"This is not potshot advertising": Lowe's Arun Iyer on Idea ads that appear to mock Jio and Airtel

By Suraj Ramnath , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | January 31, 2017
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Idea Cellular's new spots caution consumers against 'free data' offers out there.

It is an open secret that telecom brands are responding to Reliance Jio's free data offer. An offer that Jio has been providing its consumers since late 2016. Only recently, Airtel came up with its outdoor ad featuring Sasha Chettri wooing people to move to the network and enjoy it's 4G services for one year.

Recently, Idea Cellular launched its new TVCs taking a potshot at Jio and Airtel's strategy by showing that free isn't always good. But what really matters is the quality of streaming online. The ads have been conceptualised by Lowe Lintas.

There comes a point in every brand's lifecycle where it ends up relying on potshot advertising. In the 1990's, it was cola companies and then a few years back it was mobile marketing companies; in the recent past, it has been FMCG brand Patanjali that has been taking a dig at 'videshi' companies (for example, Colgate). Now it seems like Idea Cellular is taking its turn to do the same.

In the initial ads for Idea Cellular, featuring Bollywood actor Vikrant Massey, the brand focused on the benefits of its 4G services. We asked Arun Iyer, chief creative officer, Lowe Lintas, why they've chosen to take a dig at Jio and Airtel.

Reliance Jio's print ad promoting its introductory offer

Iyer replies, "I don't think this is potshot advertising. Off late, there has been too much conversation about the value and price (within the telecom category) and there has been very little conversation about the quality one can provide. So we felt the need to bring the conversation back to quality through the route of, 'don't just look for value, look for quality as well' which Idea can provide. So yes, it is a little tongue-in-cheek on that front."

Arun Iyer

There's no denying that everyone loves freebies. But will this new campaign by Idea Cellular convince people that 'All that glitters is not gold'?

Iyer says, "We have always been different with Idea's advertising and have based it on real consumer insights. Here the insight was, anything free is always exciting but comes with a nagging doubt of where it is the best? And that doubt exists for all of us." "The commercial is a light and witty take on what's going on in the category right now and hence we are saying 'No FreeG, Use Idea 4G'. It kind of reinforces the belief that one should look for great quality and not for some offers and freebies," he says.

We asked our expert if this is a good time to be a consumer with telecom companies offering freebies to grab their attention and loyalty.

Mahesh Uppal

Mahesh Uppal, an independent telecom analyst, says, "It is a bold idea to highlight that free often means services that are poor quality and unreliable. However, the problem is that no operator, including Idea, gives a guarantee on the quality of service for any of their 2G, 3G or 4G networks. So Idea's claim or promise is at best, weak."

He adds, "Yes, the intense competition is great for consumers who would welcome the freebies. However, there is little evidence that the consumers are getting decent and reliable speeds. Sooner or later, the companies will be judged on more than prices."

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