among audiences by using the codes already generated by Cadbury’s original and re-created ads. Much like films and TV shows, that have sequels and prequels, with much-loved characters and storylines that are familiar to audiences, the CDM series aims to present the storyline (presumed to be known to all) in fresh ways.

SOS’s effort is a worthwhile one that can be followed by social NGOs and brands to become part of an ongoing popular phenomenon. It also helps to break the typecast of a charity appeal that usually plays out as an emotional appeal. On the contrary, the organisation positions itself as a happy place by using images of chocolates and carefree kids.

For Cadbury and chocolate, the latest video in the series presents the most inclusive representation of chocolate.  Like ‘mithai’, it is something that belongs to all of India and this underlines the leadership and stature of the brand.