Ola spot lynched online for being sexist; Withdrawn

By Ashwini Gangal and Suraj Ramnath , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | April 25, 2016
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The latest campaign for Ola Micro, created by Happy Creative Services, addresses the price-sensitive Indian consumer. One of the three new ads has been bashed by netizens, who perceive it as extremely sexist. Ola has promised to pull it off air.

In a move to put its most affordable foot forward, app-based cab hailing service Ola recently launched a new three-film ad campaign. One of the three ads has been virtually lynched; many consumers have perceived it as sexist. In the ad, a young couple is out shopping. The man pays for all the things that catch his girlfriend's fancy.

Over the weekend, Ola tweeted, "We understand one of our TVCs has ended up hurting some sentiments. We've pulled it down. However, #OlaMicro continues to run at Rs.6/km."

Social media has become a powerful tool in the palm of the angry Indian consumer. In the face of mass criticism, brands have little choice but to appease the miffed mob by withdrawing the ad they find objectionable, despite the cost involved.

Raghuvesh Sarup

Kartik Iyer

Recently, Havells withdrew an ad ('Main Pankha Hoon') after it raked in criticism on social media. Inspired by the then topical reservation row in Haryana, the ad found itself in the midst of controversy because it took a stand against reservation. Earlier this month, following social media furore, Amazon apologised for, and pulled down, a billboard in Bengaluru because it upset a certain community - a pity, given how hard the brand is trying to crack local insights in this market. Rewind a little more and Kalyan Jewellers' ad, that got bashed online for being racist and pro-child abuse, comes to mind.

Controversy aside, here's what Ola's campaign is all about....

Before the mobile app-based taxi hailing segment came to India, an 'AC cab ride' was associated with a certain amount of affluence. This is no longer the case as players in this segment battle it out on the product -and communication- front by offering pocket-friendly options.

Ola's new campaign promotes Ola Micro, its 'Rs.6 per km' offering. The humour-laden campaign, created by Happy Creative Services, underscores the affordability factor.

Besides TV and digital, the brand is using hyper-local media (including outdoor and print) at the city -and even locality- level; this communication uses local languages and contexts.

Speaking about why Ola decided to harp on cost effectiveness, Raghuvesh Sarup, chief marketing officer and head of categories, Ola, says, "Micro is economical for users to make it their daily choice of commute, and, given its price point, also the first AC cab ride for many millions. In fact, over 75 per cent of Micro users are first-time cab users on the Ola platform."

About the brief, he says, "For the TVC, our creative brief to the agency was to create a campaign that resonates with the young Indian customer, since Micro is a 'Made for India' offering. This segment includes young adults, early jobbers and working professionals."

The objective of Ola Micro is to make AC cab rides more affordable for millions of Indians, especially those who are new to this segment. "...Micro, as a category, is an absolute game-changer for India. We wanted to bring alive to people the fact that we can end up spending so much more on a normal walk than we ever will on a comfortable ride in an Ola Micro," says Kartik Iyer, co-founder and chief executive officer, Happy Creative Services.

Spandan Mishra

Anu Joseph

Does the campaign work?

"Absolutely," says Spandan Mishra, head, strategic planning, Rediffusion Y&R. "There is a distinct value proposition here. In the era of 'surge pricing', it's always comforting to know you are travelling this cheap. I think the 'cost per kilometer' angle is a smart creative take. The message is loud and clear and the idea is truly campaign-worthy. All three films work," he says.

Anu Joseph, executive creative director, Creativeland Asia, says, "Everything else is parity. Cost is the only thing the Indian consumer is looking at right now and it's well highlighted in the campaign."

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