ITC TVC goes for retro-touch, packed with humour for Classmate

By Anushree Bhattacharyya , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | September 26, 2011
In order to promote its stationery range marketed under the brand name Classmate, the multi-business conglomerate, in its new campaign, has showcased the three benefits of a pen that a consumer looks for. The company has released three television commercials revolving around a love story of a boy and a girl.

'A pen is mightier that a sword', goes the adage. However, over the years, pen manufacturing companies have highlighted the functions of the pen -- from a smooth nib to tight gel and many more, but ignoring the 'mightier' role a pen can play in one's life.

The company, in its research, found that a customer looks beyond 'functionality' as the main reason when she goes to buy a pen. There are basically three benefits that a customer looks at which includes water resisting writing, smooth and fast writing, and the third and the most important, reflecting the consumer's personality. Based on these insights, ITC has launched three new television commercials that show the true side of a pen.

Conceptualised by Rediffusion-Y&R's Bengaluru and Chennai team, the television commercials highlight three benefits of a pen through a love story that revolves around a boy and girl. The agency has adopted the retro look for all the commercials.

In the first commercial titled Water Resistant, the TVC shows a group of girls and boys go to a zoo. While the rest of the group of boys and girl are busy looking at the animals, one particular boy and girl look at each other and fall in love. Standing next to a fountain, both write their phone numbers on a piece of paper and convert them into paper boats, and send them floating. Both numbers are written using a water resistant pen by Classmate. This TVC showcases the first benefit.

The second commercial titled Xerox, showcases the second benefit of smooth and fast writing. The TVC shows the young man entering the college library. He is soon surrounded by many girls. He writes smoothly on their copies, and writes fast, making his girlfriend jealous. The third TVC titled Shirt, highlights the last benefit. It shows a young man inside a garment store where he searches for the perfect shirt that goes with his personality. After finding one, he quickly changes the shirt and pockets his pen, which too, goes well with his personality.

Speaking to afaqs!, Karan Kumar, marketing manager, education and stationery products business, ITC, says, "Through our research we found out that the consumer today doesn't consider a pen as just a tool to write, but looks for something more. We, therefore, launched the campaigns based on our findings and projected the three main benefits. We used the love story as the background so that we can continue to add more new stories in the future."

Kishore Karumbaiah, former creative head of Rediffusion-Y&R, who worked on the concept, says, "The idea was conceptualised together by the team in Bengaluru, including Mukund Sharma and Raja, and the Chennai team. However, a lot of changes were made to the script impromptu at the time of shooting the films, with Pushpendera Misra of Flying Saucer providing very interesting suggestions."

The company will soon launch its fourth commercial that will be an amalgamation of all three TVCs aired so far.

Successful stint

The TVCs fail to draw accolades from the advertising fraternity which calls this an over-the-top attempt when it comes to projecting humour, and that it is not a fresh idea.

Rahul Jauhari, national creative director, Everest Brand Solutions, says, "The first time I saw the films, I didn't get it. So, I went back and saw them again. I still didn't get it. Why would you do something like this? The problem is not just the stylisation. It's the absence of a communication idea. The idea is not new and fails to provide a huge reason to buy a pen."

According to Rajeev Sharma, national brand planning director, Leo Burnett, the TVC lacks the insight into college life. He says, "Don't have an insight into the lives of teenagers or into college life? Quick, make a spoof -- in this case, the Dr Rajkumar number that surfaced on the net some time ago. Only, the original was far funnier and quirkier than the ad. The only thing that made sense was the last frame."

For Arun Sharma, strategic planner, McCann Erickson, ITC Classmate is caught in a low-involvement product trap. Sharma explains, "The formula here seems to be that a pen is a pen, so do something frivolous to attract attention. There is a difference between frivolous and crazy. ITC Bingo ads were crazy, lovable. With this Classmate ad, I think ITC wanted to try another Bingo, but seems to have fallen short of it. This retro-Bollywood look from Vivel soaps, to Whirlpool washing machines, and TVS scooty and so on, has now become a formula, and therefore not fresh anymore. Ironically, the ITC branding is stronger than the pen brand it is advertising."

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