The day is dark and grey. Rain is thundering down. Two young men prepare for a duel. The camera zooms on a gaming device clenched in the hand of one of them.
The battle-ready men are escorted by two warrior-like characters. One resembles Darth Vader of Star Wars, the other a Jedai soldier. Vengeance in their eyes, the men start hammering the keys - the keys on the pad of the gaming weapon. That's right, the two are fighting each other in a mobile game.
This is how the TVC of N-Gage QD, the latest gaming mobile phone from Nokia, opens. Made by Bates in association with V Sunil of A, creative consultant to the Nokia brand, the commercial brings out the personality of the brand - 'edgy' and 'cool'.
Coming back to the story. With a deft touch or two at the mobile phone button, the warriors run towards each other. The high voltage action that follows is reminiscent of the action in Hollywood flick Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
As the culmination of the action seems near, a name flashes on one of the mobile phone screens. The owner of the phone cum gaming device answers the call. As he speaks, the characters disengage from the aerial action and tumble down on the ground, and wait for their master to resume the fight. "N-Gage QD... Choose the right weapon to win the fight... Anyone, Anywhere," says the voiceover.
When Nokia decided to launch N-Gage in India, the company was clear that excitement levels in the gaming category had to be pushed up dramatically. "Gaming as a category is still nascent in India. The youth is into casual gaming on personal computers as well as on mobile phones. So it was clear that the TVC and other media initiatives had to build excitement in the gaming category," explains Shefali Chhachhi, marketing manager, Nokia.
Given the nature of the product, the story could have been easily spun from the product features. In fact, story ideas were begging to be given life since the task of the agency was to highlight how N-Gage brings 'mobility' and 'sociability' to gaming because of its features and bluetooth technology.
But that's easier said than done. Sunil and his team were struggling to get just the right idea for N-Gage. But no amount of brainstorming helped. However, a few guidelines for the communication were clear. "While we were trying to develop the idea, we knew that we would not talk about gaming in the way Tata Indicom or Sony Ericsson does, where gaming sounds like an incidental feature in the mobile phone," says Sunil. Chhachhi adds, "The brand proposition of 'best phone' for gamers had to be conveyed. That N-Gage was a great gaming device; great phone, had to be communicated."
In the West, gaming is not just a category but an industry in itself. And the fascination for gaming cuts across age groups. In India, however, the primary audience is still young adults, though a fraction of the urban male population is as obsessed. Sunil happened to know a handful of that fraction. "I have friends who are crazy about gaming. Much of the inspiration and understanding of the passion for gaming came from them."
The raw material was there, minus the idea. Until fashion designer Rohit Bal came to the team's rescue.
This happened on the night of Bal's show on the Lakme India Fashion Week. "When the male models (strutting the Balance collection) emerged on the ramp, I saw their dress and the entire story flashed before my eyes," says Sunil. The job now was to convince consumers that N-Gage is the "best way to play". Execution became central to the idea. Therefore, the directorial services of Austrian filmmaker Marco Kalantari were sought. Incidentally, Kalantari has worked on an earlier TVC for Nokia.
Equally important was creating the right atmosphere for the action. "The credit goes to Mohanan, our cameraman, for creating the perfect look for the ad," says Sunil. The ad was not shot in the streets of Mumbai, but on the sets of Film City, Mumbai. He adds, "Usually, in the excitement of giving the right effect, every leaf is lighted, thus making the set too dramatic. But in this case, the set looked so real, so believable that when we were at the set, it felt like a real street in Mumbai."
The team's efforts have earned it great appreciation. The ad is currently running in Singapore, Thailand and Philippines, and the US and European markets are planning to follow suit.
A little trivia in conclusion. Few know that the idea - that first came to Sunil at the night of the fashion show - was not the one that got finally approved. He was keen on using a story from the battle of Kurukshetra, fought in the Indian epic Mahabharata. He had not made up his mind on which story, though. But one wonders, what if it was Abhimanyu fighting the circle of enemies in the chakravyuh with N-Gage in his hands? Now, that's a scene worth a thought.
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