afaqs!

Airtel: The 'rural' bond

By Neha Kalra , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | November 12, 2008
The new TVC stars actor Shreyas Talpade, who makes his debut in the advertising circuit with Brand Airtel

It & #BANNER1 & # all began three months back. With the emotional commercial starring actors Abhay Deol and Raima Sen, Airtel, India's largest telecom player, began to chalk out its priorities for the rural market. Since that was Airtel's first commercial based on the idea of affordability, the brand tied up with Nokia to offer its services.

Now, with its second commercial for the rural audience, Airtel has touched upon another plot - a brand with a trusted and reliable network. And this time, it's actors Darshan Zariwala and Shreyas Talpade who take on the acting reins. The commercial went on air on November 10.

In the 60 and 45 second formats, the television commercial starts with a son (Shreyas Talpade) packing his bag, while his father (Darshan Zariwala) looks on. Talpade brings out a box full of old memories and treasures, picks out two trophies from it, and tosses them into his bag. Before shutting the dusty suitcase, he realises that he's leaving behind something - out comes a long red thread.

In a flashback, he returns to the time when, as a child, he went to a fair with his father and was afraid of getting lost. Reassuringly, his father tied one end of the long thread to his son's wrist and the other end to his own. Just as he had smiled as a child from the sense of security, the grown-up man, Talpade, returning from his memories, smiles, too.

Talpade sets off from home, and soon, a phone is heard ringing. The father goes to the mobile, which has the red thread tied around it. Surprised, he picks up the phone to hear his son say, "Baba, ghabrana mat. Is bheed mein, main khounga nahin (Dad, don't worry. I will not get lost in this crowd)."

This makes the father smile. The next shot has Talpade smiling and walking away in a crowd. The film ends with the voiceover, "Atoot bandhan, atoot network", and the Airtel logo.

Talking about the film and the importance of the rural network for Airtel, Chandrashekhar Radhakrishnan (Chandru), head, brand and media, Bharti Airtel, tells afaqs!, "For Airtel, rural is one of the most critical domains. With the first piece of communication based on affordability, it is now time for the second wave of revolution - talking about the fact of being the most reliable network. Being a trusted network brand is a key category driver when you talk about rural."

"Rural India (towns with populations of less than 20,000) is the target for a substantial proportion of new customer acquisition. By March 2009, it's slated to cover the majority of the Indian population," states Chandru.

Ramanuj Shastry and Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar, chief creative officers, Rediffusion Y&R, the agency which handles the Airtel account, spoke to afaqs! about the film. Shastry says, "The film is about the reversal of anxiety and it's about reinforcing the fact that I won't forget who I am. The red thread is a metaphor for network."

While Airtel has featured actors Abhay Deol and Raima Sen, and now Talpade and Zariwala, none of them are on board as brand endorsers per se (as compared to Shah Rukh Khan, AR Rahman and the like), say Chandru and Shastry. "The scripts are written independent of celebrities, and as and when the need arises, suitable actors are roped in," they say.

"With a common trend setting in of people from rural towns migrating to urban spaces, there is a fear of losing emotional anchorage. The film revolves around the fact that there is definitely an anchor at home, and one can go fearlessly and explore one's dreams," says Chandru.

Talking about choosing Talpade, who is a relatively new face on the advertising block, Shastry says, "He is outstanding and gives the feel of being brave. He can be seen in the role of a person who understands the past. Casting is very critical for the brand; on the other hand, it is a way through which celebrities cut-through."

The film was shot over two days in Pushkar (Rajasthan) and Mumbai, under the direction of Shoojit Sarkar. It was produced by Rising Sun Films. Pre-production took two weeks, while post-production was completed in five to six days.

Shastry reveals that the mela scene is a digitally replicated shot and has some people added to it to make the crowd look more fearsome to the child.

Targeted at males in the age group of 22-35 years of SEC R1, R2, C and D, the communication will extend across outdoor, through hoardings, posters and danglers.

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