And now, Wonder Babies for Aegon Religare

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | September 14, 2009
For the Aegon Religare Star Child Plan campaign, Contract Advertising takes the animation route. afaqs! explores

If an 18-month old baby has to play ball like ace soccer star, Ronaldo, or play the guitar like Jimi Hendrix, the world of animation is probably the only place where it's possible. A new 'animated' campaign by Contract Advertising, for the launch of Aegon Religare's Star Child Plan, makes use of the insight that there's a star in every child, and the brand plays an enabler to bring forth that potential.

'Star' secrets

Aegon Religare has launched two campaigns in the past: 'KILB' or 'Kam Insurance Lene Ki Bimari' -- which was the launch campaign -- and another one for its pension plans (the 'Inflation' film), both featuring brand endorser, Irrfan Khan.

To launch the Star Child Plan, Contract worked on the following truth: the earlier generation had fewer career opportunities, and was forced to settle for a few 'socially acceptable' careers, such as medicine or law, despite having other passions. However, today's generation has the option of turning a hobby into a passion, and with the right financial backing, also into a profession.

"Every child is born with some talent, and today's parents recognise this world of possibilities," says Pradeep Pandey, director, branding and communication, Aegon Religare, adding, "Our brand plays the role of an enabler to ensure that financial problems don't come in the way of fulfilling a child's potential."

The insight of insurance playing an enabler to empower children is a tried and tested one, with several brands having walked the talk in the past. Aegon Religare, therefore, had to rely on a different execution route for the message to stand out.

The creative idea was simply about showcasing a child prodigy, while making the brand the hero that saves the day. "Often, at an early age itself, parents discover what their children are passionate about," says Manish Bhatt, senior vice-president and executive creative director, Contract.

He adds that the idea was to exaggerate the idea of a child displaying an extraordinary talent, which would not have been possible to capture fully with a real child. Hence, the animation route was taken. Moreover, offbeat professions were chosen to drive home the point.

Currently, two films are on-air: one where an animated baby plays football like ace star Ronaldo; and another where a baby plays the guitar like Hendrix. The VO concludes that the brand allows your children to become what you couldn't. A third one is in the pipeline, where a child is a chef like Sanjeev Kapoor.

Talking animatedly

The films have been directed by Shiven Surendranath of Old School Films, while the post-production has been done at VHQ, Singapore. As a starting point, the team auditioned nearly 100 18-month old babies, and shortlisted a handful for the 'roles'. The team got these children to play with a football or toy around with a guitar. This footage was then captured on camera and their movements were observed minutely. A still shoot was also done, to replicate the faces and bodies in animation.

The footage was taken to Singapore, and VHQ, along with Surendranath and his team, then created images on computer graphics (CG) from various angles, to match the actual babies. "From the hair to the shape and size of the eyeballs, we had to take care that everything looked similar to the real baby," says Surendranath.

Next, a smaller animated video in grey-scale was created with the baby 'moving' around, while a rubbery skin was created to go with it. It took about two weeks to create the actual film after the creation of this mini-video, but the entire process of production took around two-and-a-half months. "These are the first babies to be born in the record time of two-and-a-half months!" quips Surendranath.

To give the film a candid, easy, home-video feel, it was shot in one take, avoiding too many cuts in the frames. The music for the films has been given by Vipin Mishra. (For watching the making of the football film, click here. For watching the making of the guitar film, click here.)

The post-production was an elaborate process, with animators from France and the UK working on it, while a software expert from London flew down to Singapore to rewrite the customised animation software for this project.

Roll baby roll

The films have generated mixed reactions among the ad fraternity.

Many from the industry feel that the proposition per se - that of a financial brand enabling children to be what they want to - isn't altogether new, and so such an execution should have done the trick. While some feel it succeeds, others feel the execution draws from the recent Evian ad from the US, called Roller Babies, which has animated babies in their nappies performing a roller-skating act effortlessly.

"Though the ideas are different in both cases, the execution for Aegon Religare is a very close resemblance of the Evian TVC," says Santosh Padhi, co-founder and chief creative officer, TapRoot India. "All this would have been forgotten once you deliver a better execution than the predecessor; but if that doesn't happen, you have to feel the pinch."

Personally, Padhi feels the Evian babies look cute and a lot more drama is happening around them, including the music. "Further, the animation is seamless, which I feel is lacking here," he shrugs.

Raghu Bhat, senior vice-president and executive creative director, Contract, remarks, "Ours is a project that has been in the pipeline for around four months. We saw the Evian work after about 80 per cent of ours was complete." On the ad industry's comparisons, Bhat allows, "Is it similar in its execution? Yes, but the idea, TG and categories are totally different. Further, I find the Evian commercial as one that is out to entertain or wow its audience, while ours is not just enjoyable, but also solves a marketing problem."

Ad filmmaker Pushpendra Mishra of Flying Saucer Films expresses his thoughts on the execution: "With the nature of these scripts, one needs to animate the babies. But having said that, yes, the peppy music did seem a bit similar and of course the 'chaddhis' (nappies)," he muses.

The media budgets for this campaign are about Rs 8 crore, while the production cost touches Rs 1.5 crore.

© 2009 afaqs!