Good product advertising has two essential components. One, it identifies and focuses on the core attributes of the product. Two, it keeps its message simple - and powerful.
Bad brand advertising also generally has two common components. One, it borrows liberally from an idea that has worked in a very different context. Two, it invariably uses celebrities without quite bothering to figure out how the celebrity will fit in with the brand attributes.
One of the early Hero Honda ads gained reputation for being an excellent product ad. One of its contemporary releases seems destined to go down as an excellent example of how not to do it. The great product ad was the 'Fill It, Shut It, Forget It' campaign. It did the job of hammering home Hero Honda's prime message like nothing else could.
The sequel to the Desh Ki Dhadkan (DKD2) campaign that Hero Honda released late last year throws the onus on patriotism and the charisma of film star Hrithik Roshan and cricketing hero Saurav Ganguly to drive home the message that it is now the leader in the two-wheeler market. In the process, it does little justice to the brand's attributes or, for that matter, the qualities that have made pop icons of the two celebrity endorsers - Hrithik and Saurav. But before we start on how Hero Honda or its agency Percept Advertising stretched the patriotism bit a little too far, here's a quick recap of the ad.
Hrithik and Saurav arrive at a cricket stadium riding their Hero Honda bikes. Saurav challenges Hrithik to a game of cricket. Nervously, Hrithik picks up the bat, but, quite inevitably, misses the very first ball delivered by Saurav. Out of the blue appears this little boy and hands Hrithik a baseball bat. Hrithik braces to face the second ball. And voila! He hits the ball out of the ground, into the stands. The duo then ride off in their respective bikes.
Cut to a stage. And Hrithik and Saurav are up there for a screen test sponsored by Hero Honda. This time Hrithik challenges Saurav to a dance. After a perfunctory, "Me? No way!", Saurav gets on to the stage. And, with his jabs into the air, throws the crowd into a fit of frenzy. The commercial ends with the jingle 'Arey yehi hai desh ki dhadkan'
The Percept Advertising brass explains the thinking that went behind the ad. "The very idea of taking Saurav and Hrithik is rooted in Hero Honda's core brand objective, which is to appeal to the younger mindset. Indians love cricket as much as they enjoy watching movies. While one is the captain of the Indian cricket team, the other is a budding superstar of the Indian film industry. However, there is more to them than what meets the eye. For a brief period, when both interchange their roles, unseen facets of their personality come to the fore. By showing the two as well-rounded personalities, the ad attempts to position Hero Honda as a bike for young achievers," says Dinesh Sibal, brand director, Percept Advertising, Delhi, which has created the 90-seconder.
While the logic is sound, the ad evokes a mixed reaction. For one, Santosh Desai, executive vice-president, McCann-Erickson, thinks the ad is a complete washout. If nothing else, the problem is with the casting. "The two are not able to hit a high point at all. There is no chemistry between the two. Hrithik still manages with his acting abilities but Saurav is a complete misfit." Kailash Saraban, creative consultant, Mudra, Delhi, is less charitable. "The two icons are doing something that they are not supposed to do. I find them very funny. Especially Saurav who looks like a buffoon while dancing."
In fact, such a force-fit can have a negative rub-off on both the brand and the endorser, believes Nandu Narasimhan, associate vice-president, creative, Contract, Delhi. And that's a lot of money down the drain. Agency insiders say Hero Honda has spent about Rs 3 crore on this ad alone, which of course excludes the celeb fee.
Nitin Adake, executive creative director, Bates, Delhi, however, believes Saurav and Hrithik don't deserve all the flak. "For God's sake, let's not be so harsh on the duo. They certainly are young achievers. If Saurav dances awkwardly, he should not be the butt of jokes. He is not an entertainer as Hrithik is. He is cricket player and that too a good one. He has made a good attempt. So spare him. In my view both fit into the hero image that Hero Honda tries to project."
If nothing else, Percept deserves credit for setting off a trend of sorts with long and glitzy ads. The Siyarams' ad, Bharti, Hero Honda (all 90-second ads) and J Hampstead (60 second) - all of these have hinged on the span of time and a lot of razzmatazz to cut through the clutter. Yet, in some ways, DKD2 reminds one of Chevrolet's baseline 'The Heartbeat of America'. "To that extent Bajaj can be given the credit of being indirect (with Hamara Bajaj)," chuckles Samit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting.
The other issue is that of an idea, or the lack of it. "In the first place, there is no central idea binding the plot," remarks Contract's Narasimhan. Adds Desai of McCann-Erickson, "The ad looks contrived and unnatural. It is so predictable. At least the Shah Rukh-Sachin Pepsi ad had a heart-warming and engaging story line. This one is simply a mega bucks commercial."
The company, on the other hand, claims the ad has been received well. Atul Sobti, vice-president, marketing & sales, Hero Honda, says, "The ad is successful. It goes beyond the functional and utility aspects of the brand to build a deeper association in the consumer's mind. The ad tries to make a psychological connection with the target group. More than the mileage, product features or technical advancements, Hero Honda is an intrinsic part of the people's lives and, by extension, the heartbeat of the nation (Desh Ki Dhadkan) and the pair convey that well."
So what the company plans to do now is to let the ad run its course. "Since the response has been so good we plan to run the ad for the next three months. The ad spend is expected to double to Rs 6 crore now. What we intend to do is edit the 90 seconder into 60 and 30 second ads and run the two versions in the coming three months." © 2002 agencyfaqs!
Coming soon: Desh Ki Dhadkan Part 2