To even suggest Coca-Cola as the national quencher is a tall claim, but the brand
is certainly aiming for that mythical status. As is amply evident from Thanda-Aamir ads. Each of the Thanda ads has exploited one or the other cultural symbol to connect with the diverse masses. Be it the Mumbai tapori, the Hyderabadi paanwallah, the Punjabi farmer, the Bengali babumoshai, or the clever Sherpa, they are characters straight from the comic strip of Indian pluralism.
But every marketer knows too well that a strategy without the homemaker in mind is like food without salt. So Manno Bhabhi, the latest creation of McCann-Erickson and Coke, makes an entry into the family of the Coca-Cola characters. Her existence, like her kindred, is to further the cause of Coca-Cola. To see how that happens, a look at the ad.
The TVC, directed by Abhijeet Chaudhuri of Black Magic Productions, is similar to a teleserial format. It opens on a clay animated character. A title introduces the character as Manno Bhabi. She is the protagonist of the family drama that is to unfold in the ensuing seconds.
There is a flurry of activity at the house. Members of the family make last minute preparations for an NRI, who is coming to meet their daughter. They, in turns, nervously call out for Manno Bhabhi. She, of course, is the one who all depend on. The camera focuses on Manno Bhabhi, played by Aamir Khan.
The NRI, again played by Khan, seats himself and the prospective bride is ushered in with refreshments. The would-be groom modeled on a typical American rapper with affectations of an NRI, outrightly refuses to consume the snacks. 'No tea, no ghee, triangles le jao," says the NRI.
Manno Bhabi, slightly discomforted, continues to witness the goings-on. Then the mother of the girl tries to apply a vermilion teeka on the NRI with the stack of her thumb. When Khan avoids the teeka ceremony, the grandmother, apalled, explains that this ceremony is part of the Indian custom. The NRI withdraws in disgust and pronounces that he is allergic to such traditions.
Manno Bhabhi wonders in sotto-voce. "Na Chatterjee, ya Banerjee, yeh to hai allergy.." and decides to take the cudgels in her hands. "Is ko toh desi chhaunk lagana padega." She walks towards him with a tray of glasses filled with Coca-Cola. The NRI hungrily eyes them. She serves all, but the NRI gets an empty glass. Manno Bhabhi gently explains that since serving Coca-Cola is also an Indian custom, for a 'high class' person like him, such a refreshment would not befit his status.
Scared that he may not get his Coca-Cola after all, the groom undergoes a sudden transformation. From an NRI, Khan mutates into a local Bihari, applies the vermilion himself and is rewarded with a bottle of Coca-Cola. In short, Manno Bhabi puts the NRI in his place. Before the mini-serial concludes, Manno Bhabi offers her advice, 'Ghar mein rakhiye Thanda, matlab Coca-Cola.' (Comment on this ad)
For Coca-Cola, it's apparent that the next stage of communication is to tap in-home consumption. The reason states, Vikas Gupta, vice- president - marketing, Coca-Cola India, "is to strengthen Coca-Cola's market share in the home consumption segment, which accounts for over 30 per cent of the total soft drink market in India".
With that brief, the agency decided to make a woman as the protagonist of the story. A character with whom the Indian middle class housewives emotionally connect. "The end objective of the Coca-Cola communication is to bridge the gap between the brand and the consumer, as endearingly as possible. Since the marketing objective was to reach out to the housewife, we decided to make her the central character of the piece," says Prasoon Joshi, regional CD, South & South East Asia, McCann-Erickson.
Hence Manno Bhabi was born, and through her, the brand makes an effort to further cement its ties with people of all age groups. And, what better way than to show a typical Indian joint family in an arranged marriage set-up to tell a story? But there was one problem. Who will play the lead role?
"We were faced with a quandary," says Joshi, who has conceptualised and scripted the ad. "Since Aamir was playing the NRI, the lead character of Manno Bhabhi was bound to be overshadowed by him..." Thus, the main character had to be equally strong, if not more.
Well, it was Coke's Gupta, who came to the rescue. He came up with the suggestion that Khan played Manno Bhabhi's role as well. "Call it a fantastic coincidence, when we discussed this possibility with Aamir, he told us that he had been thinking of playing a woman character in the Coca-Cola commercial for long." Khan, by the way, has performed as a woman in the film Bazee.
Once that problem was fixed, the challenge was to develop the film in a manner that held consumer interest. After all, Coca-Cola and Khan were making a comeback after a hiatus of one year. "The execution was very important. The film had to be layered, so that every scene builds up to the climax."
And of course, the dialogues had to live up to the tradition of being quirky and entertaining. After all, Thanda-Aamir campaigns have built up quite a reputation in this matter. "The dialogues are actually from the same family of words that we have been using for the earlier ads. Now the word tadka is a part of the common parlance of the homemaker" Joshi points out.
With Khan doing the double act, the greater challenge as an actor lay in playing Manno Bhabi. Her character epitomises the Indian middle class daughter-in-law and not a caricature of it. Therefore, Khan's performance had to inspire suspension of disbelief, so that women relate to Manno Bhabi as a woman and not spot the Khan in her.
"It indeed, was a tight-rope walk, but Aamir pulled it off superbly and convincingly brought out the personalities of the two characters."
Will Manno Bhabhi of Coca-Cola now rub shoulders with Tulsi? That's the bet Coca-Cola is willing to take.
© 2005 agencyfaqs!