Zuari Cement: 'A-cute' communication of strength

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | September 28, 2010
The brand uses its mascot elephant to depict its core proposition - strength

A 100 per cent subsidiary of the Italcementi Group, Zuari Cement has churned out an ad campaign that broke on August 8. The campaign uses its mascot, the elephant, to highlight its core proposition of strength in an engaging manner. Slated for a six-eight week launch phase, the campaign aims to drive awareness in a clichéd category.

In 1996, Zuari Cement was launched at Yerraguntla with a single unit of 0.5 million tons, which grew to 3.5 million tons in 2009 after the acquisition of Sri Vishnu Cement. In 2010, 2.5 million tons were added. It then grew to become a big player in South India.

The earlier ad campaigns for the brand were in line with its 'small to premium' growth story. "Zuari Cement has always been careful about its brand growth in India and invested early in advertisements on electronic and other media. The brand's proposition has primarily been about strength but it has also experimented with the message 'lead by example' in print," says K Srivastava, marketing director, Zuari Cement, in a conversation with afaqs!.

The target group (TG) for the current campaign comprises individuals aged 25 years or more and typically includes all participants in the network - architects, engineers, contractors, masons and current/prospective individual home builders.

Since 2001, the brand has worked with RK Swamy BBDO, after short stints with Enterprise Nexus (now Bates 141) and Contract Advertising. In the TVC created by RK Swamy BBDO, an acrobatic elephant is seen playing the lead.

The elephant enters a construction site, walks past a snoring security guard and steps on a trampoline tied across four Zuari Cement pillars. It performs a ballet in mid-air, does flips and somersaults. The routine ends with a perfect four point landing. A falling metal pipe wakes up the guard and he stares in disbelief as the elephant trumpets and walks away. The ad thus displays the product's ultimate test of strength and the tagline, 'Asli Taaqat ka Champion', appears on the screen.

The creative team includes partner/creative director Rudra Sen and the TVC has been directed by Adarsh Gupta. The production house is Nirvana Films and the post production studio is Digital Magic, Bangkok. The media agency on the account is also RK Swamy BBDO.

The creative brief given to the agency was to communicate brand differentiators and get people to make a brand choice in a category dominated by industrial experts. Srivastava says, "While the core proposition of a cement offering is strength, we wanted to communicate the same in a unique and innovative way, without clichés."

Explaining the use of an elephant in the TVC, Amrita Chugh, senior partner, RK Swamy BBDO, tells afaqs! that the elephant has always been associated with Zuari Cement's marketing communication efforts - the previous campaign depicted elephants on a rampage, while a wall built with Zuari Cement highlighted the ability of the brand to withstand the animals' weight.

"In the present campaign, the thought was to go beyond this simple equation and to cast the elephant as an ambassador for the brand by depicting it as a champion of true strength," she explains.

She adds that the category is rampant with depictions of brute strength, showcased via comic relief or emotional messaging. Though the agency has kept strength as the platform, it has consciously depicted the brand as having the inner strength of a champion.

The cement market in India is growing at an annualised pace of almost 9 per cent and the total capacities have also grown to almost 250 million tons. Addressing the growing competition in the cement category, Srivastava adds that with more and more cement brands entering the market, the need of the hour is to retain existing market share and capitalise on it for additional growth.

In his opinion, key players in this industry have realised that aggressive communication is critical for TOM (top of mind) recall, which is why Zuari Cement has increased its advertising spends by a substantial amount over the last few years.

Chugh adds, "With many players active in the market and a few other brands slated to make an entry, the competition and advertising has never been this big in the cement industry." She adds that this competition is applicable to the top three or four brands that are trying to out-power each other through huge media spends - rather than through message differentiation.

"This category has yet to see maturity in communication by moving away from strength being portrayed through slapstick comedy, puerile emotionalism or lofty idealism, which may have little do with cement," she says.

The media mix for the campaign includes TV, radio and online. The TVC will run on news channels (including Times Now, CNN, TV5, TV1, TV9, News9 and STAR Majhaa) and GECs (including Gemini, Sun, Vijay, Udaya, Tarang, Asianet and Zee Marathi).

"Zuari Cement has not advertised on TV for a few years now. For the first phase of the campaign, this mix is sufficient to penetrate the target group," adds Srivastava.

Campaign Ka Asli Champion?

The campaign elicits mixed reactions from industry experts.

Ramanuj Shastry, national creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi finds the ad adorable and a memorable rendition in an otherwise boring category. "The choice of animal is great and it has been used endearingly. Using an elephant in this category makes sense as the animal is an established symbol of strength," he quips. He recalls how Fevicol used it in the past and expresses that Zuari Cement has also used it in a unique manner.

"The ad coincides beautifully with the festival of Ganpati. At the moment, we're all very pro-elephant. In India, the elephant stands for so much; it's more than just an animal - this is why using it in this campaign was a good communication move," he adds.

Elvis Sequeira, vice-president and executive creative director, JWT India, is of the opinion that the execution is bound to lead to ad recall more than brand recall. "My feeling is that people are more likely to say, 'that jumping elephant ad' rather than 'that neat Zuari Cement ad'," he says.

"The concept is disruptive but it tends to disrupt by confusion. The trampoline comes out looking better than the cement pillars it's attached to - so it's a very tenuous demonstration of strength," Sequeira complains.

However, he agrees that it is hard to innovate while delivering communication in a category marred with the clichéd proposition of strength. "I give the client and the agency credit for at least trying something different. What else are you going to say about cement - that it's good looking?" he thinks aloud.

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