Why are these stand-up comics mocking the great Indian OTP?

By Sankalp Dikshit , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | June 14, 2017
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Digital influencers Kaneez Surka, Cyrus Sahukar and Jeeveshu Ahluwalia make a case for PayU, a payment gateway brand.

PayU India has launched a new ad campaign which celebrates laziness. The campaign titled, '#BeLazy' features stand-up comedians such as Cyrus Sahukar, José Covaco, Jeeveshu Ahluwalia and Kaneez Surka in short videos of around thirty seconds each. As of now, three ad films have gone live on the brand's YouTube channel while the rest of them would be released in coming months.

The payment gateway brand has expanded its service offerings to include a deferred payment scheme that goes with the name of LazyPay. The aim is to drive faster purchase experiences and convenience by reducing friction on online checkouts and achieving a zero-drop situation for online payments. In simpler terms, the facility works like a credit card where one can avail the product/facility and pay later. The credit limit can extend from Rs. 3,000 up to Rs. 10,000 depending upon the purchasing behaviour of the customer.

Speaking about the target audience for the brand's latest offering, Abhijit Bhattacharya, head marketing, consumer business, PayU India tells afaqs!, "LazyPay is a unique convenience and premium checkout platform targeted towards savvy users in the age group of 18-30 years who transact frequently on the internet and are very active in the digital space. Hence we have focused on the digital space for our ongoing marketing campaign. We want to provide them with a premium experience for payment akin to the way they experience privilege at an airport check-in if they travel frequently."

The first ad featuring Cyrus Sahukar was released on YouTube on June 8, 2017 and has till now fetched over a million views. The other two videos star Kaneez Surka and Jeeveshu Ahluwalia. The three ads portray stand-up comedians narrating their online shopping ordeals to an audience. In the ads, One Time Password (OTP) dominates the discussion and claims the top spot as the most irritating part about online shopping.

Abhijit Bhattacharya

Varun Duggirala

Speaking on the ad campaign, Bhattacharya says, "... it is pertinent that we talk to the audience in a language that they understand and talk to them through people whom they understand. That is precisely where the stand-up comics come in and create content that leads to real life situations of inconvenient payment check-outs. The brand films are going to be content driven and the comedians are given a free reign to create their own content which culminates in a comic real-life situation."

"Our first film has a complete view rate of almost 2 times more than the industry average on YouTube - which clearly demonstrates the power of content-driven advertising." he adds.

The ad campaign has been crafted and conceptualised by The Glitch. We got in touch with Varun Duggirala, co-founder & content chief, The Glitch, to gather an insight into his experience while shooting the ads. He says, "The process was a lot more organic as compared to how we generally work. We are calling these ads, 'advertainment' - they are entertaining and also communicate brand features. We wanted it to be wide reaching, so we utilised humour to spread the message. However, the trick was to make sure that at no point is the balance lost. Humour should not dilute brand communication. This was the toughest part for us."

Stand-up comedians are not new to promoting financial services. Remember this year's ICICI's ad campaign featuring comedian Abish Mathew? Speaking about casting, Duggirala says, "The interesting thing is that stand-up comedians are currently the celebrities of the digital space which is why we chose a number of comedians who cater to different segments of consumers. If you see a video from Cyrus or José, they are all going to have different content which everyone can relate to. Online influencers right now are stand-up comedians and people who really like watching their content. We wanted to leverage that and then build on top of it."

For the record, LazyPay has clocked over 9,000 transactions with an average ticket size of 600 - 650 in the initial few days of its pilot launch in April 2017.

But does it cut?

Casting stand-up comedians in ad films seems to have become the order of the day. Naresh Gupta, managing partner and chief strategy officer, Bang in the Middle, tells afaqs!, "Having comedians as faces of brands is happening because a lot of these ads are being shared online, particularly on WhatsApp. Brands are looking at - 'What will make people consume me on Whatsapp?' Nowadays, stand-up comedians are becoming quasi celebrities. It helps brands stand out from the clutter and also provide some bit of celebrity appeal to find an organic attraction on the digital medium. They are easier to sign since they are more approachable and affordable. However, the issue with finance as a category is that if you trivialise it, you are trivialising people's hard earned money."

Speaking about LazyPay's concept of simplifying online transactions, Gupta says, "There is one big trouble that these ads have, are they really solving a problem? Today, signing up for a financial transaction is not very complex, they don't really ask for the kind of details that the comedians are making fun of, and I would rather go through that wee bit of tiny inconvenience than go through the kind of convenience LazyPay is referring to. I think the ads are well meaning, but the tonality and the promise are so over the top that they may have a very short shelf life."

Naresh Gupta

K. Vaitheeswaran

Going by past examples of ads featuring comedians, it can be observed that such campaigns generally have high ad recall while brand recall is low. Gupta explains, "I don't know what long term or brand recall is for a lot of these brands. I don't see LazyPay having a fifteen year perspective on the brand because the technology evolves so fast that the next version of LazyPay maybe completely different from what they have put out right now."

For long, Indians have viewed digital platforms for financial transactions with scepticism. Does the new ad campaign make any progress in familiarising the digital process with the 'desi' audience? K. Vaitheeswaran, serial entrepreneur, internet and e-commerce pioneer, tells afaqs!, "Mostly, it is a good idea to look for celebrities who convey a certain characteristic that is associated with the product or service. So, if you look at financial services, you probably look for celebrities who convey an element of safety and security since people are concerned about using an online payment gateway. They have chosen to go with comedians. Using humour to communicate the message is perfectly unique and different but that is exactly the reason I would worry about since it links financial services to humour which can be risky."

Not too convinced with the brand's communication, Vaitheeswaran says, "Brand Communication would always be lacking in such ads because the celebrity will override the brand's features since you are trying to use an attribute of the celebrity which is not in sync with your brand. Perhaps it will work, but on the face of it, my first response to this ad is that the brand is not standing out as much as it should."

AGENCY CREDITS

Creative Director: Prashant Kohli
Creative team: Arjun Jetly, Aniket Chaudhary, Ritesh Waingankar, Srishti Seth
Business Head and Managing Partner: Kabir Kochhar
Business Director: Piyush Sood

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