Admen write soap operas in sachets to cut through clutter
Rising ad clutter on television and growing consumer scepticism towards advertising are forcing some big advertisers to think out of the box for delivering their brand messages in a more engaging and compelling formats.First, it was the Hindustan Unilever’s Pond’s episodic commercial narrating the tale of three characters—played by Saif Ali Khan, Neha Dhupia and Priyanka Chopra—while launching its new White Beauty range. Now, it is Idea Cellular TV ads telling the story of education in a village through Abhishek Bachchan, the priest. Moving beyond a typical 30-second format, these first rush of ‘next generation’ ads are more than just commercials. They’re more like soap operas in sachets, complete with a storyline and characters, with brand message an integral part of the narrative. In one sense, these story-like ad capsules are yet another step in Indian marketers journey towards branded-content—whether stealthily riding on ‘proper’ programming to get the message across to the audience (brand placements in films and TV serials) or making paid-advertising cover itself in story garb for better brand salience and traction. Ad-spend on mobile space set to grow exponentially “What an idea!”. You might have articulated these words while being tuned to the new Idea commercial launched in a phased manner. The first phase was a 10-second teaser, in which Abhishek Bachchan sat and wondered how he can educate all the children in the country. The commercial ended with him looking up and saying, ‘idea’. The main campaign, a 90-second commercial, launched a few days later opens with a village girl being denied admission in a school, as there are no vacancies. Bachchan, the principal of the school, hits upon the ‘idea’ of starting mobile classrooms in villages. In villages, children gather around a mobile to get their lessons while teachers in the school have mobiles on their desks. The two-way communication enables teachers to teach both sets of students.Advertisers see storytelling in phases an exciting way of generating interest for the product. The creative agency for the Idea campaign is Lowe India. Lowe India chairman and national creative director R Balakrishnan says: “The idea behind the commercial is not just relationship building as people largely interpret. We wanted to break away from the clutter and we did so by having Abhishek Bachchan playing different characters and telling a tale instead of playing himself.” Ogilvy & Mather India chairman & national creative director Piyush Pandey says: “Staging ads in several parts enhance curiosity among audience. Such a technique helps in hooking the audience to the brand for long.” Agrees Mudra Max president Chandradeep Mitra: “Weaving out stories around the product provides image to the brand. Conveying social message through the commercial gives rise to positivism.” A week or two ago, HUL’s Pond’s left TV viewers confused with its latest Pond’s commercial. Anyone can mistake the ad for a Bollywood film trailer—filmmaker Shoojit Sircar’s Kabhi Kabhi Pyar Mein—starring Saif Ali Khan, Priyanka and Neha Dhupia. However, it turned out to be a commercial for Pond’s, with characters and the plot entwined well with the brand proposition. “A breakthrough technology needed a breakthrough communication and hence it was decided to come out with an episodic format of communication. The idea was to convey the proposition of the brand in an interesting manner for the consumer,” says HUL spokesperson. Globally, Coca-Cola has set the best example of bonding with consumers through wonderful stories in its ads. The campaign, Happiness Factory, uses animated characters to tell a modern fairy tale that no way resembles a regular ad. The ad not only won several awards but also became a part of Second Life, the popular virtual world game.