It takes a whole lot of effort and sleepless nights to come up with a creative idea. And, a whole lot more courage to actually let go of the reins and let consumers put on their thinking hats. Taking a bold leap of faith is beverage giant PepsiCo in its new campaign as it invites viewers to share ideas and videos for the Pepsi IPL tournament.
Cleverly calling the campaign 'Crash the Pepsi IPL', the brand is asking viewers to send in videos of ads they have shot. The promo film for the contest shows Ranbir Kapoor being frozen by a family trying to show him how to make the best ad film for Pepsi. Cheekily enough, when Virat Kohli shows up to ask what he should do, the family members hush him and tell him to just concentrate on his game.
What prompted Pepsi to actually look to the audience for creative ideas? Does this mean its idea bank is drying up?
Babita Baruah, senior vice president and executive business director, JWT, feels differently. She says, "Pepsi is all about living in the moment and leaving your mark. With this ad, we are not just speaking to our audience, but also challenging them to steal the show."
Pepsi's last campaign did not strike a chord with the creative community. Aired during the ongoing ICC World Cup, the film starred Kapoor, Kohli and Anushka Sharma. Did that get the brand going? Or is there a marketing strategy at play?
According to Baruah, there is nothing bigger than IPL in India. So, to get one's story shown during the tournament would be a big thing for anyone who enters the contest.
"Pepsi as a brand is part of popular culture. So is IPL. So, the youth - speaking from the mindset point of view - will be able to connect to both the brands they are passionate about. It is an incredible audacious move from our side," adds Baruah.
Ramesh Srivats, Head, 101010 - the digital agency that is leading 'Crash the Pepsi IPL' digital activation, said "We think it's Pepsi at its coolest. We live in an age in which every person is a journalist; every person is a critic; in fact every person is a media channel. So the next level is to understand and build on the fact that every person is a creator. In a sense we've moved from trying to push the product to people, to actually just handing over the brand to people. More fun for everyone."
The whole contest is part of the brand's global #PepsiChallenge program where the brand asks people to push the boundaries and steal the show. The 2015 global challenges will be across areas of pop culture that consumers are passionate about - technology, music, sports and design.
To be fair, the contest also has a prize of Rs 1 lakh. From the submissions, which will be entertained till May 1, five winners will be chosen by the jury, while a sixth will be chosen via public voting. All the ads will get played during the tournament.
Pepsi is not the first brand to have resorted to asking its audience for its creative ideas. In January 2013, Hyundai came out with a campaign asking viewers to write their own i10 stories. The winning entry was then shot and aired on TV, with the winner and brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan featuring in it. Even before that, in 2012, online listing site Zomato.com asked foodies to join in the party and send in creative ideas to show what Zomato means to them. The winning entry showed kidnappers searching Zomato.com to fulfil the last culinary wish of their abducted victim.
The industry, meanwhile, is appreciative of this bold, audacious move from Pepsi. According to Leela Ram, creative director and co-founder, Chirpy Elephant (a Chennai based advertising agency), it is a well-calculated move from Pepsi.
OR Radhakrishnan, ECD, Enormous Brands, however, expected a lot more from Pepsi.
"Even if they ask people to send a better ad, the first ad has to be good, right?" he quips, adding, "IPL is the Indian Super Bowl. If you don't shine here, where will you shine? The question in mind is not whether it will backfire, but whether it will fire in the first place."
On the other hand, brand expert and CEO of Brands of Desire, Saurabh Uboweja, seems confident of the upside to such a risk. "Rather than bold, I think it is disruptive. It's about unearthing the creative potential of Indian consumers by making them the brand custodians. If the experiment works, it could end up creating hundreds, if not thousands, of user-generated video clips that Pepsi may use to market later on. This appears to be a low-risk strategy. If they don't get really great responses, I am sure they have back-up films to play. However, there is a huge upside if they indeed manage to succeed in engaging consumers with the brand and its assets," Uboweja states.