The dying art of ‘UNBOXING’ in ads and why it should be revived

During the 90’s, the golden decade of Indian tv ads, the element of surprise was the key to making ads memorable. I believe that art is slowly dying in the current flamboyant ad space, largely because of the slapdash working methods of agencies and the desire to one up the rival, not in creativity, but in timing, impact and leads.

What is Unboxing?
Unboxing is a method of giving the audience a sense of anticipation, triggering their curiosity and revealing a surprise at the end in the most unexpected way. The surprise when revealed offers joy and excitement…

…brand retention and brand awareness, which leads to increased sales.

Clients don’t prefer to play the waiting game anymore. Quick results is what they seek and the agencies have to adhere to their preferences in order to survive.

Back in the day, the focus of almost every tv ad was on telling stories, not on selling products. The effectiveness of the story and the creativity with which it was told took care of the selling. Stories that were deeply rooted in society touched the chord of the target audience, which they instantly related to, ideas that penetrated even the most stone hearted.

In those days, ads were written for people not for algorithms like it is today. Ad makers trusted and followed their instincts. Statistics, data and analytics of the past were just minor parameters in their decision making process.

Ads were so good, they were not considered as interruptions. People looked forward to it. Ads became a part of conversations. Bad ones were mocked. Good ones were embraced. It drove up sales and brand value.

I see this essential part missing in today’s tv ads.

The current situation is in fact grim. I may sound too pessimistic. Maybe I am. But not without reason. Here’s an example.

Who would have predicted what this ad was about? And what it was plugging? Up until the end?

Who would have thunk it?

I can still vividly recollect the first time I saw this ad on our CRT tv (remember those?). Even today, I watch it with the same childlike curiosity the ad allows us the luxury of.

Now take this ad for example,

Yeah, we get it, enough with that already.

The element of surprise is absent. We all instantly recognize that this ad is for a fashion entity.

It is not a badly done ad. In fact, I believe it achieves what it intends to. The ad is the result of a client who wants to announce people that they are a brand for the daredevils and the rebels.

I imagine this is how the conversation between the client and the agency would have transpired.

C: Get me a TV ad that shows how hip and rebellious we are.
A: Certainly, let me think about it and get back to you in a week’s time.
C: No. We need the ad done in 5 days.
A: We need time to strategize.
C: Heck with that. Just show young men and women wearing things we normally won’t see them wearing.
A: But that would be too cliched and too derivative.
C: Who said that’s not what we want?
A: Alright, we will get it done.

Here, you might think the fault starts with the client. It is not. The agency should always know better. Clients are of course result oriented. Agency shouldn’t be. They should educate and inform clients of doing things right.

The ad itself is actually well made. The music and the extremities displayed are brave. The only thing that’s missing, which I think is extremely important in ads, especially video ads, is the element of UNBOXING.

If the client wants something, it’s the agencies job to get it done. But not by ignoring their instincts. It is also the agencies job to educate and make the client understand the usefulness of UNBOXING in an ad.

If you call me old-fashioned then you should also call those who still use toothbrush, pillow and staircase.

So here’s a shout out to all the ad men and women, to bring back the element of surprise in your thought process and help make ads as memorable as the ones we still remember.

We are Outofbox Advertising. Based out of Bangalore and Chennai, India. We can help you with your website, mobile app, UI/UX, digital marketing and ad film. You can reach us on

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