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"By the end of the shoot, my feet were covered in blisters": Director of the Riso ad everyone's talking about

By Sankalp Dikshit , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | July 18, 2017
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Riso Ricebran Oil has released a video that features and addresses the Indian housewife.

What are the odds that you see an Indian woman with a backpack traversing the beautiful landscapes of Europe, all alone? No, we are not talking about Kangana Ranaut's daring act of going to her honeymoon alone in the movie Queen. Neither are we talking about Sridevi's movie English Vinglish where she challenged her family's status quo by leading a secret life in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. We are in fact, talking about Riso Ricebran Oil's latest ad that takes us through the holiday of a married Indian woman who decides to travel alone in order to live life to the hilt and on her own terms.

There are no piping hot 'samosas' or crispy 'pakodas' to feast your eyes on in the new ad. The cooking oil brand takes a bold new turn by looking past traditional advertising strategies. Vinay Chawla, chief executive officer, Kamani Foods, tells afaqs!, "I trust you recognize that this video is not meant to be a product commercial. When my team thought of this video, it was to convey the belief that life is meant to be lived 100/100. In every choice that we make and the way we live, being 100% in everything we do is what makes our lives meaningful. This is what Riso stands for and we wanted to say this as honestly and directly as possible - so yes, it didn't seem to be risky in any way."

The new ad has a stark resemblance to Bollywood movies - Queen (Left) and English Vinglish (Right) The new ad has a stark resemblance to Bollywood movies - Queen (Left) and English Vinglish (Right)

The film was released on YouTube on July 13, 2017 and has been garnering traction on social media platforms. However, the media plan for the same has not been decided yet. "We are working on it. The larger brand communications will be around this in the future," says Chawla.

Raveena Tandon has been associated with the brand in the capacity of a brand ambassador. However, the new ad places content as the star attraction. Chawla explains, "I personally think this is a very simple message and the video was ideated to keep the message as the central theme. I don't think there was any specific intent to be unconventional or play safe either - rather, the intent was a very genuine and authentic portrayal of the brand manifesto."

Vinay Chawla Vinay Chawla

The ad film which has been crafted and conceptualised by the creative agency, Underdog, is not a stand-alone communication medium in this campaign. Two months back, a series of outdoor ads, print ads and radio spots along with mall activation initiatives were carried on for the brand. We got in touch with Vistasp Hodiwala and Vikram Gaikwad, founders and chief creative officers, Underdog, who told us that the ad film was not a planned one - destiny had a role to play.

Hodiwala says, "The film was never a part of the original plan, but the response to the print ad was very special and that's when the client wondered if there is something bigger than can happen here. We got in touch with Ram (Subramanian) and then conceptualised this from scratch. There was a lot of back and forth but the client was a delight to work with and backed us all the way. We wouldn't have wanted this any other way, frankly!"

Vistasp Hodiwala and Vikram Gaikwad Vistasp Hodiwala and Vikram Gaikwad

The concept which seems interesting isn't exactly a novelty anymore. In times when concept is the king, how does one ensure freshness, especially when one has already seen something similar before? Gaikwad explains, "We think the only way to make a difference is by being 'interestingly different' and compelling in the content one creates for the brand. Also, the idea of 'breaking the norm' assumes even more challenging overtones in the case of women because of the boundaries and expectations that society has unfairly imposed upon them. In that case, it is storytelling that makes a real difference in the sense that when it plugs a deep-seated gap in the consumer's life, its freshness becomes something to celebrate by default."

Ram Subramanian Ram Subramanian

We spoke to the director of the film to get an insight into the action behind the scenes. Ram Subramanian, ad film-maker/peace and equality activist, Handloom Picture Company, tells afaqs!, "It was a physically exhausting schedule, racing to multiple locations while we were keeping an eye on the light conditions. My feet were covered with blisters by the end of the shoot. One thing that I would like to share in particular, is the shot where the Eiffel tower is seen in the background. We shot at the same time that the current French president was announced as the country's leader. The energy in Paris on that day, was something else."

The ad which is around three minutes long was shot across twenty five different locations in and around France, Italy and Switzerland. "From Paris to Milan to Rome to obscure locations and towns that are not on the map. I am not kidding, we shot in castle towns, villages and fields that no tourist goes to," adds Subramanian.

But does this Euro trip have a happy ending?

The film which is a treat to watch certainly has a bigger agenda than just pleasing your eyes. We asked the experts to gauge their views on this ad film. Kailash Surendranath, director Kailash Picture Company, says, "My first response after seeing the film is that I quite liked the concept. I was watching and listening throughout the length of the film with full attention waiting to see what it was about, though eventually, I did feel a bit let down by what seemed to be a forced connection between living life a 100% and the 100% 'Ricebran' oil. I did feel somewhere, that the client's purpose was lost with such a superfluous connection."

Kailash Surendranath Kailash Surendranath

Nilesh Vaidya Nilesh Vaidya

Speaking about the ad execution, Surendranath says, "I did feel that there were certain things about the film that could've been done differently. First of all, she seemed too lonely and isolated right through and hence the film lost some amount of candidness; a travelogue such as this does require some friendly interaction with people in cafes, on the street, in trains, etc. Some of the scenes seemed a bit cliched, like the Eiffel Tower (Paris has so many points of view for this, so why such a post card angle?) and blowing the dandelion as well as editing the cake shop so literally. I wish the camera work didn't look so set up. It would have had a wonderful look if it was shot hand-held with smaller cameras."

Surendranath adds, "I also wish her styling was more casual and western at times instead of the forced Indian housewife look. Using Hindi or any regional language in the voice-over may have suited the personality of the housewife much more. Her thoughts being conveyed in English seemed incongruous with the look."

Nilesh Vaidya, director, Workship Communications, tells afaqs!, "The film dragged for me. I think, 'Live 100/100' is a really nice position to take, but let us put things in context. There have been dozens of escape/travel/backpack films before this one, and after a point, it started looking and sounding like any one of those. The narrative could have been a little more flavourful. Apart from being too long, there was nothing really wrong with the film, but nothing too right, either."

Speaking about brand connect, Vaidya says, "Should the branding have been stronger, or should there have been food/cooking shots? I don't think the objective of a video like this is to sell cooking oil; rather, it is to create likability for the brand. And for a lot of people who are not as jaded as us in advertising, maybe it will do that. It might make them feel a little more receptive the next time they see the oil in a supermarket aisle."

When asked about the manner in which Vaidya would have crafted this film, he confesses, "If only making something was as easy as dissecting it!"

A look at brand's previous advertising efforts in the same campaign of 'Live 100/100'.

Agency Credits:

Written by: Underdog Creative Team
Production house: Handloom Picture Company/The Dzu Film Company
Producer: Aamir Uzeffa
Director: Ram Subramanian

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