FreeCharge: Value for Money

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | September 03, 2014
The online recharge platform, in its maiden TV campaign, positions itself as an ally for the youth offering coupons and offers on every recharge.

'Paise kya ped par ugte hain?' is a classic one-liner doled out by parents often to justify the control of what they consider wasteful expenditure. FreeCharge, the mobile commerce company, weaves its TV campaign around the insight that youngsters are often reprimanded for being reckless and spendthrift by parents. The campaign features a bunch for youngsters explaining to their parents why it is sensible to recharge online through the platform, which rewards user in the form of coupons equivalent to the amount of recharge payment they make.

FreeCharge TV campaign

Alok Goel

Arun Iyer

Executed by Lowe Lintas, the minute-long film is a montage of young girls and boys in their regular hangouts like malls, clubs or fast food joints recreating their parents' one liners like 'Tere papa ka naam Bambani hai, Ambani nahi', 'We're middle class people' or 'Why can't you save?'

The ad ends in a classroom where the parents are sitting when a boy holding a smartphone walks in saying, "You put so many charges on us but just one transaction on FreeCharge frees us from all the charges of being spendthrift." For every recharge done on FreeCharge, the company gives customers discount coupons from food joints and popular retailers, equivalent to the recharge amount, delivered to their mobile, inbox or even doorstep.

Savings coupons

Arun Iyer, national creative director, Lowe Lintas says the campaign highlights the fact that today's generation is responsible and understands the value of money. "The campaign aims to connect with the consumers on an emotional level. The FreeCharge app provides maximum benefit to its users," he states. The last scene of the campaign, Iyer believes, has been executed metaphorically where parents become the students listening to why they should let their children use the online recharge platform.

For Alok Goel, CEO, FreeCharge, the time was 'apt' to launch a television ad since their platform (online and mobile) has been well received by users. The whole campaign, he points out, revolves around coupons as a concept. "The young boy eating burger and French fries is indicative of McDonald's coupon, another youngster sitting in a movie hall indicates a PVR coupon he availed through the website or the girl flaunting her shoe collection shows coupons from e-commerce websites," he says.

FreeCharge works with 140 brand partners from food & beverages (McDonalds, Barista, Costa, KFC, Pizza Hut), online shopping sites (Flipkart, Myntra, Jabong, Amazon), travel and apparel players. These coupons can be used to save money when customers eat out, watch movies, book travel tickets, shop online, visit a salon, go gaming, pick up books, music or grocery. Goel explains that, in India, there exist two types of coupon models - online and offline. While the online coupon model (used by the likes of Flipkart and Jabong) is at a fairly evolved stage, the offline model is still evolving.

"We have some exclusive deals with offline players like McDonald's, Costa Coffee and PVR, where we are trying to pioneering this model and offer the best deals to our users," he explains. FreeCharge targets people between 18 and 34 years of age hailing from the top 15-20 cities. The platform claims to have 10 million registered users.

According to Goel, the mobile medium is driving sales for the platform with 70 per cent of transactions coming from the mobile platform (both the app and the WAP site). "The number was merely five per cent 7-8 months back - the growth has been fast in the medium," he notes adding that they have recorded three million app downloads in last eight months. The company aims to clock one million transactions by March-April next year. The overall recharge market in India (both offline and online) is about 40 million recharges everyday. The online market has a small percentage of this figure currently.

FreeCharge offers prepaid mobile, DTH & internet data card recharges. It has raised $33 million (about Rs 180 crore) from existing investor Sequoia Capital, Belgium-based investment firm Sofina and Russian Internet and technology investor ru-Net. The company will use the funds to build up its transactional advertising offerings. It earns revenues primarily by connecting its affiliate brand partners with consumers, thereby earning revenue in the form of commission. In the online mobile recharging space, it competes with players like Paytm, Rechargeitnow and mobikwik. Interestingly, telecoms like Vodafone, Airtel and Tata Docomo also have their own online recharging platform.

Touching a chord

Pratik Gupta

Pratik Gupta, co-founder, FoxyMoron finds the TV campaign 'interesting' enough to strike a chord with both the primary TG (youth) and secondary TG (parents). He asserts that unlike the Paytm ads, which explain the process of online recharging, the FreeCharge ad takes the emotional route to connect with consumers.

"It is a clever attempt. The ad will surely bring a smile to viewers face because it is highly relatable. We all have gone through the stage where our parents thought we were 'irresponsible' while we kept trying to prove them wrong," he notes.

Gupta believes that while all the examples used in the campaign are 'urban', if it was up to him he would have included instances that were from semi-urban areas. "Adding a parent's perspective in a shot or two also would have made the campaign more interesting," he suggests. The campaign does not hammer the brand identity too strongly, he says, but is interesting enough to motivate people to Google or download the app. Will this mean high recall value for the brand? "It is too early to predict," he laughs.

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