Scent of a woman?

By Shibani Gharat , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | June 05, 2012
The TV campaign for Skoda Laura RS is based on the insight that men find speed and women in the driver's seat irresistible.

Women drivers have long been the butt of jokes of their male counterparts. Skoda India, in its new campaign for the Skoda Laura RS, apparently differs with this notion. Created by Saatchi & Saatchi, the television commercial for the Skoda Laura RS is based on the insight that men find speed and women in the driver's seat irresistible.

The film depicts the power of the car in an unusual manner. The 30-second film opens to showcase an upmarket club in a big city. The car enters the frame and stops just outside the club. To the surprise of the waiting crowd, it revs up and performs powerful stunts before coming to a halt once again. An attractive woman then gets off the driver's seat and dabs on the burnt rubber on her neck. She walks towards the club, confident of her irresistible attractiveness, all thanks to the smell of burnt rubber.

Talking about the new campaign, Ramanuj Shastry, chief creative officer, Saatchi & Saatchi, says, "Power and performance in a car being a huge turn-on for men is a well known fact. We dramatised this fact by having our leading lady use the aphrodisiac quality of 'the smell of burning rubber' to be more attractive to men. The film is more refreshing visually, at least compared to a stereotypical male racing the car around town."

Ramanuj Shastry

Sourabh Mishra

The 'RS' mark in Skoda is for variants that offer a higher level of performance. So 'Play on' is really a way to bring alive the benefit of a high performance RS variant of the Skoda Laura, to an audience that really cares about this higher level of performance. The RS badge apparently is reserved strictly for the fastest, most powerful of Skoda variants.

Speaking about the insight behind the TVC, Sourabh Mishra, chief strategy officer, Saatchi & Saatchi tells afaqs!, "Showcasing the power and performance of a car through a man-driver pushing the car to its limits is the expected cliché. By breaking this cliché, we give the viewer a refreshing take on the message, which is thus more involving."

Talking about the target consumers, Mishra says that there are different types of customers and there is a segment of people which looks for a high performance car, even in these times. "As they say about the Indian market, for every truth here, the opposite is equally true. We are targeting the 'passionate about driving' segment. Even if they have a chauffeur most of the time, the few times they get behind the wheel, they would like to drive a car which is crafted for superlative driving performance," he adds.

Cars and women

For many years, cars and women were never uttered in the same breath. Even if they were, it was used to poke fun at the latter.

But today, women are increasingly taking the driver's seat as far as automotive advertising is concerned.

Hyundai's Eon's launch advertisement showed four young women enjoying a ride in it. There were no men around. Also, Hyundai's ad campaign for Next Gen i10 that featured actor Shah Rukh Khan later shows his woman companion in the driver's seat.

Ford India's ad for its all-new Fiesta also showed two women enjoying the Fiesta drive, giving their testimony on Ford Fiesta.

The creator of Dilbert comic strip Scott Adams once quoted, "In less enlightened times, the best way to impress women was to own a hot car. But women wised up and realised it was better to buy their own hot cars so they wouldn't have to ride around with jerks." Well, Skoda seems to have taken him seriously.

As Adams mentions, the new TVC depicts a hot woman owning a hot car, but only to the effect of attracting men with the smell of burnt rubber.


Meraj Hasan

Charles Victor

Meraj Hasan, vice-president, strategic planning, Everest Advertising is of the opinion that to latch on to the rising number of female drivers in the country, using a woman in the driver's seat is a good strategy. "Hyundai too is doing it for one of its models. But, the manner in which it's done here, I'm not really sure what it brings to the table. Perhaps burnt rubber from Laura's tyre can be used if you've forgotten your perfume," jokes Hasan.

Hasan is of the opinion that a good car can sell despite its advertising and Mahindra XUV is a classic case to prove this. "But, I am not sure whether this TVC will appeal to the males who are still the large chunk of car buyers."

Charles Victor, national creative director, Law & Kenneth lauds the effort to do something different with this car commercial. "Firstly, in a category that is trying so hard to do the obvious, I applaud the effort at trying to do something different. But I don't think this commercial deserves any applause. Forget the poor execution, I think the creative idea itself isn't one that raises eyebrows," he adds.

He feels that when one has something as great as the fast Skoda Laura VRS to play with, one can't write a commercial that reduces men to dumb blondes who swoon at the smell of burnt rubber! "The product is begging for something far more exciting. How exactly do you want your male consumer to react to this commercial?" he questions.

Victor opines that 'Play on' is quite nice actually, given the VRS. "But it didn't connect the way it should have in the commercial. I also think it's a nice approach to try and shake things up a bit and put a woman in the driver's seat. We did that a long while ago too and if done well, it's a welcome deviation from the macho, testosterone-inspired male stereotype that would have been the obvious choice for a car like the VRS. Again, the intent is laudable, not the output," he concludes.

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