ING banks on the flip side of the coin

By Abhishek Chanda , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | December 17, 2008
The brand has adopted an emotional route to connect with the Indian consumers

Money & #BANNER1 & # usually connotes currency, material value, or a medium of exchange. But the ING Group is presenting a different side of money - the emotional side - by depicting how deeply it is rooted in Indian traditions and rituals.

Exploring this other side of money, ING Group, the financial company, recently released its brand campaign for India. The campaign has been developed by McCann Erickson, which handles ING's corporate identity.

The film opens on a shot of a child jumping into the Hooghly river to pick up a coin. This is followed by similar situations picked from different corners of the country - scenes from a traditional wedding, the occasion of Rakshabandhan, instances of celebrity worship with garlands made of notes, and so on - in which money has an emotional connect or a traditional or ritualistic meaning. The overall brand idea that ING aims to communicate is, "Paisa sirf paisa nahin hai (Money is more than just money)."

Speaking to afaqs! about this creative thought, Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman, McCann Erickson India, and regional executive creative director, Asia Pacific, McCann Erickson, says, "Money is just a means and not the end in itself. Things that surround money are more important, I believe. Unlike in many other cultures, money has a deeper connect and shares an emotional bond with us in India. For example, Rs 11 or Rs 101 is perceived as a blessing in our culture, though it may be of very little value, keeping the times in mind. It is this insight that prompted us to explore a film for the brand along these lines."

Joshi has written the script, penned the lyrics and composed the music for the TV commercial. The music was arranged by Monty Sharma of Saawariya fame and sung by Javed Ali, who has sung hit film songs such as Kabhi Kabhi Aditi. The film has been directed by Abhijit Chowdhari and produced by Black Magic Films. The locales include various cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

Jacqueline de Graaf, brand manager, ING, speaks about the campaign to afaqs!, "Through this campaign, we wanted to introduce the brand to India and establish a connect with the consumer. It's true that we are a foreign group, but when we are in India, we want to be seen as an Indian entity catering to Indian needs. We chose this line of thought to portray this. We did not want to be looked at as yet another firm that simply adapts its global communications to local content."

Graaf acknowledges that in India, money has an underlying cultural connect, which is not the case in the West or even in the Netherlands, where the company is headquartered. She maintains that though money finds mention in local Dutch parlance and metaphors, it remains a trade-related term.

Elaborating further, Madanjit Singh, vice-president and director, marketing and strategy, ING Investment Management, says, "This is the first time that ING has implemented an aggressive brand-building campaign across three ING business units - bank, investments and life insurance. This strategy is what I refer to as 'One ING' - one aligned entity delivering value to our customers, business partners, employees and shareholders."

"Our insights are based on our belief that in India, money has more meaning for people than just a currency for transaction, which can be understood only when one truly understands India. At ING, we first understand what money means to our consumers. Then, we help them manage it for the important occasions that matter in their lives."

As far as the media mix of the campaign is concerned, Singh maintains that the main lead is through the TV campaign, which has already been launched. It will be followed by campaigns across print, out-of-home and online media, spread across six weeks in all the major cities. It is learnt that the brand will be out with a second film soon.

When afaqs! shared the film with some members of the Indian creative fraternity, interesting comments came through.

Bobby Pawar, chief creative officer, Mudra Group, says he had mixed reactions to the film. He says, "The insight of money is an old one. Though the concept of looking at money from the Indian point of view is nice, I still feel that the thought could have travelled further and that the creative leap is missing. However, there is a feel-good factor attached to the film as the music and execution are nice."

Abhijit Avasthi, executive creative director, South Asia, O&M, says, "For me, it's just a generic, cliché-laden song montage thingy with no big idea. It seems like an attempt to connect with the masses. I can almost hear the planner brief the creative team. The client wants to tell the consumer that though ING is an international institution, it understands what money means to Indians."

On a brighter note, Vistasp Hodiwala (Vispy), associate vice-president and senior creative director, JWT, says, "'Mere desh mein paisa sirf paisa nahin hota' is a relatively fresh take in a jaded financial services category. However, anything referring to India in advertising has the inevitable baggage of been there, done that, and this one seems to be no exception. Having said that, the film has been well thought out and shot competently, which means it's not a drag on the senses. That in itself is a relief in this category."

For the record, in 1991, Dutch insurer Nationale-Nederlanden and NMB Postbank Group merged. The merger was called Internationale Nederlanden Groep, or ING. The financial company entered India through a joint venture with Vysya Bank in 1999, called ING Vysya Mutual Funds, which is now known as ING Investment Management. Later, ING Life Insurance was introduced in 2001, and ING Vysya Bank was launched a year later.

While ING Life Insurance is handled by Rediffusion Y&R (creative) and Starcom MediaVest Group (media), the creative and media duties for ING Investment Management are handled by Meridian and mediaedge:cia, respectively. The creative duties for ING Vysya Bank are with JWT. The media duties for the bank are with Lodestar Universal (they were earlier with TME Bengaluru), along with the ING corporate duties.