Oct 10, 2008

Mktg - A multistarrer by Airtel Digital TV

Neha Kalra

Until now, the domain of spoofs was ruled by the cola brands. Not anymore, as direct-to-home (DTH) brands joined the fray, with the recent tussle between the newly launched Airtel digital TV and Big TV. However, Airtel has moved a step ahead now, leaving the red couch behind and unveiling the first revealer ad for Airtel digital TV.

With this commercial, for the very first time in the history of Indian advertising, a brand has featured 10 celebrities in one commercial – not as brand ambassadors, but as products.

Agnello Dias, aka Aggie, national creative director, JWT and the brain behind the Airtel digital TV campaign, tells afaqs!, “It is the oldest principle of advertising to showcase the product. Celebrities are the icons of entertainment – the film shows how entertainment comes alive. Normally, celebrities are featured in ads to sell a product. But in this commercial, the celebrities themselves are the products, as they represent the world of entertainment. And that’s why so many celebrities.”

The film shows a man, Rahul, stepping out of the airport to find a huge group of people waiting to welcome him, complete with a music band, ballet and Kathakali dancers, girls in Baywatch-like swimwear et al. They are there to usher him into the world of entertainment, suggests the scene. Actors such as Sudha Chandran, famous as one the vamps in Ekta Kapoor’s ‘K’ serials is shown representing the soap opera genre; Raju Srivastav represents comedy; while VJ Ranvijay Singh represents movies, in his cowboy style.

Endorsers, R Madhavan and Vidya Balan accompany him in a luxury car to his home. Cricketers Zaheer Khan and Gautam Gambhir, along with persons representing sports other than cricket, welcome him into the lift, and to the sports genre. As he reaches his house, the door opens to reveal Kareena Kapoor. Rahul’s wife makes an appearance and ushers him in, where Airtel endorser, AR Rahman carries forward the genre of music with Airtel’s signature tune. And Saif Ali Khan is there to welcome him too.

Aggie goes on, “From cowboys to Kathakali dancers, from soap opera actors to cartoons, and from WWF to Baywatch girls -- all are seen in that one film. In terms of mixing shots, it is a virtual depiction of channel surfing.”

The brief given to the agency was to communicating an unparalleled, unprecedented entertainment experience to consumers. It was about bringing the magical experience of Airtel digital TV alive.

Talking about the red couch used in the teaser ads, Rohit Ohri, managing partner, JWT, says, “The red couch was used as a symbol of home and watching television at home. It is an invitation to consumers to be part of the magical experience of entertainment offered by the brand.”

Chandrashekhar Radhakrishnan (Chandru), head, brand and media, Bharti Airtel, is sure about the brand’s moves. “Good brands are built over time. With a vision of lending an integrated offering (bringing the television, mobile and computer together), a focussed strategy of strengthening our leadership with enhanced experience and a strong creative idea of magical entertainment, we, at Airtel digital TV, know what we’re heading for,” he says firmly.

Before Airtel’s announcement of stepping into the DTH market, several players have already found ground with consumers to some extent. How tough is this battle going to be? And what kind of differentiation do we see in the category?

“India has 80 million C&S (cable and satellite) households. There is DTH penetration of only about 8-9 per cent, which implies there is enough room for more players. Differentiation, till now, has been based on two aspects – technological innovations and features of the product. We shall position ourselves on the consumer experience platform, which would emerge from an understanding of the consumer’s television viewing habits,” says Chandru.

According to reports, DishTV, one of the first and oldest players in the market claims to have a consumer base of 3.5 million, while Tata Sky has 2.5 million and Sun Direct has 1 million.

Airtel digital TV aims to achieve 20 per cent share in the DTH pie, as compared to the new entrants of the year, reveals Chandru. The master brand, Airtel, has been retained for this project due to value and the integrated effect. The descriptor, digital TV, has been put in place by JWT. The media agency for Bharti Airtel is Madison.

The TVC will be the backbone of the entire communication plan, reveals Ohri. The Internet, press and outdoor media are being considered too. Outdoor hoardings and press ads have already been released.

About the spoof by Big TV, Aggie responds, “Now that our teasers have stopped, all know that it’s hardly about a red sofa. I think they picked up the wrong cue. Moreover, a normal ambush ad created by a brand either criticizes the communication for the competitor’s product, or tries to show that its product is superior as compared to the competitor’s. In this case, it’s like Big TV saying that the ads for Airtel digital TV are theirs! Why would someone like to play up the competitor’s idea at all, in a spoof, in the very first place? Moreover, with the end of the teaser campaigns for Airtel digital TV, I guess Big TV’s communication pertaining to the red couch becomes redundant.”

Ohri, too, spoke about Big TV’s spoof. “The DTH category is nascent and developing. The category needs ideas that need to build the category, rather than such small, tactical measures. We are not worried about the spoof – it speaks loud of the competitor not having an idea of their own,” he comments.

Chandru’s reaction to the spoof is, “A consistency in approach is required. Ideas are not gimmick works.”

A message to Big TV, from a JWT spokesperson, “If Big TV is short of ideas, we can help them!”

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