Karnataka Tourism: Keeping it real

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | March 17, 2011
Karnataka Tourism has released the TVC 'Discover New Worlds' to lure the young, urban backpacker into Karnataka.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a typical tourism advertisement? Picturesque locales, postcard images of breathtaking sights and amazing architecture. A tad too glossy to be true, perhaps. Breaking all such typicality is Karnataka Tourism with its new campaign 'Discover New Worlds'.

The campaign, with the tagline 'One State. Many Worlds', that broke on March 4, encourages travellers to discover new worlds within the state of Karnataka.

After rolling out three small TVCs recently, Stark Communications, Bengaluru, has now crafted a longer film for this tourism account. The three short films were strategically released during the pre-budget period and urged viewers to forget the budget and related worries (such as prices of onions, for instance) and visit Hampi, Bandipur and Coorg, instead.

The TVC looks less like a usual tourism ad and more like a documentary, with a collection of candid moments captured by two young travellers who traverse the region, unravelling the beauty of Karnataka.

This is probably because that is exactly how it is executed. The agency had backpackers Varun Shashi Rao and Ranjan Bhowmick explore the 14th century empire of Hampi (courtesy, its UNESCO World Heritage Site status), and capture all the memorable scenes with a handycam provided.

The Inside Story

It took Varun and Ranjan, along with the entire crew, a week to discover Hampi. The cast was instructed to be as natural as possible, without 'acting' as travellers. Though a rough script was provided, they were allowed to be spontaneous and improvise. The final film contains a lot of impromptu footage, such as the bit where the elephant blesses one of the travellers. Eventually, five hours of footage was recorded. The most real-looking shots were retained.

Key sites covered include the stone chariot at the Vittala Temple, the musical pillars, the Virupaksha temple, Matanga Hill, the Achyutaraya temple and the coracle rides on the river Tungabhadra.

Amateur on purpose!

The Stark team was keen on doing something simple and real, something that people could relate to and not just get wowed with. Both hard sell as well as earth-shattering filmmaking techniques are absent in this film, in an attempt to deliberately steer clear from the ad-film perspective. The video has been kept as close to an actual traveller's experience as possible.

The creative idea stemmed from the objective to target the young urban backpacker. Karnataka has traditionally been perceived as a 'serious' travel destination for the mature 35-40-year-old traveller. The campaign attempts to bust this notion by portraying Karnataka as a fun place.

Did the team utilise specific traveller insights while ideating? Says creative director Sharat Kuttikat, "We found that Karnataka, as a tourism destination, did not look 'hot' to many. The young backpacker, the adventure seeker, and the person who makes impromptu travel plans, went elsewhere. The film was meant to strike a chord with this segment." Kuttikat has also scripted the commercial.

The TVC is very different from the one the agency created for Kerala Tourism (titled 'Your Moment is Waiting'), last year. This difference in treatment was deliberate, afaqs! learns. This is because while Kerala, being a more established tourism brand, is more about sophisticated and evolved experiences, Karnataka is about rugged outdoors, adventure and vastness. "You could say that the Karnataka film is exactly the opposite of the Kerala one, in terms of treatment," admits Kuttikat.

The film has been directed by Sidharth Chalakode. Aditya Chalakode is the assistant director, and the production house is Alamara Films. All the post-production work has been done in Pixion, Mumbai. The executive producer is Ranjan Bhowmick (one of the two travellers in the film). GVS Raju and Kishore Iyyar are the directors of photography. Credit for sound design goes to Ashish Manchanda.

The film was aired across 90 second spots on various channels, including NDTV 24/7, NDTV Profit, NDTV Good Times, CNN-IBN, CNBC, UTV Bloomberg, Set Max, Discovery Channel, and TLC amongst others.

Some praises too...

Apparently, it pays to take the road less travelled. Commenting on the ad, Vipul Thakkar, executive creative director, Mudra South says, "It's a good experiment to try and stand out amidst other vanilla tourism ads that look like clones of one other. It has got a very travel channel promo/capsule feel to it." But, Thakkar wonders if the ad will work. "With a young, 'let's-go-on-a-roadtrip' audience maybe it will, but if you are looking at a discerning traveller who likes to go on a well-planned excursion to Hampi, I doubt it will cut much ice," he reasons.

Ravikumar C, creative head, Meridian Bengaluru is all praises for the film. "Finally, one tourism commercial that doesn't seem to have any similarities to the rest!" he exclaims after seeing the TVC. "It's a very refreshing look for a tourism commercial and it really captures the places in Karnataka from the viewpoint of a layperson rather than through the eyes of a cinematographer," he points out, adding that he'd have loved it more had it been shot in a more candid and amateur manner. The campaign reminds Ravikumar of the famous East Timor tourism campaign that floated the baseline 'This commercial is for the traveller. Not the tourist.' "Kudos to the creative team," he concludes.

More commercials for Karnataka Tourism featuring different tourism destinations known for their heritage, nature, wildlife and adventure might be in the pipeline.

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