Next is multiple Aamirs for Samsung

By Abhishek Chanda , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | June 25, 2009
After Coke, Toyota and Tata Sky, it's Samsung which has now gone the multiple Aamir route for its latest campaign

The 'Aamir multiplicity' theory seems to have gained a lot of ground - what's more, it seems like the 'brandwagon' has got a wind of it, and isn't letting go of the concept anytime soon. The latest to have jumped into this exclusive club is brand Samsung, which is out with its campaign for the 'Metro' range of mobile phones.

Executed by Cheil Worldwide, the commercial has Samsung's brand endorser essaying four different roles of a typical city-dweller, which in turn is supposed to personify the multiple roles the new phone plays for the consumer. This is quite unlike Khan playing himself, which has been the case for most of Samsung's films till now.

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The film opens with a young Khan listening to songs on his phone while travelling in the metro rail, as he tries to bond with a girl standing in front of him by offering her his earphone. In the next scene, he plays the role of a Gujarati stockbroker, who seems quite lost amidst all the chaos till he pulls out his phone and gets busy playing a game on it. In another scene, Khan plays the role of a policeman on duty (his mannerisms reminiscent of the Royal Guards of Buckingham Palace), who takes on a bunch of teenagers up to mischief by pulling out his phone and clicking their photograph. The final scene has him playing an actor, who pulls off a prank on his director.

The film was created by a team led by Prathap Suthan, national creative director, while the script was written by Vedobroto Roy, creative director. It has been shot in Mumbai by Amit Sharma of Chrome Pictures. The lyrics for the song were penned by veteran lyricist Gulzar, while the music was composed by Anand Iyer.

Behind the scenes

Handset manufacturers have been quite consistent with their campaigns announcing new models and new features. Be it a better loudspeaker or a few extra megapixels on the camera, or for that matter, evolved emailing options in the higher end phones, the market is flooded with similar products. So, what makes the Metro range of phones and its communication strategies different?

Suthan says, "There is a positioning lacuna when it comes to a phone for the typical city or metro crowd. While most phones - barring the higher end touch phones and others - are positioned for all and sundry, we wanted to be more city-specific."

However, the agency clarifies that the phone is not limited to consumers in the city only, but it has been consciously given a character that represents the city-bred individual.

Suthan adds, "It's more to do with the spirit, which is urbane and aspirational. Though it may not be a city-slicker or drastically rich in features, it still has (in bits and pieces) everything that one may need on a typical day to take some time off for himself from the hustle bustle of the city life."

He further adds that this is one of the reasons why Khan was chosen to play different roles representing different façades of a city-dweller, such as a youthful lad, a stockbroker, a cop on duty or the film star himself.

Presently, Samsung is out with a TV commercial but the brand plans to extend itself into other media such as outdoor and radio in the near future - radio specially, considering the jingle the film rides on.

The multiple Aamir theory

A rising trend since 2002, Aamir Khan playing multiple roles has been a weapon of choice for many marketers. Coca-Cola started it with the very popular, 'Thanda Matlab Coca-Cola' series, which had Khan as a Mumbai 'Tapori', Akhtar Hyderabadi, a sharp UP-ite ('Paanch'), a Jatt (Yaara Da Tashan), a Bengali Babu, a Sherpa, and Manno Bhabhi, among others. Coke also had Khan playing a Japanese tourist (Thande Ka Tadka) in 2006 and a train attendant (Sabka Thanda Ek) in 2007.

Meanwhile, in 2005, Toyota Innova had Khan donning different characters from his films such as Rangeela, Sarfarosh, Ghulam, Dil Chahta Hai, Lagaan and Rang De Basanti.

In 2009, Khan was spotted playing dual roles of a bickering Punjabi husband and wife; an urban, mischievous husband to Gul Panag; and an elderly Sikh called Sodhiji - all for Tata Sky. And now, here's Samsung's latest Khan concoction.

So, why are brands increasingly subscribing to this route? Will this also transform into a cliché if over-used?

Anand Halve, partner, chlorophyll brand and communications, explains, "There are a few basic plots which will be used for storylines for commercial and non commercial use. But the point of concern is whether the similarity is important or the story?"

The same hero plays the same role in 20 different Bollywood films. However, if there is a device that gets rid of this commonality, then it's the story one remembers and associates with, and not the fact that the same hero had essayed a similar role in one of his previous films.

Taking the case of Samsung into consideration, Halve feels that the brand is getting over-shadowed by Khan and his role play. "There is nothing new or unique that the particular brand of phone is offering to me. So, I'm rather hooked to Khan and his antics."

On the contrary, through the Tata Sky films (for example the Khan-Gul Panag films), he feels that Khan had tried to convey a unique feature that is new to the consumer. So, the uniqueness, married with Khan's glamour and flawless acting, has resulted in a memorable campaign.

"For me," he adds, "the product has to be equally good to walk the same road as that of a celebrity like Aamir. If not so, it will just end up being eclipsed by him!"

However, Suthan of Cheil feels that the use of Khan in multiple roles was a clear call of the script. "For a dexterous individual like Aamir, who travels very fast in between roles, it was only natural to have used this route. This is also given the fact that till now he has been playing himself for the brand," defends Suthan.

If the roles and the characters are well defined in the script, this will certainly not lead to the birth of yet another cliché, he feels.

What fellow metropolitans say

Speaking about the film and Khan's portrayal in multiple roles, Nandu Narasimhan, executive creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi, says, "What I like about the demo of each of the features is that there is a little story to them which brings a smile to the face. As far as casting Aamir Khan in multiple roles is concerned, while it has been done before, this one has him in different personalities, each with his own quirk, which is nice."

He adds that considering the fact that it seems to be a phone with no special feature in particular, this is a nice film. However, he says that there seems to be too many words in the jingle.

Anand Damani, planning head, Saatchi & Saatchi Mumbai, too, finds the spot quite likable, even though there is the classic case of Khan and his roles. He feels that the music score enhances the likability, too, while Gulzar weaves his magic. "The mobile phone has become a toy adults like to play with, and that fact links well with the idea of filling every moment with fun and entertainment," Damani says.