Pepsi reveals the real 'connection' for success

By Abhishek Chanda , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | February 18, 2009
The latest TVC is an extension of the Youngistaan brand thought and features four high profile Indian cricketers

Launched in early 2008, Youngistaan has been Pepsi's brand thought, which the brand is steadily fortifying, brick by brick. The term was 'discovered' by Ranbir Kapoor in the first TVC and was defined in the subsequent TVCs.

Pepsi is out with its latest film, which involves Dhoni, along with three of his in-form teammates, voicing the brand thought.

Youngistaan & #BANNER1 & # was launched as a state of mind of today's youth, rather than a place with a geographical location. It was launched to mirror the GenNext attitude and as an expression of individuality - the need to do one's own thing.

The TVC takes viewers back in time, when MS Dhoni, Ishant Sharma, Virender Sehwag and S Sreesanth were not names to reckon with, but ordinary lads who were striving to realise their dreams. So, we see Ishant Sharma waiting to submit his admission form, just when some VIP's son barges into the line. When Sharma questions him, he retorts, "Janta hai mera baap kaun hai?" (Do you know who my father is?).

Similarly, Sreesanth and Sehwag are also upstaged by the commissioner's and minister's sons, respectively, in separate incidents. In all these cases, the prodigal sons of the so-called influential fathers try staking their claims to what the heroes of the plot deserve.

Next, the film cuts to the present-day scenario, where all the cricketers have established themselves as worthy sons of their fathers. The film ends with them asserting the fact that the only connection to success is actually an individual's thirst to achieve.

The film has been conceptualised by JWT Delhi. The team behind it includes Soumitra Karnik, who heads the creative part of the account; Charu Chittwal, who has scripted the film; and Hari Krishnan, who heads the servicing side. It has been produced by Soda Films and directed by Rajesh Krishnan.

The creative connection
The film tries to connect the brand with the overall thought of thirst, notably the youth's thirst for success and achievement. A person is successful when he or she connects with this thirst to succeed and makes efforts to achieve goals.

Soumitra Karnik, vice-president and executive creative director, JWT, says, "This film is an extension of the on-going Youngistaan brand thought. However, with this, we are adding more depth and substance to the brand thought. It is no longer just a whimsical tag line."

He adds that the youth are constantly bending the rules and finding more challenging and unconventional approaches to do their own thing. The fact that unconventional approaches are the order of the day is borne out of one simple example - increasingly, cricketers and sportspersons are emerging out of small towns and making it big, as compared to the run-of-the-mill MBAs and engineers.

Karnik justifies the choice of cricketers to drive the brand thought home. "In India, this particular sport has a lot of cricketers getting themselves a ticket to the national or the state level teams through influential connections. On the contrary, we also have some real life examples of self-made cricketers, who made it big by riding high on their merit and passion for the game. We salute these performers; while on the other hand, we took a dig at the losers."

Connecting with the consumer
Through its previous efforts, Pepsi has tried to connect with the consumer. The thirst factor has been a quintessential point of leverage, as far the brand's communication approach is concerned. So, while the last TVC had Dhoni trying to strike a balance between padhai (studies) and pyaas (thirst), the current one has him insisting on pyaas (thirst) being the real means to achieve success.

In fact, the insight stems from the day-to-day experiences of bureaucratic high-handedness that are part of life in India. Through both the films, Pepsi has tried to challenge conventions.

Sandeep Singh Arora, executive vice-president, marketing, Cola, PepsiCo India, says, "Today, while the youngsters are fun, irreverent, and raring to go, they are also far more sensitivised to many social issues and conventions around them. In 2009, Pepsi aims to occupy a unique space in the minds of youth - by standing for both fun and substance."

He defines the typical Youngistaani as a fiercely ambitious go-getter, equipped with a killer attitude, who reiterates a 'can do' attitude and has a deep sense of self-belief.

For 2009, Arora maintains that Pepsi will continue to leverage the Youngistaan campaign and build it up with some exciting activations.

The celeb connection
It is impossible not to notice the ever-growing number of celebrities and endorsers that Pepsi has been adding to its portfolio, which often results in confusion and overlapping.

However, the brand has divided its endorsers into two broad categories, as of now. Amongst the cricketers are MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Ishant Sharma, S Sreesanth, Robin Uthappa, Praveen Kumar, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Munaf Patel, Piyush Chawla and S Badrinath.

The second cluster comprises the more expensive Bollywood actors, such as Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and John Abraham. Although Shah Rukh Khan has been associated with the brand for a long time, recent media reports suggested, and Khan himself clarified, that he is no longer associated with the brand. Sources indicate that the ageing Khan had lost out on the Youngistaan connect, which led to him being sidelined.

The media plan
Pepsi will stick to a mix of consumer outreach programmes relevant to the youth across rural and urban markets, as far as spreading the message is concerned. An integrated communications mix spanning radio, TV, print and consumer/trade promotions has been identified for this task.

Hari Krishnan, vice-president, JWT, maintains that as always the brand will employ digital to a great extent. He says, "Digital is a good propagator. Especially for a message that is meant for the youth, it helps yield good results." According to him, unique, activation based initiatives will soon be undertaken to spread the brand message.

The peer connection
The planners

Some of the professionals from the planning fraternity seemed to have liked the ad on a lighter note, but as far as key insights and delivery of messages is concerned, they are not that impressed.

Says, Sandhya Srinivasan, co-founder and senior vice-president, Law & Kenneth India, "Get ahead with your thirst for success is an interesting play of words, especially for Youngistan. But I am wondering why it is preaching rather than simplifying it for them."

According to her, the message could have been less convoluted and in a lighter vein. However, she finds the clichés with Sreesanth and his movements a bit too repetitive. However, on the whole, she finds the ad as much better than the earlier fluffiness.

"It's a drink. Loosen up, especially in these times of recession," she concludes.

Dheeraj Sinha, chief strategy officer, Bates141 India, believes, "The film is a good celebration of the self-drive that the current Indian cricket team stands for. But the insight that today's India is making it big itself is rather old now." He adds that he has been left guessing about the 'connection' of the message with Pepsi.

According to Rajeev Sharma, national brand planning director, Leo Burnett, it's one thing to observe a societal truth. It's quite another to use it to the brand's advantage.

He says, "Apart from merely providing a commentary on a societal truth, the brand's protagonists -- the cricketers -- do nothing to resolve the situation. They simply act as mouthpieces for the brand's attitude, and in doing so, lose the opportunity to play an active role in providing a counterpoint to the problem. Looks a little preachy to me."

The creatives

The creative fraternity, on the contrary, doesn't find the ad preachy and has enjoyed it on the whole.

Titus Upputuru, executive creative director, Dentsu India, says, "The execution is lovely. Words just seem to flow like sheer poetry. The song in between is a great construct idea. And the best part? Very local, very Indian."

On a similar note, Nandu Narasimhan, executive creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi, elaborates, "Overall, I love the space that the Youngistaan idea is getting into. It's fun, and captures the spirit of this generation without being preachy. And I like the way the celebrities have been cast -- as real people."

He says that if he had to pick a point of criticism, the only thing he would say is that there are places where the commercial is too pat. "It could have done with a bit more tension. But overall, will it cut ice? The answer is yes," he adds.

On an optimistic note, he maintains that Pepsi's philosophy of being the new generation's choice is going in a very interesting direction. It's worth waiting to see how many more facets this brand will explore.