Airtel: Focusing on the trust quotient

By Neha Kalra , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | March 09, 2009
Airtel has rolled out its first non-celebrity TVC of 2009. afaqs! finds out more

Airtel is known for its star-studded films. But this time, the brand has looked beyond celebrities to focus on its trust quotient.

The latest Airtel TVC opens on a child being given strict instructions by his mother not to go out and play. That obviously saddens him. Quietly, he picks up his toy phone and makes his way to the rooftop. As he makes himself comfortable, he dials his dad's number over the phone. Pretending to have a conversation with his father, he complains that as his mother scolded him, his father, in turn, should scold the mother.

He quickly goes downstairs, to where his mother had told him to sit. Soon, the mother enters the room and tells him that he can go out to play after having his milk. He is overjoyed and asks her if his father had called, assuming that the phone call he made to his father has had the desired effect. While the mother walks out of the room, smiling, the child is seen leaping with joy. The film closes on the logo of Airtel.

The creative angle

The brief was about giving a new angle - the angle of trust, reveals Ramanuj Shastry, national creative director, Rediffusion Y&R. "The trust angle, which is a hygiene factor, is far more gripping than the network angle," he says.

He relates it to a pair of Nike shoes. "They are not simply good shoes; there's something intangible about them - probably, that your feet will be reliably comfortable in a Nike pair. It's similar, as it is more than just about the network. It's about being reachable and accessible."

Shastry points out that the brand, particularly this piece of communication, likes to make the consumer believe that you are never too far from your loved ones. "When the toy phone speaks, it's almost like magic realism," exclaims Shastry.

Just like the Breaking Barriers campaign, which was released in the beginning of 2008, was based on the overall philosophy of pulling down walls between people, this film too, is woven around an overall philosophy of trust.

Deepesh Jha, creative head, who handles the Airtel business at the agency's Delhi branch, has penned the script and has even supervised the two-day shoot of the film. The film was shot by production house, Footcandles and directed By Vinil Mathew.

The other noticeable aspect of the ad film is the performance of the child artist. Vinil Mathew of Footcandles, says, "Children generally have short attention span and get bored easily. The same happened with this four-year-old boy (Virej Dasani). "

"We had to do all sorts of things to keep him 'interested'! From scaring him, to being nice (from being bad cops to good ones), but at the end, patience was the only the thing that kept us with him," he adds.

In fact, Mathew had worked with this kid when he was only two months old for a Good Knight commercial. Besides, Dasani had worked on several other television commercials, so he wasn't camera-shy -- this was again an added advantage.

Dasani's looks were also worked upon to give the film a reality effect. "After a couple of tests, we decided that he should wear a half-sleeves shirt and chappals instead of a jazzy dress and shoes - all this, to 'not' give him the cool boy look," he reiterates.

Peer angle

Alok Ghosh, senior creative director, Bates Chennai, feels that the creativity of the film lies in its striking simplicity. "The creative insight in this film is just that. It appeals to everyone," he says.

Airtel brings to mind films packed with celebrities. However, many in the fraternity, including Ghosh, feel that the film is simply perfect without a celebrity. "I think a good idea needs no celebrity push. Not that using a celebrity is bad. But sometimes, celebrities overpower the brand," he explains.

Kawal Shoor, president, strategic planning, O&M, Mumbai feels that the film is about a sweet moment, which feels real. "An ad with a child will need to try very hard to go wrong, and this one doesn't. What's nice is that it doesn't reek of fake innocence. Though it dragged a bit for me," he states.

He delves into the strategic insight, "'Atoot rishte' is a strong emotional layer on network. However, Airtel has this slightly schizophrenic approach to communication. It does both - the head-in-the-sky ads and the feet-on-the-ground ads - and there's a very visible and clear line between the two. This belongs to the second, and clearly, this idea works best without a celebrity."

He questions, however, "Even given the complexities of their market, does Airtel need two distinct types of advertising, presumably for the two Indias, or is it too simplistic an approach?"

Talking about the emotional quotient, Ghosh believes that inside every human being, especially Indians, there is a need for emotional connect. "Commercials, with or without celebrities, need to connect with the consumer emotionally," he states. He cites the examples of the Madhavan-Vidya Balan films having worked better than the SRK films; and the good emotional match of Aamir Khan's roles in Coke and Tata Sky.

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