20 Classic Indian TV Ads that will Take You Back in Time. Which was Your Favourite?

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s was special, anyone in their late 20’s and early 30’s will tell you that. We didn’t have cell phones or iPads to keep ourselves entertained; there were no malls, no pocket-money and only the lucky few had video games!

Considering that cable TV only made an appearance in the early 90’s in India, there were a limited number of things to watch on a limited number of channels. This is probably why many of us remember old TV commercials so well! Today when a TV commercial begins, we immediately switch to another channel. It’s not that there aren’t any good commercials now, but more so that we’ve lost the patience to sit through them! So, we give you a blast from the past – 20 Indian TV ads that are just timeless. We guarantee nostalgia will sucker punch you back to the good old days.

1) Nirma

If there’s anything that stands out in the TV commercials of yesteryears, it’s the addictive, catchy jingles you couldn’t help but hum without even realizing it. Shot at iconic landmarks across India, the Nirma commercial managed to imprint itself in our memories – whether we liked it or not! Though you wouldn’t be caught dead singing the Nirma jingle, you’d never fail to recognize it anywhere. Hema, Rekha, Jaya aur Sushma – sabki pasand Nirma!

2) Hamara Bajaj

In simpler times, almost every middle-class family owned a Bajaj scooter. Soon after the ad was released, it slowly but surely established itself as not just a scooter but a way of Indian life. Not only did it foster a sense of national pride, it was a symbol of quiet aspiration and upward mobility. No one can dispute the functionality and reliability of the vehicle that so unassumingly became an integral part of daily life.

3) Boost

Partly why this ad was so popular was because of the 2 sports icons endorsing it at the time – Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar. It was the perfect brand representation and spoke to both young and old audiences with the then cricket legend and the up and coming superstar claiming ‘Boost is the secret of my energy’. If this ad doesn’t make you go grab some Boost, we don’t know what will!

4) Pepsi

Yeh dil maange more’ became the catchphrase of Generation Y and the ad closely followed on the heels of that year’s biggest Bollywood blockbuster – Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Much to the surprise and delight of everyone it additionally featured the stars of the movie – SRK, Rani Mukherjee and Kajol. It was also when we started to see the budding talent in young Shahid Kapoor who was just about getting his feet wet in the entertainment business.

5) Cadbury

Before all the international chocolate brands flooded the Indian market, Cadbury’s chocolate was the ultimate treat; the ad too, was no exception. It beautifully captured how chocolate can make memorable little moments in life even more special, whether it was sharing it with someone you love, letting out your inner child or celebrating a victory. The tagline itself tugs at the heartstrings – kuch khhas hai zindagi mein

6) Naukri.com

This one is more recent as compared to some veteran ads on the list. Bold, sassy and ahead of its time, the Naukri.com ‘Hari Sadu’ ad struck a chord with all the dissatisfied employees who had to deal with horrible bosses. Indeed, with the dawn of the internet age, some might say it brought about the end of the ‘start and retire your career with the same company’ era. The service made finding a new job so much easier that it gave people the option to aspire for something better if they weren’t happy with their current job.

7) Lijjat Papad

Ok, creepy rabbit puppet aside, this ad had quite a catchy tune and utilised the crunchiness USP of papad in the jingle. “Karram kurram” became the key association with the brand, and papad being a staple side for any Indian meal definitely made a connection with the target audience.

8) Rasna

If you’re a true blue 80’s kid, we bet you can’t remember a single birthday party you went to that didn’t feature this staple beverage. Who could forget the simple yet impactful tagline ‘I love you, Rasna’ and the signature orange moustache around the happy kid’s mouth in the commercial!

9) Vicks Cough Drops

Synonymous with soothing relief from scratchy throats and chest congestion, Vicks was everyone’s go-to quick fix for colds, especially since there weren’t any well-known competing brands in the market at the time. Made even more popular by its memorable catchphrase – Vicks ki Goli lo, khhich khhich door karo, now we can’t read that little one-liner without singing it in our heads in that popular tune.

10) Pan Parag

Always a controversial product to advertise, in those days too, nothing much was said about paan masala itself in the ad. It did however feature Bollywood legends – Shammi Kapoor and Ashok Kumar who created that memorable ‘Baraat’ scene not to mention the evergreen jingle that lives on in our memories.

11) Amul Butter

Amul will always remain a timeless commercial. Before other brands started infiltrating the market, Amul had a near monopoly in the dairy segment. It helped that they always used to come up with incredibly catchy one-liners related to the current affair of the day. The unforgettable Amul girl and the snappy slogan ‘utterly, butterly delicious’ will forever be ingrained in our minds.

12) Dhara Oil

Delicious food can instantly change your mood and the Dhara ad perfectly captured this with the help of the cutest little protagonist and jalebi fan. Just goes to show even running away can wait when there are yummy jalebis waiting at home! This one has ‘aww’ written all over it and we won’t blame you if you want to pick up some jalebis now.

13) Fevicol

While some commercials kept it simple, some others went over the top to get the message across, but in a way, that was clever and effective. Fevicol was one such ad; the memorable ‘dum laga ke haisha’ defined the essence of the brand that no matter how much you tried, it was a bond that couldn’t be broken – even if elephants and wrestlers were involved. Personally, most of us enjoyed coating our fingers with Fevicol during craft class and peeling it off – but hey, to each their own.

14) Maggi

2 minutes meant only one thing to 80’s and 90’s kids – Maggi noodles! Such was the power of the brand in positioning itself as a simple, quick, all-time favourite kids’ snack. In fact, the brand has managed to retain its pull over the decades despite some upsets resulting in a temporary product ban in 2015. Some of us still get cravings for Maggi when we’re desperate for comfort food.

15) Liril

Who doesn’t remember the fresh-faced Liril girl dancing with abandon under a gorgeous waterfall? The message of the brand was so strong that nowadays we still associate Liril with any lemon-scented soap! The ad itself portrayed energy, freshness and new life, which everyone needed in the morning or at the end of a long day.

16) Limca

The tagline recall for this ad is still strong and the brand USP was well represented in the catchphrase – lime n’ lemony Limca. Fresh lime juice, being the all-time favourite Indian refreshment, was used as a stepping stone to bring the Limca brand to life and succeeded in drawing the young crowd in because it was a fizzy twist on the traditional, much-loved nimbu paani.

17) Vicco Vajradanti

Touted as a natural ingredient, ayurvedic tooth powder and paste, their TV ad was more like a documentary! But again, the jingle is what really made the name stand out. Before the Close-ups, Colgates and Pepsodents came to rule the roost, people swore by Vicco – the natural way to healthy teeth, thanks to their informative commercial.

18) Paan Pasand

Despite its brevity, the message in the ad came across loud and clear. It starts out with a young lady looking into the camera as if berating a suitor, angrily saying ‘Shaadi? Aur tumse? Kabhhi nahi!’ the camera cuts to a picture of the paan-flavoured candy and then cuts back to the lady. This time all smiles as she coyly looks at the camera again but shyly delivers the same line. Now who would mind getting rejected like that?

19) Complan

This was probably the earliest we saw Shahid Kapoor and Ayesha Takia on the screen cheerfully stating ‘I’m a Complan boy/girl’ as their proud mom looks on. The ad itself succeeded in reaching out to mothers with growing children so much so that they started calling their own kids ‘Complan boy’ and ‘Complan girl’!

20) Nerolac

Another commercial known almost only for its incredibly catchy jingle, Nerolac embodied the essential ‘turn your house into a home’ theme. The ad’s imagery, bright colours and happy family hit home and became one of the most recalled ads of that era. Which was your favourite ad? Do let us know in the comments section.

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