afaqs!

The Great Khali 'throws his weight around' for Ambuja Cement

By Aakriti Shrivastava , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | October 15, 2015
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The latest ad for Ambuja Cement, conceptualised by Publicis Groupe, uses the wrestler's strength to drive home its 'walls that cannot be broken' message. The humorous video is a hit on the internet.

The cement category has been bereft of outstanding creative ideas lately, owing to companies following a set format of advertising. But Publicis Groupe's video for Ambuja Cement - based on the familiar 'walls that cannot be broken' premise - is breaking the internet.

Giving weight to the campaign is 'The Great Khali', the popular WWE wrestler. The ad shows the wrestler in several vulnerable situations as his strength becomes his weakness. As he goes about his life at home and outside, he ends up breaking walls, ceilings, floors and chairs, albeit unintentionally, much to the chagrin of people around. His agony ends when he uses Ambuja Cement to build his home.

Ambuja Cement's digital ad featuring Khali

Shot as a 'mockumentary', the ad reminds one of long-form infomercials featuring personal success stories. It has been widely appreciated by the internet audience and has garnered over eight lakh views in just five days.

About the choice of brand ambassador, Bobby Pawar, managing director & chief creative officer, Publicis Groupe, says, "Ambuja Cement stands for giant compressive strength. Bingo! Jigar Fernandes suggested that we use a giant. We built on that and came up with the idea of doing a mockumentary (mock documentary) on a man of giant proportions, and how he struggles to live and fit in a world and home that are not built to handle his giant strength. Khali is a giant who has his own giant following."

How easy was it to convince the wrestler to create humour at his own cost? Pawar says, "We didn't have to convince Khali much, because the ad doesn't mock him. If you go by the comments in social media, while people are laughing at what he goes through, they end up being charmed by him."

Ajay Kapoor

Bobby Pawar

Partha Sinha

It is noteworthy that many on social media have pointed out the ad's similarity to the iconic 'Mr. W' ad from 2008 for Eupron.

On the strategic front, Partha Sinha, managing director, Publicis Groupe, adds, "Ambuja has the reputation for being the strongest cement. We needed to look at a new narrative to tell the strength story. Something that's fresh, engaging and brings the point home. The Great Khali helped us do all of that. Both the brand and the endorser fed off each other's reputation for strength."

The cement category has always tried to incorporate emotions, stories and family bonds in its communication; however, the ads have stayed fairly simple. Ambuja Cement has been experimenting with its advertising - from humour in the famous 'Bhaiya ye deewar tut-ti kyu nahi hai' ad, featuring Boman Irani, to the more recent ads taking a stand against social divisions and disparities in 'Arjun Deewar' and 'Jaat-Paat' TVCs. However, through all its campaigns, the brand's core proposition has been 'strength'.

This campaign will not be aired on television, but will be extended to OOH, digital, BTL and radio; brand ambassador Khali will also be seen in the brand's further communication.

Taking about the campaign, Ajay Kapoor, MD & CEO, Ambuja Cement, says, "Since the beginning, Ambuja Cement has believed in making the strongest cement. People look at strength as the most important aspect in cement. The idea was to use Khali in a very interesting way to portray Ambuja Cement's strength. After all, the strongest man needs the strongest house to live in."

Built to last?

KV Sridhar, chief creative officer, SapientNitro, appreciates the ad. "It's important to keep two things in mind in such a creative - believeability and light-hearted humour, both of which have been incorporated," he says. He adds that making it in a documentary style, incorporating the family and the innocence of Khali are the stand-out elements of the ad.

KV Sridhar

Santosh Padhi

He informs that cement is one of the first categories to have started talking to consumers, and brought in homes and people in its communication. However, he adds, "The last funny ad we saw in the category was for Hathi cement by Prasoon Pandey, where the ghost can't get through the wall. After many years, we have seen a thoroughly enjoyable ad."

Inferring that the brand will be able to create recall with the ad, he says, "It is important to build association of the brand with one functional benefit - in this case, its strength. As long as the viewer remembers the connection of strength with the cement, the brand will always be top of mind."

Santosh Padhi, co-founder and chief creative officer, Taproot India, says that the ad is a great example of choosing the right celebrity. "The brand connect is far stronger to me than what would have been if Amitabh or Sachin was used. Khali is a huge guy and to use him around the set the way you want could be a nightmare; this is very well handled," he comments.

Padhi's favourite bit from the ad is the dining table shot, where Khali is seen crashing through the floor. He is certain that Ambuja Cement will enjoy high recall owing to this ad. "Every male undergarment ad has a celebrity, but as the creatives are bad and follow a format of communication, consumers will certainly not remember who is who. But they will surely remember something like this which ticks all the right boxes," he adds.

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