BBH shepherds first 'sheep' in India

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | May 05, 2009
Whether the sheep is black or not is for viewers to decide. BBH India has launched its first commercial in the country - a project undertaken for 'Collection G' of the World Gold Council, in association with D'damas and Pantaloons Femina Miss India

BBH India, the agency known globally for its 'Zagging' and 'Black Sheep' philosophy, has unleashed its first produce in the country since its launch in November 2008 - a campaign for Collection G of the World Gold Council, in association with D'damas. The campaign will highlight the launch of the limited gold jewellery edition of Collection G, called the Miss India Ensemble, especially created to underline the brand's association (the Jewellery and Crowns sponsor) with the Pantaloons Femina Miss India 2009.

"We wanted recall beyond just being one of the sponsors of the event," says Madhumita Dutta, head, marketing and development, WGC India, which led the WGC to call for a pitch for this project, in which its empanelled agency Ogilvy India and BBH took part. The latter won the project. It may be also recalled that last year, BBH London had unveiled a global TV commercial for Gold Expressions: an Italian gold jewellery line created and developed by the WGC.

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BBH India was briefed on creating communication that is full of fun, hype and freshness of thought, as youth-oriented advertising was the order of the day for a brand that is about minimalist styling and more about contemporary fashion.

"Madhumita actually told us that the competition for Collection G is an iPod," grins Priti Nair, managing partner, BBH India, referring to the fact that the collection is, in fact, quite affordable for young girls. The affordability is only one part of the bargain: the communication also had to deal with getting the Miss India genre into the advertising. Thus emerged the idea of making every 'Jane Doe' feel like a beauty queen when she dons the ensemble.

On top of the world?

The TVC has a woman at a restaurant with the waiter asking her what she would like. The protagonist takes up this question in a different light, and stands up to deliver a speech on what she would 'like'- Miss India style. Fingering her gold pendant and with exaggerated gestures, she ticks off her wish-list: to be a role model for the young generation, to work towards world peace and prevent global warming.

She signs off by 'thanking' her mother and teachers, and even her younger brother 'Chintu' for supporting her. The astonished crowd warms up to her speech and applauds her 'performance', as the voiceover announces the launch of the Miss India Ensemble by Collection G.

Apart from the TVC, some outdoor ads have been rolled out, with regular women giving the standard expression of shock the way a contestant does on winning the Miss India crown. The headlines alongside are cheeky: 'Miss Orchard Apartments' or 'Miss Fifth Avenue Mall', for instance.

"The jewellery category, still dabbling in the sensorial space, is bereft of humour, which is what we have touched upon in this ad," says Priti Nair, explaining the use of the clichéd 'Miss India'- type words. Instead of being too empowering or preachy, a naughty tone of voice was chosen to bring forth how regular women can feel like beauty queens.

Apart from the TVC and outdoor ads, on-ground activities in malls were also carried out. To give people an experience of the brand, brand zones were set up in some malls in Mumbai and Delhi. Women were invited to try on the Collection G Miss India Ensemble jewellery and give their best 'If I were Miss India' expression. These were then photographed and out of the 1,300 entries received, two winners were chosen to have themselves featured on a Collection G ad, as well as an invitation to witness the Pantaloons Femina Miss India '09.

And the crown goes to…

Although this is just a project undertaken by BBH in India, it is technically the first piece of communication rolled out by the agency in the region. afaqs! spoke to the industry insiders to find out whether BBH 'zagged' ahead with this one or whether the attempt was 'sheepish'.

Says Sandip Mahapatra, vice-president and head, planning, McCann Erickson, that he completely gets the point of Collection G's agenda of making gold everyday user friendly. Further, WGC's intent of getting the jewellery out of the locker boxes is also clear. "What I don't understand is, why this collection is called the Miss India Collection - 'Everywhere Miss' would be more apt," he shrugs.

He continues, "I am no woman but I doubt you could get me to wear my finest saying that I'm one of the crowd. Defeats the very purpose, doesn't it?"

KV Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett, isn't altogether too thrilled. "BBH is like the Amitabh Bachchan of advertising: expectations will always be high from the agency," he opines. "I guess it would be unfair to expect a black sheep from BBH so soon; obviously we cannot expect a Cannes winning attempt from them in the beginning. But at the same time, they have a great commitment to their work, which makes this attempt disappointing in terms of thinking, idea and execution."

He adds here that the ad resembles hundreds of others on TV: it does its job and moves on. "It is expected work that anyone could have done, and the ad fails to generate repeat value," he declares. However, he allows that the starting point - that of the brand trying to say that common girls can also be like Miss India if they wear fantastic jewellery - is good enough. "But there should have been more depth in the message," he concludes.

Abhijit Avasthi, executive creative director, South Asia, Ogilvy, says the attempt is "neither too good nor too bad." Spoofing a beauty queen's reaction is not a fresh one, he says, but to be fair, the campaign does an adequate job of informing the audience about a collection called 'Miss India'.

But here, Nair of BBH clarifies: "The ad doesn't mock or spoof the pageant at all. The tone and manner is humorous simply because the setting of the ad - a café - is out of context, and one would least expect such a speech there."

On the flip side, Avasthi adds that the execution does not lift the idea at all and the performances could have been sharper, while the joke could've been made to work harder.

"Knowing that only the finest minds work at BBH, one would suspect the strategic effort may have been to not let gold overburden the wearer; even allow the wearer to be complimented on how easily she carries off such heavy jewellery," allows Mahapatra. "And if that be the intent, somebody did not buy the right creative."

While that is clearly industry opinion, it's up to the consumers now to decide whether they shall crown the agency's creativity.