‘Asli swaad zindagi ka’ — this 90s Cadbury Dairy Milk commercial changed Indian advertising

In 1994, confectionery giant Cadbury Dairy Milk launched an iconic commercial featuring model Shimona Rashi dancing with abandon on a cricket field.

Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur
Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint

New Delhi: The image of a long-haired girl dancing on a cricket ground in unabashed glee is sure to ring a bell among chocolate-lovers across India.

In 1994, confectionery giant Cadbury Dairy Milk, along with director Mahesh Mathai and advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather, launched the iconic advertisement featuring a young girl in a blue patterned dress, munching on a Cadbury chocolate bar on the sidelines of a cricket match.

When the batsman, presumably her male friend, scores the winning run, the crowd cheers while she runs past security onto the field and performs an awkward celebratory dance while the “asli swaad zindagi ka” tagline plays in the background.

The advertisement not only left an imprint on viewers, but was also a critical element of Cadbury’s campaign to change the perception that chocolates were only for children and to expand the product’s target audience.

Speaking to ThePrint, Prakash Nair, associate president and integrated brand leader at Ogilvy & Mather, said, “Before the ad came out, Cadbury chocolate was always targeted as a gift from a parent to a child or a treat for the child. It was low hanging fruit. The brand needed real impetus for growth”

Nair added, “That’s when the ad came in. It was meant to appeal not just to kids but the kid in everyone”.

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No, the Cadbury girl wasn’t Sophiya Haque

After the “Cadbury girl” became a difficult face to forget, several media reports mistakenly identified her as VJ-turned-actor Sophiya Haque.

When Haque passed away from cancer in 2013, actors such as Dia Mirza erroneously tweeted, “RIP Sophiya Haque… I’ll never forget you dancing with abandon onto the cricket field in the Cadbury commercial”.


Sameer Yadav, associate director of marketing (chocolates) at Mondelez India, the company that owns Cadbury, revealed that it was model Shimona Rashi who played the Cadbury girl.

Though Rashi was not a good dancer, there was something authentic about her bad, unchoreographed dancing, Yadav told ThePrint.

The Cadbury girl’s euphoric victory jig towards the end of the advertisement also stood out in stark contrast to the prim and proper, well-dressed people sitting on the bleachers.

“Though the Cadbury film showed ladies and gents in their Sunday best, sitting appropriately, the final dance broke the mirage,” noted a Telegraph report.

It spoke of a carefree, blithe spirit that could not be contained in keeping with a new, open India post liberalisation.

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Switching lyrics from English to Hindi worked ‘10 times better’

The Cadbury commercial was launched at a time when Indian advertising was itself experiencing a shift from being informative to entertaining.

In a 2017 interview, advertising veteran Piyush Pandey and the brains behind the Cadbury ad explained, “Before that everyone [in the advertising industry] was super-boring and they were singing brand names alone.”

Making a jingle where the brand didn’t appear at all in the lyrics was the key to connecting with viewers, he said.

Initially, Pandey had written the lyrics for the Cadbury commercial in English and recorded it with jazzman Louis Banks. The lyrics went, “There’s something so real in everyone. There’s something so real, ask anyone, It’s you, it’s real and the feeling is right. There’s something so real in the taste of life”.

Later, Pandey turned the same score into a Hindi version, which, he said, “worked 10 times better”.

Years later, various marketing executives have praised the ad on this point in particular.

In a blog post, Dhiren Amin, head of marketing, southeast Asia, at food and beverage firm The Kraft Heinz Company, once wrote in a blog post, “While the shift from an ‘anglicised’ advertising eco-system to local languages had begun since the mid-1980s, the success of this commercial would definitely have accelerated this shift.”

Yadav also explained that using a Hindi jingle helped the product become more accessible to Indians living in tier 2 and 3 cities.

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