Another Virgin encounter

By Antara Ghosal , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | December 28, 2009
Virgin Mobile has come up with two new TVCs for its 30p/min and 50p/min plans. The commercials, created by Bates 141 Mumbai, continue on the lines of the brand philosophy, 'Think Hatke'

In keeping with the youthful essence of the brand and the fun factor associated with it, Virgin Mobile has come up with another series of commercials, this time for its 30p/min and 50p/min plans.

The ads have been produced by Ramesh Deo Productions and directed by Anand Iyer (Andy). The creative agency involved is Bates 141, Mumbai.

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The first TV commercial shows a man fiddling with his mobile phone while waiting for his girlfriend outside a changing room. Suddenly, the phone slips from his hand and lands inside one of the changing rooms. As he stoops down to find it, other girls in the changing rooms mistake him to be a peeping tom, while his girlfriend storms off angrily.

He is then seen desperately giving long explanations to his girlfriend over his phone. The commercial ends with the VO "Jab samjhane mein lage time, get the most kifaiti talk time", followed by the 30p/min and 50p/min plan explanation, and the Virgin Mobile tagline, Think Hatke.

The second commercial involves the situation of a man trying his luck with a lady holding a folder in an elevator. Assuming she is there for an interview, he tries his hand at impressing her. When his boss steps into the elevator, he 'suggestively' whispers to his boss that she would be perfect for the job, only to find out that she is the boss' daughter.

As he is seen holding his belongings in a carton, trying to explain and apologise to his boss, a similar VO concludes.

The creative idea behind the campaign is that not all conversations can be completed within seconds. There can be dramatic or funny situations, when one needs to explain a lot and for that, one needs talk time which doesn't burn a hole in the pocket.

"At a time when every other mobile operator has been talking about short and sweet conversations which can be conducted within seconds, we are encouraging the customers to have long talks by switching to economic plans of Virgin Mobile," says Russell Barrett, executive creative director, Bates 141 Mumbai. The entire creative execution has been based on this idea and accordingly, situations were chosen where the protagonist needs to have long conversations to get out of unfavourable circumstances.

The brief given to the agency was to communicate the new offerings from the brand on the lines of the brand philosophy, Think Hatke. "Virgin is a brand that talks in a funny manner. Thus, while conceptualising the commercials, we didn't compromise on the fun element and the youthful essence of the brand," says Sonal Dabral, chairperson, Bates 141 India.

Both the spots are in the duration of 20-25 seconds. This, according to the creative team, has been the greatest challenge while executing the campaign. According to ad filmmaker Anand Iyer (Andy), the time constraint was the toughest part and excluding the product window, the team had just 13-14 seconds to narrate the story in an entertaining manner.

The films have been shot in Filmcity, Mumbai over a period of two days - one day each for each of the TVCs. While talking about some hilarious anecdotes of the shooting episode, Russell recollects, "The funniest part was when the guy in the changing room TVC got actually beaten up by the girls during the shoot. The ladies there got only too serious and hit him really hard. In fact, it was such a relief for the guy when the shooting was over."

"Both the TVCs have rightly captured the youthful and comic essence of the brand. Our idea was to bring out the fun element without being vulgar or offensive," Iyer adds.

Prasad Narasimhan, chief marketing officer, Virgin Mobile India is quite convinced that the TVCs will generate the desired results. "The accolades from the industry for our past works are a testimony to our efforts. In our recent brand survey conducted by AC Nielsen, we witnessed 93 per cent awareness amongst our target audience. I'm hopeful that the latest TVCs will also do well," he says.

Will it work, will it not?

It seems like the fraternity has not much to complain about the creative aspect of the TVCs, but they definitely have concerns of other sorts.

Surjo Dutt, associate vice-president and creative director, JWT Delhi liked the TVCs but believes it could have been made sharper and way funnier. "This is definitely not the best from Virgin," he observes.

To him, the TVCs are decently funny but one has already seen better ads from Virgin. "My personal favourite in the Hatke series was the one where the girl pretends to be a lesbian. However, the latest one can also raise a laugh among the viewers and very well convey the message," he adds.

However, Sandip Mahapatra, vice-president and head, planning, McCann Erickson Delhi has his own concerns - which are beyond creativity. "The way the business has unravelled with the last lot of license holders hitting the market, I do not know if the Virgin level of talking against the grain will work anymore," he says.

He adds that Virgin has always made a business out of going against the establishment and firmly being by the side of the youth. "It was a plot they could have played for a while had it not been for Docomo. TRAI sides with consumers on the 'per second' billing subject. The battle between the newcomer and the establishment is a real one now. It would seem to us that these are men playing a serious game. Unfortunately, Virgin Mobile comes out as a boy now," Mahapatra opines.