Tata Motors: Bridging distances

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | October 18, 2012
For its range of commercial vehicles, Tata Motors has rolled out a TV campaign that fulfils a dual purpose. It positions the brand as one that bridges distances, both literally and figuratively, and as one that is technologically advanced.

Tata Motors has launched a new part emotional-part functional ad campaign for its range of commercial vehicles (trucks and buses) that conveys the company's philosophy of staying ahead of people's needs and developing products that live up to expectations and exceed them. The tagline used is 'Ek kadam aagey'.

As of now, three films are being aired on TV. The VO (voice over) in the ads is by actor-director Farhan Akhtar. The team claims he was selected for the job as he reflects the spirit of a young, innovative India.

Nilesh Vaidya, executive creative director, Rediffusion-Y&R, the agency that has crafted this campaign, tells afaqs! that the larger thought behind this campaign is that of bridging distances - be it geographical distances, distances between one's home and the road or those between one's dreams and reality.

Besides conveying the brand's achievements so far and highlighting how Tata Motors has contributed towards nation building, the other objective of this effort is to communicate the fact that Tata Motors is high-tech and ahead of the times in terms of its technology.

Nilesh Vaidya

Thus, the campaign, though hinged on emotions, "has a very functional pay off" as Vaidya puts it, as it is the technology that ultimately helps bridge the aforementioned gaps and distances.

At first glance, the films seem neither B2C nor B2B; rather, they seem to fall in the grey zone between the two, if such an area exists. Going by the look and feel of the campaign, it appears to be a cross between any other consumer campaign targeted at lay consumers and a typical corporate, brochure-like campaign targeted at a select trade audience. So, which one is it?

Addressing the issue of the TG (target group) of this campaign, Vaidya explains that while the core TG comprises truck drivers and fleet owners, Tata Motors is talking to pretty much everyone through this campaign. "The brand is making a very public case about what it has achieved through its vehicles. It's basically about empathising with the people who spend 18 hours of their day on the road - the kind of people for whom the highway becomes home," he explains.

While the 'service' film leans more towards the B2B side of the TG, the other two, namely, 'infrastructure' and 'master', address everyone at large.

TV is the lead medium for this campaign; there will be support from press and outdoor but at a much smaller scale.

Does the campaign work?

Some find the insight confusing. Others empathise with the challenges creative folk face when ideating for such creatively restrictive product categories, as some experts term them.

Priti Nair

Satbir Singh

Priti Nair, co-founder, Curry-Nation, finds the creative execution just average and inconsistent across the three films. "It is just too cut and dry," she says, "and you just don't get engaged with any story or person. I didn't even catch the insight; I thought it was all about doing things for the people you care about. The content is way too 'me-too'."

As regards the inconsistency, she explains, "The 'dhaaba' film at least carries 'the ones you can depend on' or 'the ones you care for' story a little better than the other films. The other two ads go into some corporate 'AV-ish' mode -- (audio-visual, presentation-like mode) -- suddenly, both visually and emotionally."

All said and done, the commercial vehicles category has, traditionally, been deemed as one that is limiting in terms of the kind of creative ideas one can come up with. "It is challenging but that's the job of advertising agencies and marketers -- to communicate it in a more engaging manner, to push to get it at least above average if breakthrough is not manageable. I believe you can at least do likeable stories, stories that are more involving rather than just chest thumping," Nair critiques.

About the TG, Satbir Singh, managing partner and chief creative officer, Havas Worldwide, says, with empathy, "I guess we must understand the category first. The commercial vehicles category is different from, say, mobile telephony or your youth-oriented messaging. Much of this will have the added task of tackling B2B issues and speaking to fleet owners."

He goes on, nevertheless, "Whenever communication has a corporate angle, it unfortunately goes into the 'dreams' area. Hopefully, one day, corporates will look beyond the concepts of 'dreams', 'tomorrow', 'trust' and the like."

Just like the campaign, the use of Farhan Akhtar for the voiceover has also garnered mixed responses. While it makes Nair frown, Singh expresses how much he loved it. "I've seen it get a fair amount of traction on Twitter," he points out.

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