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How Did Advertising Start in India?

By B Sumangal; Illustration by Anup Singh

The first Indian advertising agency to offer both creative work as well as space selling was Sista's Advertising and Publicity Services set up by Venkatararao Sista in 1934.

Among the first foreign brands to Indianise themselves was Lux and Pears toilet soaps. Lux was sold as a beauty soap of the film stars and in 1941 roped in film actress Leela Chitnis to model for the ad. Today, most of the top film heroines have appeared in testimonial ads for Lux.

However, it was the marketing campaign in 1939 for a vanaspati (cooking fat) brand called Dalda, by LINTAS that truly turned brand naming on its head. Conceived by Harvey Duncan, of LINTAS, the tin was designed as were different pack sizes. As an advertising gimmick, a van with a huge round tin did the rounds in the metro cities of Mumbai, Calcutta, Delhi and Chennai.

Dalda, with its yellow label and green palm tree, soon became a generic name for vanaspati (just as Xerox, a brand name has become generic with photocopying services).

In the 1950s, commercial advertising on radio began with Radio Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Radio Goa. All India Radio accepted commercial ads in the middle 1970s when their 'Vividh Bharati' channel took on sponsored programmes like Binaca Geet Mala, Saridon ke Saathi and Bournvita Quiz Contest.

Very few of the innumerable advertising agencies can boast of a long agency-client relationship. However, the association with health food brand 'Horlicks', and Hindustan Thompson Associates Limited (HTA, previously J Walter Thompson), has remained unbroken for 68 years. The agency has also been handling Air India's (international air carrier) Maharaja campaign from 1953!

Today, India is definitely a country to be reckoned with in terms of advertising with agencies winning awards at the International Festival at Cannes, France and an Indian, Arun Nanda (chairperson of Rediffusion DY&R), even being on the panel of judges.

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How Did Advertising Start in India? [5W&H for kids]
By B Sumangal; Illustration by Anup Singh


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