afaqs!

Zen Mobile: Big B boasts about big battery

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | October 19, 2010
The ad campaign has a budget of Rs 25 crore for the October-December quarter

Zen Mobile, one of the emerging players in the mobile phone market, rolled out its first TVC around a fortnight ago; the communication features brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign has a budget of Rs 25 crore for the October-December quarter.

Zen Mobile was founded in September 2009 and is a sister concern of the Telecare group, which has 15 years of experience in managing and distributing various Tier I mobile brands.

Zen Mobile believes that the brand is poised to have a national footprint and that Bachchan's mass appeal will help cut through the clutter.

The target group (TG) primarily comprises individuals belonging to Tier II and Tier III towns. Deepesh Gupta, managing director, Zen Mobiles, tells afaqs! during the course of an SMS interaction, "This is true for a majority of the products in our portfolio as 80 per cent of the sales come from these areas."

Bates 141 has created this campaign for Zen Mobile. The brief given to the agency was to focus on the extended life of the battery of the handset.

The 45 second film is set in an outdoor, rural environment. In the TVC, Bachchan plays the role of a deviant projectionist, who arranges movies for the residents of a village. In the midst of one such viewing, the film is discontinued due to a glitch in the projector.

While the annoyed villagers make their irritation apparent and demand a refund, Bachchan is shown greedily counting the earnings of the night. To quell their dissatisfaction, he continues the film on his Zen Mobile M-25 handset - after explaining to them how it is a 'mini theatre'. Eager villagers gather around the device and enjoy the rest of the film.

Towards the end of the TVC, a couple of ladies shyly approach him and ask him to show them another film. He not only pays heed to their request by starting a new film on his mobile but also brags that the gadget bears the capacity to show them many more films.

"Is mein ek picture kya, dus picture dikhane ka dum hai!" are Bachchan's words. A voiceover (accompanied by text on the screen) then spells out the features of the product, including its 2.4" (6 cm) QVGA screen, 72 days worth of battery backup, full video player and loud speaker.

The tagline, 'Start a following', then appears as a super on the screen.

The creative team at Bates 141 that worked on the campaign comprises Sambit Mohanty, executive creative director and Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar, national creative director. Shoojit Sarkar of Rising Sun Productions has directed the film, which was shot in Filmcity, Mumbai.

Mahabaleshwarkar clarifies that the TG (Tier II and III) is not the reason why the film is set in a rustic setting. "This was done to highlight the long battery life of the product. Videos consume maximum battery - hence the idea of viewing films on this phone was used; the situation of projectors failing - a common occurrence in villages - was apt to highlight this product feature," he explains.

He goes on, "The big battery story is told using earthy humour as it's a refreshing change from the chic, urban setting of most mobile phone commercials."

Mohanty is of the opinion that in a mobile market crowded with celebrities, Zen had to stand out - the attempt hence was to use Bachchan in a different avatar. "We wanted to depict him not as a typical brand ambassador but as a character people would identify with," Mohanty says.

He goes on to explain that the mobile market is an extremely competitive space - so the task at hand was to convey that Zen Mobile is a serious contender. "In a sense, having Bachchan endorse the brand is like making a statement that Zen is a strong player. The main reason, of course, is to strike a chord with the TG from small towns," adds Mohanty.

He opines on a related tangent that Bachchan's appeal amongst this TG is the reason why KBC (Kaun Banega Corepati) - with most of its contestants hailing from these areas - has brought him back on board as host.

More TVCs featuring Bachchan are on the cards, in which he will be seen playing different character roles, while highlighting other features of the product. The campaign is slated to cover 360 degree activation across television, print and outdoor avenues.

Does Big B make a big impact?

The campaign elicits lukewarm responses from industry folk.

One remark escapes Rohit Malkani (aka Popo), executive creative director, Grey, after having seen the TVC. "Another Big B commercial!" he exclaims. He goes on to impart candidly, "It's a bit of a wallpaper effect for me - honestly. Surely there were other celebrities who could have been considered."

Malkani adds that in his opinion, the ad film is all about "an extended come back that tries to make the point that it has extended battery life in a convoluted way." He, however, says that he found the rest of the casting "sweet and memorable".

Swati Bhattacharya, vice-president and executive creative director, JWT Delhi tells afaqs! that the ad, due to its rural backdrop, reminds her of the Idea Cellular ads, except that "here, instead of the son (Abhishek Bachchan), the father is seen endorsing the product," she says, adding, "I almost expected 'What an idea, Sirjee' to flash at the end of this Zen Mobile TVC!"

"Idea already has a strong connect with this kind of rural setting and has utilised the space with a lot more soul and integrity than this ad. In the Idea ads, the product has been shown to aid noble causes such as educating rural kids; the Zen Mobile ad shows villagers getting hoodwinked and being made to watch a film on a cell instead of the big screen. Rural audiences are shown being robbed!" she complains.

She feels that while for Idea, "the brand steps in for the people", in this case, "the brand steps in for Bachchan".

Deepesh Jha, executive creative director, Lowe Lintas Delhi says that for a 'first time ever' communication attempt, the ad lacks that 'Introducing/now here' feel. "It just seems like a product/feature-based ad," he says.

Regarding the creative idea, he continues, "The creative idea is a play on the product's widescreen. Set in the rural context of open air cinema, the situation is interesting, though the storyline and twist leave you wanting more."

Jha shares his thoughts on Big B as the brand ambassador for Zen Mobile. "Celebrities are the medium - not substitutes to the message. However, in this category, the product is the key to success - and with bigger and more innovative players such as Micromax ahead in the game, it's going to be a tough one to predict," he says.

"Big B is 'The' Big B - one doesn't question his performance because it is always good. About having him as your spokesman depends on how Zen Mobile intends on using his cinematic appeal. Extrapolation from a single film is difficult, so one will have to wait and watch!" Jha reasons.

He concludes that the film gets caught between trying to deliver two messages - widescreen and long-lasting battery. "Chances are that only one will get picked; one can safely assume that it'll be the widescreen feature," Jha concludes.

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