HomeShop18: Cats as brand custodians

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | June 11, 2014
In its first ever full-fledged TV campaign, HomeShop18 showcases two animated cats as protagonists who urge consumers to shop on its platforms.

Brands usually take celebrities as ambassadors but ever heard of two 'cats' becoming custodians of an e-commerce brand? The idea is 'different' for a TV campaign, isn't it? And that, precisely, is the reaction HomeShop 18 is aiming to elicit in the rather cluttered brand communication space of the e-commerce companies.

HomeShop 18 TVC

HomeShop 18 TVC

HomeShop 18 TVC

HomeShop 18 TVC

Sajan Raj Kurup

Vikrant Khanna

Executed by Creativeland Asia, the first 45-seconder features Billy, the father cat and Sunny, the son cat, sitting across a table representing Homeshop18. They get into a dialogue with the audience sharing the benefits of shopping on the brand's TV channel, website and mobile app. The cats inform viewers about the various product categories, delivery and payment options by directly conversing with the former. The film ends with the jingle - and tagline - 'Shopping makes me Happy'. The other films in the series talk about 'Fashion', 'Amazing Offers' and 'Home care & Kitchen Solutions'.

HomeShop 18 is a horizontal online commerce player that sells clothing, mobiles, footwear, appliances, toys and games, baby products and fitness products, among others. According to Vikrant Khanna, chief marketing officer, HomeShop18, mobiles, lifestyle products (including apparel, jewellery and health & beauty) and the home portfolio (kitchen, home furnishings) are its star performers.

Drop and shop

Highlighting the fact that shopping has gone beyond mere necessity to become a stress-buster, Sajan Raj Kurup, founder and creative chairman, Creativeland Asia, says, "Remote shopping is at the cusp of becoming mainstream in India. Since this category deals with a lot of information decimation, we had to find engaging characters to deliver it. Cat videos are most watched and highly viral on the internet. So we decided to go with two cats, a father and son duo that represent different generations of shoppers across TV and the internet."

The campaign has been designed and filmed in Photo-real Animation technique with the finishing touches given by UPP in Prague, a company which has provided animation to popular Hollywood movies like Wolverine and SALT.

Speaking to afaqs! on why the company chose to launch its first full-fledged TV campaign six years after it was set up, Khanna says that it is aiming to achieve a certain level of critical mass and scale. The campaign, along with other strategic investments in delivery mechanisms, logistics, supply chain and IT, is a step towards achieving business targets and providing an impeccable shopping experience to consumers across platforms.

Behind the screen

It is interesting to note how e-commerce players have launched television campaigns to expand their consumer base. Recently, we covered Flipkart going bullish on Fashion, Myntra launching its TVC showcasing the ease of shopping on its platform. Interestingly, all these campaigns show youngsters donning new clothes and flaunting their style.

Unlike other e-commerce platforms, HomeShop18 claims to have a much diverse audience, which makes the constructing the brand communication even more 'challenging'. "We have a fairly large television shopping business where the audiences are mostly females - usually housewives who are slightly older in contrast to a standard e-commerce consumer. Most of our audiences live in Tier II and Tier III cities. For us, the campaign has to be something which cuts across all barriers of age, cities and demographics," Khanna reasons.

While HomeShop18's online consumers are largely young males living in metros, the mobile consumers (both web and app) are first-time buyers. Khanna explains that his company is treating the mobile medium just like television because it can sell only one product at a time unlike a website which can have multiple products on display on its homepage.

Busy times ahead

In terms of traction and sales, television contributes the most followed by web and mobile. Along with TV, the two-month campaign is being promoted on print, radio and social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest). HomeShop18 has also leveraged Whatsapp to further the reach of the campaign. The company has also created a microsite for engagement with its customers as well as, latest on Billy and Sunny. In print, it has targeted women's magazines, the Times of India and some vernacular dailies that will be more sales focused.

The company will be tying up with Indian designers to offer premium products in the lifestyle category.On the mobile platform, a new category called 'Best price' will be introduced soon.

For the record, Homeshop18 will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, after the company has filed an initial public offering of $75 million. CEO Sundeep Malhotra is quite optimistic about the impending IPO. Homeshop18 posted total revenues of Rs 225.4 crore in 2012-13, up 89.4 per cent from Rs 119 crore in 2011-12. It will become the fourth Indian Internet firm to list in the US, after Rediff, Sify and MakeMyTrip.

Apart from Network18 (just taken over by Reliance and which holds a 54.5 per cent stake in HomeShop18), SAIF Partners (25.2 per cent), GS Home Shopping (17.1 per cent) and OCP Asia (6.4 per cent) are the other investors of HomeShop 18. Meanwhile, Reliance Retail, a Reliance Industries company that retails premium brands such as Steve Madden and Quiksilver in India has announced plans to enter the e-commerce space this year.

Too much to say

Manish Bhatt

Manish Porwal

There are those who believe that the HomeShop18 campaigns have too much information that may bore the viewers. Manish Bhatt, founder-director, Scarecrow Asia(who has reviewed the overall campaign) calls them "infomercials" that pack in too much information in a single ad. He believes that this will irritate the viewers. "The humour element also looks forced instead of being inherently funny. While the animation looks real, it does nothing in terms of striking a emotional connect with the audiences," he says.

For Manish Porwal, managing director, Alchemist Marketing & Talent Solutions the umbrella campaign reflect the typical reaction of a leader when the domain gets filled with new and more successful entrants. He says that the reasonably good and clutter-breaking idea went into a coma due to the average execution with too many things to say at the same time, while desperately trying to entertain. In terms of recall value, he feels that it cannot match up to what Vodafone or Idea campaigns managed to do.

Meanwhile, Bhatt says that taglines of ads like this should have a hummable quality like 'Washing Powder Nirma' or the more recent 'Abki Baar, Modi Sarkar'. "HomeShop 18's 'Shopping makes me Happy' doesn't have that emotional connect which will be picked up by the viewers," he rues.

Porwal suggests that the brand could have taken 'Home Shop 18 are the 'cats' of the business.' idea and supported it with figures. "Any new category, on its way to maturity, looks for early and late adopters and they, in turn, look for the number of evangelists (read 'other customers')," he says adding that the ads on YouTube are too long and need to be conceptualised in 20-30 seconds.

The one thing that could have been done differently, according to Bhatt, was that the articulation around the core brand message should have been sharper and interesting. "Like the Vodafone ZooZoos, there has to be an enduring quality in the protagonists," he points out.

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