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Airtel: Fully connected

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | July 31, 2014
In its latest campaign promoting its data plans, Bharti Airtel positions itself as a preferred network for smartphone users.

Airtel, which rode high on the successful campaigns like 'Express Yourself' and 'Har ek friend zaroori hota hai', has rolled out its latest campaign. Executed by Taproot India, the film opens in an office where a boss informs her colleague about a project that needs to be completed on a priority basis. Despite his protests, she is firm and urges him and his team to start right away and leaves for home.

Airtel The Smartphone Network campaign

Airtel's new design element

Mohit Beotra

On her way back, she calls her husband Rohit and asks what he would like to eat for dinner. Subsequently, one of the men in her office receives a call from his wife asking him to come home. He tells her that he will be late because of the assignment. His wife calls again, this time on a video call and pans the phone camera on the dishes she has made for dinner. Here, it is revealed that the boss is his wife. She urges him to finish up and come home soon.

Backed by data

The campaign has stirred a debate on social media platforms. Some responses angrily denounce the portrayal of a woman professional who is a 'cook' for her husband, while others praise her as a progressive woman who holds her own and also can play domestic goddess. For the brand, the campaign is a 'thematic film' with a contemporary take on the role that smartphones and data networks are playing in bringing millions of data-savvy Indians closer to one another.

Mohit Beotra, chief brand officer - Bharti Airtel (India), believes that the campaign rides on the surge in adoption of data services led by increasing penetration of smartphones. "Airtel has made significant technology and network investments to ensure delivery of the best data experience for smartphone users in India," he explains.

Apart from the main 'Boss' TVC, a set of short commercials emphasizing the strengths of the Airtel data network (on parameters such as faster video streaming and longer battery life) will also be aired shortly. The campaign also introduces a fresh design element, created by Wolf Ollins, a global brand design and consultancy firm, as part of Airtel's brand identity.

Airtel offers an range of data services which includes the Re 1 entertainment store (its services including music, games, videos and photos compatible with all forms of mobile technology), myPlan (a postpaid service which lets customers customize their plans based on usage preferences), a regional language 'Airtel Live' portal (with a library of videos, songs and regional dailies compatible on both feature phones and smart phones), Smart Pack (paper recharge with a QR Code), Night Store@129 - customers can buy prepaid mobile for internet usage and local calling at night (12midnight - 6am).

Airtel reported that its 3G subscribers base rose 101 per cent to 12.5 million during April-June 2014. The company's total mobile data user base increased 52 per cent to 39.3 million. Mobile data users represent 18.8 per cent of total user base during April-June 2014 compared to 13.6 per cent in April-June 2013. Data usage per user increased 26 per cent to 495MB. Data realization per MB decreased by 14 per cent to 28 MB.

The telecom major reported consolidated revenues, for the quarter ended June 30, 2014, at Rs 22,962 crore - up by 13.3 per cent compared to the corresponding period in the previous year. The increase in revenue was driven by a 73.9 per cent growth in consolidated mobile data revenues (to Rs 2,204 crore) for the quarter. The company says that this segment has been consistently contributing for more than one-third of Airtel's overall incremental revenue. Revenues from mobile services registered a growth of 10 per cent to Rs 12,752.5 crore in the same period. Mobile data revenue rose by 68.2 per cent to Rs 1,559 crore.

Engaging attempt

Raghu Bhat

Divyapratap Mehta

Our experts unanimously agree that the campaign will catch the attention of viewers and draw reactions that will, in turn, increase recall value. Though he applauds the execution, Raghu Bhat, founder-director, Scarecrow Communications, finds the core idea of the film 'confusing'.

"Is the woman progressive as she is boss as well as a home maker? Or is she a sadist who gives her husband a challenging deadline and then distracts him with her cooking while he is hard at work?" he asks asserting that these questions can lead to polarised reactions. The creative twist of the boss being the wife, he says, becomes obvious in the first few frames itself because of the way she looks at him.

For Divyapratap Mehta, former national planning director, Publicis Capital, the story is intriguing as a first time watch. "I'm not sure if it brings alive the usability of a smartphone and its applications which are at its best when one is on the move. This could very well be an ad for home appliances or even a cooking brand," he argues. Putting an end to the outrage at the portrayal of a working woman who has to cook up a four-course meal at the end of a hard day, Mehta notes that the ad shows a happy modern couple, which lives like friends, without any gender biases. "My guess is that since the wife reached home early, she had the time to prepare a special meal for a slogging spouse. Had the husband reached earlier he would have probably done the same," he says.

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