- Julien Cayla (Australian School of Business) Interviews Nandita Chalam, Senior Creative Director, J. Walter Thompson, India
Julien Cayla: Can you please tell us something about yourself before we start?
Nandita Chalam: I have always been in the field of advertising. I have worked with almost all the top agencies in India: for instance, JWT, Ogilvy and Mather and Lintas. I have worked in Africa too. I have worked in Kenya and Zambia while I was with McCann. I have worked on many multinational brands. I have worked with Unilever brands. I have worked on their soaps, Lux being one of them, detergents, cooking oil, etc. etc. Somehow, being a woman you tend to be given the household products. So, I used to cry for one of those macho brands. I used to say, "I want a macho brand, I want a bike."
In a way it is good, because there are lots of mainstream brands like soaps, cooking oil and detergents in any agency. I also won awards for my work for Unilever while working for some of these mainstream brands. I still haven't won an international award, say, something like a Cannes Lion, but I hope to win it someday. So, all in all, you can say that I love and worship advertising.
Julien: Tell me something about the history of Lux in India.
Nandita Chalam: Actually Lux is 75 years old in India. And strangely enough, JWT is also 75 years old in India. And the two brands have always worked together. So, the histories of JWT and Lux run parallel in a way.
Lux has always used film stars to do endorsements. It is very interesting because in the early days of Lux, I am told, there were no ad filmmakers. So the Unilever guys used to get the film directors to shoot the Lux ads. And then of course, over the years Lux came into the JWT stable. The first Lux star ever was a lady called Leela Chitnis.1 And of course, Aishwarya is the ambassador now and we have Priyanka Chopra as well.2 So, traditionally Lux has always used the top stars of that era. All the Lux stars, when they are offered Lux, consider it like they have arrived. When Lux turned 75, they rigged up a campaign, it was actually a promotional campaign to celebrate 75 years of Lux and the actual promotion was something very small. Nothing very big. But we had created a special edition range for the 75 years using stars of all ages. It would have been expensive to use all of them in too many commercials. So we used four of these iconic stars who have endorsed Lux for a longer period. But still, when the client briefed us, I was particularly feeling that, this is 75 years man! I mean it doesn't happen every day, so let's do something different. It should be something that people would remember.
Shah Rukh Khan was at the height of his popularity at that point of time.3 Our model coordinator told me that Juhi Chawla would tell Shah Rukh about the Lux campaign.4 Juhi and Shah Rukh are very good friends. And Shah Rukh would jokingly say to Juhi, "You know, you guys have all the fun, you get to soak in the tub the whole day. Why don't you offer me Lux? I will do it."
So, she came and told me this. I remember, I thought why not ask him, because he himself has said that he would love to do it. Then we actually went and met him. We were not sure whether he would do it. I wrote a script especially for him; it was a little tongue in cheek: he is in a tub (where normally the girls are), and the girls are all around him. And he is trying to be a superstar. "Lux is now 75 years old; to celebrate 75 years we need a superstar. So, who else could they think of but me?" And then, the girls dunk him into the tub. That is the gist of the...