It's the kind of weird humour that usually finds instant appeal among teenagers. And if you've watched enough MTV or [V] - especially the channels' interstitials - you'll know what that means.
It's humour that doesn't necessarily follow a logical course - there is an abruptness in the way it happens. No lead-in, no explanations, no denouement… Just a wacky situation, plucked out of nowhere, that is funny while it lasts, then disappears without the smallest with-your-permission. A kind of suspended-in-mid-air humour that leaves 'mature' audiences mildly nonplussed, but virtually cracks up the younger brigade.
Such is the humour in the two television commercials for newly launched snack brand, Cheez-It. The first ad ('traffic jam') starts in the middle of a traffic snarl, with cars lined up nose-to-tail. Suddenly, one driver pokes his head out of his window and shouts at another driver. The second man, who is busy snacking on a pack of Cheez-It, looks up to see the first stepping out of his vehicle and coming towards him angrily. The man is irate because the man who is snacking has carelessly damaged his car's fender. Gesticulating wildly, he demands an apology.
The second man steps out of his car, surveys the damage and concludes that it is 'minimal'. With a half-shrug he tries to dismiss the matter by saying, "Cheese!" This upsets the other man even more and he starts shouting louder. The second man turns, sneers, and says "Cheese," with an expression that says 'take a hike'. Infuriated, the first chap starts raising a racket. The second man retorts aggressively to everything leveled at him. "Cheese. Cheese, cheese, cheese… CHEESE!"
Just as the fracas seem to be getting out of hand, one bystander - who is also munching on Cheez-It - butts in. "Cheese," he says soothingly, as he tries to separate the noisy twosome. The two don't listen, of course. The first man glares angrily and shouts some more. The second chap growls "Cheese" and makes a lunge. But the mediator gets in the way. "Cheese, cheese," he pats the first man on the back, asking him to cool it. He then shepherds the second man away gently. "Cheese." Finally, he waves his hands in the air and disperses the onlookers. "Cheese… cheese…"
Cut to the pack shot of Cheez-It. The voiceover talks about the product's 'real cheese base'. The concluding super reads: 'Mind mein ghus gayi cheese?' (Has cheese captured the mind?)
The second commercial ('political rally') is about this politician - who has been munching Cheez-It - delivering a packed-with-promises speech. Of course, all that he actually manages saying is "Cheese" in different shades of well-rehearsed melodrama. 'Mind mein ghus gayi cheese?' concludes the super.
"The idea was driven by the one-line brief given by the client - to communicate the fact that Cheez-It has real cheese, in a wacky manner" says Agnello Dias, executive creative director, Leo Burnett. "We took the brief very literally and had fun with it."
Cheez-It, which marks Kellogg India's foray into the Indian snack market, is being pitched as a snack brand with a real cheese base, sans 'flavouring'. "Our source of differentiation is real cheese, so the communication had to suggest the great taste of cheese," says Anirban Mozumdar, group account director, Leo Burnett. "But we had to ensure that the advertising was clutter-breaking because it announced a brand launch in a cluttered market where getting early trials is very critical. So the impact had to be that much more."
To put the launch in perspective, Cheez-It is one of the leading snack brands in the US, and became a part of the Kellogg portfolio when the company acquired the US-based Keebler Foods Company last year. Incidentally, India is the first market outside the US where the brand has been launched. This, coupled with the fact that Kellogg India expects snack foods, as a whole, to contribute to 25 per cent of its turnover in a couple of years' time, mirrors the company's bullishness vis-à-vis the domestic snack market.
"The snack food market in India is showing spectacular growth, and there is huge opportunity here," says Mozumdar. While on one side the sheer size of the market is an attractive proposition, the fact that the market is hugely unorganized has emboldened Kellogg. "There's a lot of potential for branded snacks if they are pitched thoughtfully," Mozumdar adds. "And Kellogg can easily leverage its existing distribution network to penetrate the market. After all, snacks are low-value products with good off-take, so retailers have no problems stocking snacks."
Snack foods do have the benefit of on-the-go purchase. However, the problem with impulse purchases is a brand has to have top-of-mind recall. And this is one area where Lays (Cheez-It's primary competitor in the 'western-style' branded snack segment, along with brands like Cheetos, Pringles and Snax) has a huge edge, by virtue of being around longer. "They have the advantage of time," admits Mozumdar. "We have to break that."
Dias believes that Cheez-It's 'real cheese' promise should work. "Our target audience understands the appeal of cheese," he says. "Cheese is the cola equivalent for the youth as cheese appeals to teen taste buds."
The very fact that the agency had such a sharply defined target audience helped in terms of communication too. "We were very clear about who we were talking to - it was the teens and 'tweens', the MTV crowd," says Mozumdar. "If you see, the situations in both ads are very realistic," Dias takes up. "Very straight even in terms of execution. This was because the content was bizarre. We had to be controlled even while going over-the-top. You have to pitch this kind of humour right for it to appeal to teenagers."
Agency : Leo Burnett
The Team :
Creative : Agnello Dias, Santosh Padhi
Servicing : Aniruddha Banerjee, Anirban Mozumdar, Rakesh Suryanarayan
Production House : Ramesh Deo Films
Filmmaker : Abhinay Deo
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