Airtel: Dil, dosti, etc.

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | August 23, 2011
'Dil jo chaahe paas laaye' has a new twist, with 'Har ek friend zaroori hota hai'. The latest commercial for Airtel aims to make the brand trendier for the youth, while attempting not to alienate its older target audience set.

The brand is in the news again, this time for a campaign that takes its positioning 'Dil jo chaahe paas laaye' to the next level. In December last year, Airtel had made headlines with its rebranding effort, underwent several strategic changes, and launched initiatives such as the 'name the symbol' contest.

In what is the first thematic brand campaign after that effort, Airtel is now positioned as the brand that embodies friendship, and helps all sorts of friends connect with one another. The line that encapsulates this thought goes 'Har ek friend zaroori hota hai'.

The commercial has vignettes of different kinds of friends one has, and how the presence of each one is necessary in some way or the other. A jingle penned by film lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya, makes use of 'Hinglish' and popular youth lingo, and has the story of different categories of friends, such as the one who wakes one up during the wee hours for help, or another who may give you company during your financial crunch days. Then, there are friends who are forced, effortless, classroom friends, bike-ride friends, shopping and 'exam hall copying' friends, movie buddies, the 'hi-bye' variety of friends, etc. The jingle ends with 'Har ek friend zaroori hota hai', and with the message that Airtel keeps one connected to their friends.

Created by TapRoot India, the film has been directed by Ram Madhvani of Equinox Films, while the music has been composed by Ram Sampath.

The task here was to make the brand more contemporary and youthful without alienating or compromising on Airtel's older audience set. "We stayed clear of the 'preachy', and in this ad, launched more of a casual conversation, the 'across-the-table' variety," says Agnello Dias, co-founder and chief creative officer, TapRoot India. "We could have done a bookish, moralistic story, but chose the creative delivery to be the 'chat on a park bench' kind." This kind of tonality could perhaps be compared to recent movies such as '3 Idiots' or the Munnabhai series.

'Friendship' as a premise has been touched upon by other players in the category previously, such as Virgin Mobiles or Tata Docomo. Airtel attempts to go beyond frivolous fun, and continues to base its new slug around what it largely stands for -- human connection.

"Perhaps what changes is the tonality slightly -- from deeply sentimental to a more vibrant one that includes the younger lot," Dias opines. "There is a difference in people admiring you, and wanting to hang out with you. That is what Brand Airtel is doing now -- going beyond the admired brand, and becoming one that the youth wants to hang out with."

The brief was to get the brand to step down from the pulpit and 'go to the back bench of the class'. Further, Dias adds that while the whole urban city, youth-ism route is a relatively easier one to take, the real challenge was to make it edgy, memorable and relevant without being the senseless 'bubblegum' variety.

Young, not frivolous

The communication, although zestful in its tonality, doesn't attempt to alienate its older generation of users, as friendship and the need for different kinds of friends is something that could perhaps be age-agnostic. "We could probably do a retirement plan pack film after this, and still use the same thought," muses Dias.

Mohit Beotra, head, brand and media, Bharti Airtel says, "Airtel is too much of a leader brand to go for a challenger's strategy of narrowing its TG (target group) so finely to the youth. We will never chase an audience set at the expense of another important target set." Having said that, he adds that Airtel has major plans to shift its business towards data products significantly and these are more used by the youth. Hence, the air of youth-ism has been injected into the brand to rope in this demographic group, but the attempt has been a careful one, so as not to let go of Airtel's loyal slightly older base.

The insight used here was simple: everyone has a different set of friends at a particular time in life, and technology and mobile phones connect a person to all of them. Even the jingle, launched in the form of an anthem, was made out to be raw and edgy to bring out this thought. To add the fresh angle, composer Sampath was briefed to avoid musical instruments and make use of typical 'college setting' sounds such as desks banging, chairs thumping, clapping and cheering, or even a dustbin for producing metallic sounds. The film has been shot in Sophia College for Women, (Mumbai), Gamdevi police station, Filmcity, and other locations in Mumbai.

The commercial is being supported by outdoor, radio, press, cinema advertising, on-ground initiatives and web media. A Facebook App has also been launched, which is presently running a contest inviting people to come up with different type or categories of friends (and tag their friends there), and the most unique answers shall have the winner get himself a trip to Las Vegas, among other prizes. The application received a creation of over 8,000 'friend types' within the first four days of its launch.

Your friendly next door brand

The commercial is largely well-received by the ad fraternity. Says Ramanuj Shastry, chief creative officer, Saatchi & Saatchi, "Generally, if one is dealing with a vast brand such as Airtel, if one veers towards the youth, it loses the family focus, and vice-versa. But, Airtel has that risk covered as long as it continues to focus on its promise of 'bringing people closer'." Clearly, that has been captured in this communication, he feels. "Brand coherence is more important than brand consistency and Airtel scores on that front as it is coherent and relevant." The foot-tapping jingle and slice-of-life tone of voice is all a plus, Shastry adds.

Ashish Khazanchi, vice-chairperson and national creative director, Publicis Ambience, tells afaqs!, "I think Airtel finds the sweet spot after quite a while. I have a feeling a lot of advertising people will hate it, but you will see Facebook and the youth buzzing with this. Airtel goes back to being the kind of brand that it always was: inclusive, unpretentious and uncomplicated."

Khazanchi further adds that he loves some of the vignettes captured in the film, and predicts that the text/BlackBerry-happy 'tweens' are going to be sending this ad to each other a-la Friendship Day cards.

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