“self-help is the best help” was so far an adage for humans, Nerolac is getting non-living things, such as houses, to believe in it, too. In a new television commercial for Nerolac’s premium, external emulsion brand, Excel Total, the tagline says, 'Ab ghar kare khud ki hifaazat'.
The creative idea
The film opens on a shot of a woman putting clothes to dry on a clothesline. As she feels the scorching heat, she realises that her house is being troubled by the heat, too. As she moves towards her house, it starts drifting away from her. Both it and other houses nearby are moving away to the shade of a tree.
In the evening, when the woman steps out of the house to get the clothes back inside, the sky begins to get cloudy. She turns to run back into her house, only to find all the houses moving away and clustering together to protect themselves from the rain.
Copy in Hindi appears on the screen: “Kaash ghar apni hifaazat khud kar sakte. Ab yeh mumkin hai (If only houses could protect themselves. Now that's possible).” A shot of the product appears, talking about its UPF technology, which helps to protect houses in inclement weather conditions. The film ends with the Kansai Nerolac logo and jingle.
Talking to afaqs!, C Venugopal, general manager, marketing, Kansai Nerolac, says that the brief that was given to McCann Erickson Mumbai, the creative agency on the business, was about establishing the brand as a provider of comprehensive protection for houses. In the process, bringing out how houses could defend themselves was considered as a proposition to take the creative forward.
Ryan Menezes, executive creative director, McCann Erickson Mumbai, and the copywriter on the campaign, discusses the TVC with afaqs!: "When it rains heavily, we run for shelter. When it gets too hot, we look for shade. We have an inbuilt instinct for self-preservation. What if our houses could do the same? What if they could protect themselves? This was the thought that led to the idea of showing houses mimicking human behaviour to escape extreme weather. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen in reality. This is where Nerolac Excel Total comes in, giving our houses the ability to defend themselves."
"In cases where houses are vulnerable to variable weather conditions, exterior paints can protect them either from the heat or from rain. We wanted to convey the dual powers of the product," says Venugopal.
Putting the features of the product, such as its water repulsion and anti-fade properties, into perspective, Parvathy Nair, group business director, McCann Erickson Mumbai, is of the view that the TVC conveys a simple point: If houses could protect themselves from the rain and the sun, they would not need paint like Nerolac Excel Total. "But since they cannot, Nerolac Excel Total helps protect them from extreme weather conditions," she says.
The product was launched in 2007 and was tested in Kerala for about a year, with television and print used in the media mix. The Malayalam version of the current TVC was aired there at the time.
The product went national around June-July 2008. As per the media plan, television will be used heavily for the national-level communication. Considering that it is targeted at the premium segment, Nerolac may consider digital around January-February 2009, making the shade card available online and becoming more interactive. The commercials might go off air for a while in February, says Venugopal.
The category of exterior emulsions has three strong players, Asian Paint's Apex Ultima, ICI's Weathershield Max and Berger's Weathercoat All Guard. And looking at the features of Nerolac Excel Total, there does not seem to be anything to differentiate the brand from the rest. Even while agreeing that the product is not unique, Menezes says he is sure of the newness of the approach, considering the execution and tonality of the message.
"The film is set up in a context that's very fresh – houses running for cover are an unexpected visual. So, the idea of self-defence for homes and its execution contribute heavily to its cut-through," he explains.
The ad fraternity offers a mixed response to the ad.
Emmanuel Upputuru, national creative director, Publicis India, says he likes the script, but feels that the idea of 'what if' or 'wish it was like this' and promising it, is not new.
Vedobroto Roy, creative director, Cheil Communications, says he is still hunting for the creative idea in the film. "The proposition has been communicated by the creative in an unentertaining way. As a consumer, it doesn't grab me. It doesn't evoke the 'save your house' feeling. In all, it lacks foundation, much like the mobile houses in the film. It leaves me totally indifferent," he says, baldly.
Speaking about the strategy, Upputuru agrees that the commercial sells the features of the product.
Roy thinks that the strategy could have been stronger. "What about consumer benefit?" he asks. "My house should look beautiful all the time. Protection is an added benefit. So, ugly, moving houses bunched up under a tree don't make strong strategy. There aren't any bragging rights for the consumer here."
The fact remains that paint, by its very nature, is a product that is purchased by the contractor, and not the owner of the house. The owner's decision comes into active play only when choosing the colour.
Keeping that in mind, Saji Abraham, vice-president, planning, Lowe Mumbai, makes a category check. The painter is often the expert. "To move the house owner into pushing the painter for a choice, the need is to present strong reasons to buy in a way that can compete or stand up to the painter’s expertise," he says.
He is of the opinion that the emphasis is on the striking visual imagery. The product parameters come as a regular product window, "unlike, let’s say, the Asian paints Young Prince ad, where the product properties are integral to the ad", he explains.
Abraham says he finds the commercial interesting, but adds that it falls into the typical advertising trap of taking the creative idea too seriously at the expense of the product. "That is where the difference between success and failure in the marketplace may lie," he says.
Anand Damani, planning head, Saatchi & Saatchi Mumbai, doesn't seem to be intrigued. "It's just another ad. Typical formula based advertising that demonstrates the benefit of protection against the elements of nature. The creative execution, too, doesn't evoke any feeling for the brand."
The two planners have some more perspectives for the agency. Damani is of the view that effective advertising campaigns always have a strong link between what people really care about and what the brand has to offer, thus making them engaging and not interruptive. "I'm afraid this ad falls in the latter category of ads," he says.
Says Abraham, "I think this is a classical case of how we are very excited about an ad in the agency internally, but research or the marketplace accords it a lukewarm response. Then we are left blaming research methodologies and media plans, wondering why it did not work."
With this creative, how does Nerolac fare vis-à-vis the market leader, Asian Paints?
In all the communication that one sees for Asian Paints, the brand doesn't talk about features. Upputuru is outright in saying that: "Features are talked about by followers. When you are not the leader, you say we have this, or we have that."
Roy is also of the same opinion. He believes that Nerolac doesn't even stand on the same page. Asian Paints evokes the inherent pride of the homeowner in a market where repainting a house every year is almost a tradition.
"'Har Ghar Kuch Kehta Hai' makes consumers gravitate towards the brand. The Asian Paints exterior emulsion that claims 'Dhool ko tikne na de', or for that matter, 'Waah, Sunil Babu!', are etched in memory because the product benefit reflects directly on the consumer's lifestyle. Bragging rights galore… entertaining stuff," he says.
Despite the numerous efforts at branding made by all the players in the category, brand recall is very poor. Apart from the competition among the paint brands, there is also a tussle amongst the many offerings of the mother brand itself, often because each company has a range of brands to cater to different needs and different sets of consumers.
In that case, what is television advertising aiming at, especially when at the end of any TVC, the consumer is still hazy about which brand to purchase?
Despite the attempted nomenclature prevalent across competitive brand names, the paint category is not evolved enough to comprehend the parent brand and the sub-brand with clarity, says Menezes. This holds true for other products as well, such as phones and televisions.
He thinks that the challenge is to work the reverse. "The messaging and its delivery need to compel recall, rather than drive brand name recall through brand name mentions or nomenclature simplifying actions," he says.
The total decorative paint category in India stands at Rs 8,000-9,000 crore. The market leader, Asian Paints, has a share of about 45 per cent. Nerolac and Berger, in the second position, have an 18-19 per cent market share each. ICI Paints, with its Dulux brand, has a 10-11 per cent share. Shalimar Paints has a 3-4 per cent share.