Tata Salt's latest ad film is a tale of grit and undying spirit. The brand urges its consumers to beat the odds and achieve their dreams, just like ace boxer MC Mary Kom, and to then inspire others to do the same.
Shot primarily in Gangtok, the picturesque capital of Sikkim, the films begins with a visual of Mary Kom reminiscing her days of struggle. She recalls the moment she first donned the boxing gloves, encouraged by a coach who noticed her drive early on. The ad goes on to highlight the way, after emerging victorious at the national and global level, she decides to give back to the country by starting the Mary Kom Boxing Academy - all an effort to create more Mary Koms, as the voice over (VO) artist says. Special care was taken to make the VO resemble Mary Kom's real life accent.
Speaking to afaqs! about the experience of creating this emotion-laden campaign, KS Chakravarthy, national creative director, FCB Ulka, says the campaign is hinged on the idea of giving back to the country. This is what led to the line 'Maine Desh ka Namak khaya hai'. Mary Kom, the agency explains, is best suited for this campaign as she has actually beaten the odds (such as poverty, gender discrimination) to achieve what she has. "Salt is a household product and she was a perfect fit as she is a mother, a fighter and a true Indian," Chax notes.
Most of the people in the film are locals and both the girls who play Mary (at different life stages) hail from Sikkim. Shoojit Sircar, who shot the campaign, chose to narrate a human story instead of turning the whole concept into a sweaty, boxing match-themed ad. Mary's rise-to-fame sequence and her moment of victory have been shot in Balewadi Stadium, Pune, where she actually received her training.
Shalaka Kamat, head marketing, consumer product business, Tata Chemicals, tells us that the objective is to celebrate real life heroes who live up to values like integrity, loyalty and honesty. "Our consumers have changed culturally, economically and socially so the way we contextualise has also changed," she says, explaining the reason for going with an unconventional brand ambassador and ad. We understand her point; note the absence of any kitchen/kirana shop scenes in this allegorical commercial.
Besides TV, the campaign is being promoted on the digital medium too. A user-generated content platform (Deshkanamak.com) has been created, on which people can upload inspiring stories of their very own real life heroes.
You bet. But the tagline is an instance of "overkill", say brand experts.
For Prathap Suthan, managing partner and chief creative officer, Bang in the Middle, although the campaign is well executed and makes "thoughtful use of a new icon", the tagline sounds "forced".
"Mary's story is about her indomitable will to rise against the odds. The film, and the overall story, could have worked just as well without that line. Tata Salt's tagline has been 'Desh ka namak' for ages; the intended conceptual extension of the line just doesn't work. It suddenly makes the brand come through as 'smaller'," he explains.
Suthan gives the brand team brownie points for showcasing the North East in positive light. "We really haven't, as a country, embraced that region as much they have embraced us. Some of the most talented people across industries come from the North East," he says.
Ulka's Chax adds, "Her story was not just inspiring but also came from a state which, though not 'mainstream', is a great reservoir of talent."