'Yeh zameen, yeh aasmaan… hamaara kal, hamaara aaj… buland Bharat ki buland tasveer… hamaara Bajaj.'
Snatches of a 15-year-old jingle that, even today, warm the cockles of the heart. A 15-year-old jingle that helped create one of the most evocative and compelling commercials to be made in India - one that first defined two-wheeler marketer Bajaj Auto's 'Indianness', and spawned an entire generation of me-too corporate ads.
That 15-year-old jingle is back. Only this time, with a contemporary 'zing' to it. While at the same time, retaining the spirit of the original.
Which strangely is, in itself, the essence of the communication.
Scheduled to go on air this evening, the new Hamaara Bajaj commercial is all about the change. And un-change. It's about post-liberalization India. And also about the India that dates back to timelessness. It's about embracing the new without diluting the gene pool of shared Indian values.
As with the original Hamaara Bajaj ad, the new commercial is a montage of slice-of-life situations - different people riding different Bajaj two-wheelers. The difference being, here there is a clear cause-and-effect element built into the communication. So while the first few frames of the commercial show this hip dude cruising along a highway on his Eliminator, what transpires is that as he approaches a small roadside temple, he slows down and does a small pranaam, before revving his bike into the horizon. Similarly, one montage shows these two bikes 'drag racing' down a road. However, the moment the bikers encounter an elaborate rangoli spread across the road, they quickly cut gears and negotiate their way past the rangoli without disturbing it. Then there's this young boy and girl on another bike. The girl has her arms wrapped around the boy's waist. But as they drive past an old man who is gazing their way, the girl respectfully takes her hands off the boy's waist…
"What is the 'hamaara' in old Hamaara Bajaj?" asks Balki (R. Balakrishnan), executive creative director, Lowe Lintas & Partners. "It was a mirror of what we, as Indians, were 15 years ago. And in this commercial, it is as we are today. 'Hamaara' represents the way we are. And the way Indians are today is that although our youngsters and middle-aged people might have adopted a new westernized way of life, deep down inside, the values haven't changed. It's not whether you explicitly buy into those values. They just come into the open intrinsically, automatically. This commercial is about how those basic Indian values are in place, despite outward modernization. And that's also true of Bajaj as a company."
For Bajaj, sending out a message that melds the traditional with the modern is of paramount importance. While Bajaj, as a brand, has a strong 'Indian' image, it's not necessarily paying off - at least in all quarters. For one, Bajaj has acquired a stodgy image, especially in the face of competition from rival brands. Add to that the fact that it's image is primarily driven by flagship brand Chetak, a scooter. The Indian scooter market being what it is, Bajaj's image was bound to take a beating.
Also, ironically, the old Hamaara Bajaj ad worked too well for Bajaj. "The ad was built on Chetak," admits Nitin Kochar, senior manager - marketing, Bajaj Auto. "So while Bajaj built a trusted and reliable image for itself, it eventually created a perception of being conservative and middle-aged, not youthful. Also, the market and the consumer have evolved. Today's consumer is looking for snazzier products, and Bajaj was not perceived to be up there with the rest in terms of design and technology. Also, Bajaj was - and still is, to an extent - seen as a scooter company."
With Bajaj getting out of place in this scenario, re-establishing a 'connect' with the youth became imperative. While a slew of launches in the motorcycle segment aims to take care of the supply end, there was a pressing need to fuel demand for the Bajaj name among the core target group - the youth. So this commercial.
Interestingly, the new commercial showcases most of the current Bajaj bikes and the Sapphire - the scooter is conspicuous in its absence. "There was a need to drive in motorcycle imagery and get away from the scooter imagery," says Kochar. "The fact is, today Bajaj has the widest range of bikes addressing the widest range of price points."
Of course, just having bikes in the ad wasn't the answer. "Simply showing the bikes and saying this is the new face of Bajaj was not going to be enough," Balki explains. "What's the connect… what's the new generation of Indians like? That was what we had to discover, and showcase. Because only then can we say that Bajaj understands Indians best and is in sync with today's consumer. And the reason we chose to portray today's youth is because they are the ones most likely to have lost their Indianness, but have not."
The toughest job for Lintas must have been overcoming Hamaara Bajaj-Part One. "The creative challenge was to make a Hamaara Bajaj commercial without doing another Hamaara Bajaj… something that has been copied infinitely," Balki admits. "Doing another slice-of-life ad seemed the most obvious thing to do. But by doing that, we would have simply imitated the execution of the first idea. The idea is 'hamaara' - the us."
Comparisons with the original will surface. "The first ad is a reality and we can't ask people to forget it," Balki agrees. "But we have taken the issue head-on by using the old ad to communicate the new message, instead of reworking the whole idea."
'Badal rahein hain hum yahaan… yeh zameen, yeh aasmaan…'
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