Throwback Thursday: Grey Group India’s Leroy Alvares talks about pulling heart strings in advertising

Stories with a strong emotional pull are a key theme when discussing powerful and memorable ads with Leroy Alvares, president, digital services, Grey Group India.

Creative work with an ‘agenda’ that moves communities is what really excites Alvares, and a perfect example of this is an Indian government commercial “Mile Sur,” developed to promote national unity and pride.

This clip will not resonate with foreign audiences the same way it does with people from India, but when it was launched on Indian Independence Day in 1988 it caused a sensation. One look at the comments feed below this YouTube video clearly shows the power and longevity of this ad almost 30 years on.

The Government of India: Mile Sur

The literal meaning of Mile Sur is ‘to meet’ and ‘notes’ and can be translated as: “Let your notes meet mine, and together we make a song.”

The song highlights the many diverse linguistic communities and societies that make up India the country. Alvares still remembers the exact sequence of events as it was played out – broadcast straight after the telecast of then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi from the ramparts of New Delhi’s Red Fort.

“I cherish the memories of everyone singing along, irrespective of the different languages played out during the song. It quickly captivated India, and gained and has maintained near-anthem status ever since,” says Alvares.

“Music has no boundaries and this is one such great example,” he adds.

Seven years later, Alvares entered the advertising industry himself, as a trainee with Ogilvy Mumbai. In those early days, one particular ad stood out.

Nedbank: The Leopard

In 1996, South Africa’s Nedbank won plaudits for its “Leopard” commercial.

“I saw this commercial when I was a rookie just starting out in my career and it’s stuck in my head. It remains the inspiration and reference point to my advertising life,” says Alvares.

“It’s simple and sweet and touching. In a category that hard sells, this ad is a reference point to show how you can soft sell too.”

Budweiser: Puppy Love

It won’t come as a surprise that Alvares loves animals – especially when it comes to commercials. Budweiser’s 2014 Super Bowl ad is an example of storytelling at its best, he says.

“I just love the unlikely pairing of animals and the parallel storyline. It’s an emotional ad from a beer brand,” he says.

He particularly likes the different extensions the storyline has taken over the years, like this 2015 Budweiser Lost Dog Super Bowl ad.

A common thread in all of these ads is the way things come together, says Alvares.

“A great story is the power of it to be engaging over time, connecting with generations, and still being relevant and appealing,” he says.


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