Locally, dramatically, musically Malayalee

By Shibani Gharat , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | February 13, 2012
After opting for a local delivery system using elephants, backwater boatmen, Kalari warriors, and traditional fish mongers, The Times of India says 'Suprabathakali' with Avial, in a music video.

Wellamkali, Kallankali, Aanakali, Pulikali, Pandukali, Pottankali... to politically, radically, logically, musically, magically Malayalee, The Times of India has embraced, inhaled and lived the local culture since landing in the Kerala, the 'Land of many Kallis'.

After launching an innovative newspaper delivery activity to set foot in 'God's Own Country', the campaign was extended into radio content with a full-length folk rock song -- Suprabhathakali, by Kerala's own Malayalam rock band Avial. The trailer of the music video is already up on YouTube.

Speaking about the association with Avial, Priya Gupta, vice-president, brand, Times of India, says that the TOI aims to target the youth with the rock song. "What better way to connect with them than music?" she asks.

With rhythmic lyrics, the song also has a hummable tune.

The interesting part of this video is that there is no TOI branding on the video, despite being a TOI initiative.

"The Times of India is extremely global in its approach. To strike success in our final frontier, Kerala, and to connect with the Malayalees, we had to do something different. We had to connect with the local culture," says Gupta.

Senthil Kumar, national creative director, JWT India, has directed the video. The whole campaign is created by JWT India. The writers for the campaign were Senthil Kumar, James Mani, and Arjun Nalapat. Art direction was managed by Suresh P V, Sreekumar Lakshman, Abhijit Mallik, and George Abraham. Susan Mathen took care of strategic planning. Rajesh Khan A R, and Senthil Kumar were the photographers.

The Kerala edition of the TOI is printed in 10 different locations across Kerala, including Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Allapuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, and Kannur.

In order to reach out to every nook and corner of the state, the newspaper appointed different kinds of local delivery boys to meet the unique challenge of reaching out to every home in Kerala.

The idea was executed across the state with fresh home delivery of The Times of India by over a 100 elephants, backwater boatmen, Kalari warriors, and the traditional fish monger aka Meenkaran.

The first such delivery medium was Aanakali -- when elephants played delivery boys. The idea to use elephants to deliver newspapers stemmed from the fact that Kerala is a land blessed with hundreds of pet elephants, and for centuries, there was always room for a pachyderm family member in the aristocratic joint families of Kerala. Also, in most of the temples, elephants are needed for daily rituals and are treated with much respect as the state animal of Kerala. In fact, the Guruvayoor Temple runs an elephant sanctuary, where nearly a 100 elephants, donated to the temple by the devotees, are housed. And therefore, there's never been a louder wake-up call than the elephant's trumpet, signalling the arrival of the brand new newspaper in Kerala. "We had to make sure that the elephants are fed with enough bananas. In fact, God's Own Country became the elephant's own country on the day of the launch," recalls Kumar.

The second is Wellamkali, when backwater boatmen play delivery boys. Stretched over a 1,500 km-long backwater route, with a network of 44 rivers, lagoons and lakes across the entire land, boats are integral to the transport system in Kerala. From Allapuzha to Kottayam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kuttanad, Kozhikode, Kazaragod, Kochi, and Kumarakom, daily life floats on the backwaters. From vegetable markets to tea stalls, school buses to public transport, almost everyone in these parts, has a boat to ride.

"We found that just as young boys and girls travel to schools in various cities of India, the youth travels to educational institutions in boats. Another insight was that they consume the contents of a newspaper while sipping their morning tea," says Kumar. Hence, it was time to design a traditional tea shop -- Chaya Kada -- on the boat itself, and deliver fresh newspapers along with the morning tea in typically tall Kerala glasses to the fixed and floating homes on the winding backwaters of Kerala.

The third is Kalarikali, when ancient Kalari warriors play delivery boys. The mother of all martial arts was born in this land, and legend has it that the exponents of this ancient warrior skill were the original delivery boys, ensuring that this art form reached the Shaolin monks of China, who modified the Kalari technique into Kung Fu. Warriors and mercenaries alike were traditionally trained to defend and attack when required, while delivering peace proposals, warnings, threats, and settle scores. And, a 1,000 years later, it was time to deliver the daily newspaper.

Senthil Kumar

The fourth and the final is Karimeenkali, when the Meenkarans or the fish mongers play delivery boys. "The traditional fish mongers often reach homes much ahead the milkman in the most distant and difficult terrains of this land. In fact, the fish-monger's sing-song morning cry 'Meene Meene', is the only competition for the country rooster in the wake-up call department. And now, it was time for Kerala to wake up to The Times Of India," says Kumar.

Hence, Aanakali, Wellamkali, Kalarikali, and Karimeenkali together joined hands to activate the home delivery of over a 1,00,000 newspapers on Day One.

At 06:00 hours, 300 newspapers were handed over per elephant/boatman in bundles of 50 each, which were hung on the backs of the elephants. The animals were guided by the mahouts and moved to the nearest residential areas to deliver the TOI newspapers to every house. Thousands of newspapers were home delivered to even the most remote corners of Kerala, from Kannur to Calicut, and Ernakulam to Thiruvananthapuram.

These delivery boys were shot in their natural environment and later used in the press, postcard, and outdoor campaigns. The images from the campaign were also rendered in classic black-and-white form to create imagery that was unique to the state.

On the social network, a Malayalee could tag, share, and send the postcard to Malayalee friends, anywhere in the world.

On ground, The Times Kerala Home Delivery postcards were placed at post offices, newspaper stores, and the shops of newsagents in Kerala. The postcards bring alive the fresh home delivery idea simply, and in an unforgettable manner.

Speaking about the campaign, Kumar tells afaqs!, "After several months of mining local insights and deep diving into its visual metaphors, long debates with the TOI brand marketing and editorial teams, studying the land and the musical language that motivated 100 per cent literacy, we were driven by the ambition to amplify authentic Kerala morning deliveries from every point of view, for the TOI's final frontier. I am proud to be associated with the campaign."

The Times of India's Chennai campaign poked fun at The Hindu, coaxing readers to wake up to the TOI. In Kerala, the battle is not just with The Hindu, but also with Malayala Manorama. The TOI has a strategic relationship with Mathrubhumi, Malayala Manorama's competitor.

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