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Jaguar XJ: What does Bebo bring to the backseat?

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | July 18, 2014
A look at 'that Kareena Kapoor ad' for Jaguar, one that's caught the attention of the TV viewer and netizen alike.

"He understands what I really love. Elegant style. Liveliness. Sophistication. But most of all, inner beauty. That's what makes him exceptional," says Kareena Kapoor's velvety voice-over in Jaguar's recent TVC for its XJ variant, as she enjoys the car's luxurious backseat environment. Who "he" is - the man in her life, the Jaguar itself or her gloved chauffer - is anyone's guess. "So alive, it wraps you in luxury," punctuates a male VO.

Jaguar's 'Kareena Kapoor ad'

Jaguar's poster ad for XJ

The question Jaguar has been asking potential consumers - How Alive Are You

Spark44's Jaguar Versus Chicken video

Mercedes-Benz's Chicken Dance video

Over the past few days, Tata Motors-owned luxury car maker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has managed to get a fair share of conversation, both on -and off- line, with this recent ad film for the Jaguar XJ. This TVC comes in the wake of a very visible outdoor campaign that promoted the almost existential tagline 'How Alive Are You?'

London-headquartered Spark44 is the creative agency of record for Jaguar. Recall the brand's Jaguar Versus Chicken viral, a cheeky parody of rival brand Mercedes-Benz's 'chicken dance' video? The funny folks at Spark44 Los Angeles created it.

Priced at Rs 92.1 lakh, the variant belongs to the premium luxury saloon segment. Earlier this year, JRL announced that it would manufacture the Jaguar XJ locally, in addition to the Land Rover Freelander 2 and Jaguar XF.

Recall that Tata Motors acquired Jaguar from Ford in 2008.

A Jagged Effort?

We've seen Kapoor endorse products across the price spectrum, from Boroplus antiseptic cream, Tetley green tea and Head & Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo, to iBall smartphones, Mahindra two-wheelers and Lavie handbags.

While some experts argue that a celebrity as 'exposed' on the brand circuit as Kapoor could dilute the 'premium-ness' of a brand like Jaguar, others deduce that this is part of a prudent long-term strategy - an attempt, perhaps, to convey that it's the rung just below the super-premium (Rs. 1 core+) segment that Jaguar is eyeing in the Indian market.

And this makes sense; after all, other luxury car brands like Mercedes, Audi and BMW have each declared their desire to tap the newfound, 'affordable luxury' sub-segment. Still others argue that the German trio and the British-born Jaguar aren't exactly comparable because the latter has traditionally operated in a higher price bracket in this market. Even so, 30 seconds of Bebo in the backseat of a Jaguar XJ on mainstream Indian media were enough to throw brand analysts into overdrive.

Just about everyone - expert or otherwise - seems to have a view on the execution of this film. But we got two senior planners to scrutinise the layer beneath it - the brand strategy.

Rajeev Sharma, national brand planning director, Leo Burnett, rues about the category at large, "Let us not be too hard on this one. How many luxury car commercials do you see in India that aren't complete clichés?"

Going on to comment on the Jaguar film in question, Sharma says, "However, let us keep the obvious questions of choice of celebrity, ordinary production values, etc. aside for a minute. For a commercial that asks the question 'How alive are you?', this attempt puts you to sleep."

Rajeev Sharma

Dheeraj Sinha

"The promise of energy, implicit in the tagline, is at complete odds with the near-comatose mood of the commercial," he adds, calling it a case of the story and its moral being on different pages. "There seems to be an opportunity to be a lot sharper on what this car stands for. A brand like Jag deserves better thinking," Sharma asserts.

The first reaction of Dheeraj Sinha, chief strategy officer, Grey, South and Southeast Asia, to this ad was: Why does a celebrity need a celebrity endorsement?

"It looks like they are trying to hard sell a brand like Jaguar," he analyses, insisting that elegant styling, 'aliveness', luxury and beauty, are attributes that a Jaguar "gets automatic credit for."

Sinha decodes this as an attempt to make the brand a little more relatable to the Indian audience. "And the brand believes that a Bollywood celebrity helps do that," he infers.

"I worry when brands such as these begin to work hard to spell out their characteristics or try to become overtly relatable. Jaguar as a brand evokes a certain mystique and that's best left unexplained. One should build the myth, not explain it," he says, adding, "At this level of luxury, features don't matter. Luxury brands sell for the 'meaning system' that they espouse. People buy into that worldview through the product. The communication should go beyond the mundane."

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