After Shah Rukh Khan's and John Abraham's tryst with Pepsi's My Can, the brand is back, armed with a two-part ad campaign that features Hindi film actors Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. While Pepsi released the first part of the campaign around the middle of December 2008, the second part came later, after keeping consumers guessing for two weeks or so.
Keep 'em guessing
The first part opens in a supermarket, with Kapoor and a girl (Pooja Sharma) going for a My Can from the refrigerator. Both of them grab the last My Can at the same time. Then begins the tussle, with neither of them willing to let go of the can.
They move on from the store to Kapoor’s apartment and finally his bedroom, while both continue to assertively stake their claim on the can.
Soon, to the girl's utter bewilderment, Kapoor takes off his shirt – reminiscent of his much-hyped towel dance in the movie, Sawaariya – and mocks at her. She protests, but refuses to let go of the can.
That's where the first TV commercial ends, with a “To be continued” super.
As the wait for the revealer started, Pepsi simultaneously engaged the youth in an online campaign on the Youngistaan website and on YouTube.com. Here, consumers could give wings to their imagination by giving their own versions of how the TVC would end.
The revealer, released recently, shows Kapoor, minus his shirt, lying on his bed, holding the can with Sharma. Just then, Padukone, his real and reel life girlfriend, walks in to find him in this comprising position. Taken aback, Kapoor lets go of the can, trying to explain even as Padukone walks out. Sharma is overjoyed to find that she is in sole control of the can at last.
The TVC ends with Kapoor bemused at the turn of events, while the consumer is left wondering whether there is a third part to come.
Thirsty for more
The campaign was cracked by the JWT creative team led by Soumitra Karnik, vice-president and executive creative director, who is also responsible for the script. Hari Krishnan and Amit Wadwa were on the servicing team. The film was produced by Film Farm and directed by Shashank Ghosh. MindShare handles the media duties for the brand.
One may recall that 2008 saw brands experimenting with advertising ‘serials’ – ads that were aired in parts to create suspense. These included the Pond's White Beauty films by O&M and the ad films for Samsung Guru. With its My Can films, Pepsi now joins the list of such brands.
Speaking to afaqs! on this mode of advertising, Sandeep Singh Arora, executive vice- president, marketing, cola, PepsiCo India, says, "With true 'Pepsiness', the TVC has been broken down into two parts, where part one finishes at a crucial stage, keeping the viewers guessing about what will happen next. We received an enthusiastic response to the online activation for the TVC, with consumers giving wacky and witty options."
Overall, Pepsi received more than 5,000 entries in 15 days – with answers that ranged from being bang on target to outrageous suggestions like “both will age together” or “Ranbir will do a towel dance”.
“There has definitely been a high degree of inquisitiveness about what happens next on a number of social networking sites, both online and on mobile,” says Arora.
As far as the idea goes, Karnik explains, "The idea stemmed from the very branding of the product, My Can, coupled with individuality, which is a core trait of today's youth."
Shweta Khosla, planning director, JWT, adds, "My Can is all about your attitude, your space and your way of doing things. The attitude factor played a key role in this campaign."
When asked about Pepsi's repeated use of teasers and revealers, both Khosla and Karnik explain that a short story, when broken into parts, ends up well told because it builds up interest and intrigues the consumer.
Karnik says, "We have used a two-part sequence intentionally to create the elements of anxiety and curiosity. The first part ends in a very provocative manner, with Ranbir unbuttoning his shirt. This generated enough interest amongst the consumers, who were left wondering, what happens next?"
As far as the two films are concerned, he maintains that they can't be called teasers or revealers in the conventional sense because the product was revealed in the first film itself. "But the first part does leave one guessing. In that context, it can be called a teaser," he adds.
'Can' the celeb take over the brand?
In the first phase of the My Can campaign featuring Khan and Abraham, the brand tried to be bigger than its endorsers. The second phase, featuring Kapoor and Padukone, is about the endorser fighting hard for the brand. In both cases, the brand has upstaged the endorsers categorically.
The second film also cashes in on the Kapoor-Padukone relationship for the twist in the tale. Given the fact that the Pepsi stable has several celebrities ready to jazz up the brand, one might wonder, how do they pick and choose?
Both Arora and Karnik clarify that this is done purely on the basis of the script. The celebrity who best justifies the character in the script is asked to appear in it.
On how Pepsi aims to carry on the campaign, Arora says, "Pepsi My Can has constantly redefined its engagement levels with the youth with unique and interactive initiatives that further the brand’s connect. It will continue to engage with the youth by providing them a platform to express themselves."
Media plan for My Can
Going forward, Pepsi aims to create a mix of consumer outreach programmes relevant to the youth across rural and urban markets, through an integrated communication mix spanning radio, TV, print and consumer and trade promotions.
As far as the media mix is concerned, this is a strongly integrated marketing programme, tapping into a variety of media. While TV dominates with 60 per cent of the ad spend, the Internet and cinema have also been used innovatively for the creative revealer of the campaign.
In addition, significant on-ground visibility is being driven through mall and office presence – more than 55 malls and 30 office complexes in the top 16 cities are being covered. The ground activation leg for the My Can campaign is set to be launched in a fortnight. This will connect with the youth in the top 10 towns at their favourite hangouts.
Canning the planner's viewpoint
afaqs! spoke to some account planners, seeking their reactions on the campaign from a planner’s point of view. Some interesting takes on the campaign followed.
Siddharth Loyal, brand strategy, Wieden+Kennedy, feels, "In an ideal world, where there is an unlimited supply of money to burn, this is a nice ad. But that's where it ends. Relevance to pop culture and society is what marketers should be turning their focus on, which is exactly where Pepsi should be headed."
According to him, though the Youngistaan positioning is good, it falls flat on its face with its "tired execution".
He suggests, "In my opinion, Pepsi should have turned these My Can ads into a series of music videos, collaborating with different artists to come out with their own rendition of the brief. The impact would have been much more. Besides, it would probably also have ended up saving a substantial chunk of money for the client."
Vikram Dhaliwal, senior planning director, account planning, Bates 141, speaks on the use of celebrities. "I think this campaign is trying to fuse the real lives of the celebrity and the characters that they are playing in the campaign," he says.
"It is using the real-life dynamic and placing the product in the middle of it. This is a trend which has caught on recently, with the Saif-Kareena duo. It is an interesting assemblage of set pieces, which are at the top of public consciousness today, and seeking to be cool by association," he explains.
Interestingly, he adds that the campaign had the opportunity to re-establish the man-woman sexual dynamic, which it failed to do. He says, "The woman averting her gaze and covering her face is a stereotypical image of the Indian woman. This clearly demonstrates disconnect between the depiction in the campaign and the changing life experience of the youth today. As a youth brand, Pepsi needs to lead consumers, rather than lag behind them."
He adds that by presenting the woman as the master of her own sexual destiny, Pepsi could have created a culturally significant piece of work. "The opportunity has been lost and so has the power of this campaign," he signs off.
Creative bigwigs speak
The creative fraternity did not seem too impressed with the campaign.
KS Chakravarthy, aka Chax, national creative director, DraftFCB Ulka, says candidly, "The idea (the 'special' grip) was always contrived, but the earlier commercials (John and SRK) managed to carry off a silly device reasonably well. Now you go and make the silly idea central to the TVC and you get a really silly commercial, twice over."
Emmanuel Upputuru, national creative director, Publicis India, is unimpressed by the teaser-revealer format, which is becoming fairly predictable for Pepsi. "You know it's a Pepsi ad when you see the blue cast. You know it's a Pepsi ad when it's a corny plot. You know it's a Pepsi ad when you know it's to be continued," he says.
Satbir Singh, chief creative officer, Euro RSCG, finds the ads fairly likeable and watchable. He quips, "It goes well with his (Ranbir's) last hit. It uses Deepika well, too."
However, he concedes that the ad may seem a bit predictable. "The moment the two go for it together and hold it in the strange grip, you know the story," he says.