Can these intense visuals spur test drives for the Skoda Kodiaq?

By Sankalp Dikshit , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | October 10, 2017
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In a new spot, the brand ditches car shots for some profound imagery.

Who said you can't mix an array of socio-cultural issues by splashing them up with powerful visuals and in the process somehow create an automobile ad which is meant to raise eyebrows? Well, Czech automobile manufacturer Skoda has done just that in its recent ad for the brand's newly launched SUV - 'Skoda Kodiaq'. In a dramatic narrative, the ad tells us that, 'power should be beautiful'.

The ad utilises various instances to portray how a thing of beauty can present itself as an ugly twin. Be it the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Dandi March, French Revolution, an ever widening economic gap or an acid attack; the ad weaves in all of this and more with a haunting melody (There's always two roads) that plays in the background.

The one-and-a-half-minute-long ad has been crafted and conceptualised by Publicis India. Bobby Pawar, managing director and chief creative officer - South Asia, Publicis India, tells us that despite working on automobile brands like Volkswagen and Jaguar, "...this is one of the really special ones." He explains, "When Jigar (Fernandes) first narrated the idea, I didn't hear him out completely, didn't need to! We both knew that if we did this right, it could be great. The best part is that it was bang on the brief - 'use what is unique about the Skoda Kodiaq to add lustre to the Skoda brand.' The Skoda Kodiaq is an SUV that achieves harmony between great power and great design. This idea brings that to life in a manner that is culturally relevant to these uncertain times. It strikes a note of optimism by showing us a different path."

Tarun Jha Tarun Jha

Bobby Pawar Bobby Pawar

However, the ad deals with sensitive issues which may impact each viewer differently. For instance the shot where we see an acid attack survivor can easily become a topic of discussion or a Twitter war. So, was there any apprehension or dilemma while going ahead with this ad since it's a risky proposition and can swing either way? Pawar elaborates, "This may sound disingenuous, but there was nothing but enthusiasm at both the client's and ours. We believed that people will see the good in what we had to say, that hope will win over cynicism and by all indications, we were not wrong to think so."

Skoda ventured into the Indian market in the year 2001. Tarun Jha, head of marketing and product, Skoda Auto India, says in a press note, "The Skoda Kodiaq is a beautiful car. The word 'beauty' is not usually associated with SUVs, which tends to be associated more with 'power'. This conflict led us to the proposition that 'Power should always be beautiful' and culminated in a larger message that appeals to the goodness in all of us to use our powers beautifully."

Hit or Miss?

A closer look and one can easily spot that the ad features minimal demo shots of the swanky new SUV which is going on sale, thereby refusing to be categorised in the set definition of a 'standard' automobile ad. We asked our experts if in today's day and age, when brands spoon feed viewers, is the desi consumer ready to absorb such higher-order concepts in a car brand's ad?

KV Sridhar KV Sridhar

Harmeet Singh Harmeet Singh

Sidharth Shukla Sidharth Shukla

We got in touch with KV Sridhar aka Pops, founder and chief creative officer, Hyper Collective, who terms the ad as "beautiful and brilliant". He says, "It (ad) does work for the brand. There is no rule that automobile advertising should have a car right from the beginning and I think in today's time, brands are becoming commodities and there is no difference between one car and another. They are all the same!"

He elaborates, "...differentiation is the key however; apart from price point there is absolutely no difference. So how do you sell a car when there is hardly any differentiation? If Skoda says - I have got an intelligent navigation system - then somebody else will also say the same. So where is the differentiation? This is why most of the brands in the world are shifting towards values. When you can get the same set of attributes in another car say, the Rhino, then why would you buy a Skoda? There is no rational reason except for values, which makes all the difference."

Harmeet Singh, senior creative director, Serviceplan India, tells us that he did not expect the ad to unfurl as an automobile ad. He adds, "At first glance, the communication seems to be for a social cause especially when visuals of Jallianwala Bagh and Mother Teresa were shown. The ad is a misfit for the category, but it may just work for them since it is distinct and touches upon a topic that we, as Indians, have felt and seen in our daily lives, but has been scarcely narrated in the brand space."

Moreover, Singh points out that the ad will do well in the award season since it will hit the proverbial nail on the head when put in front of the jury of international creative awards.

Sidharth Shukla, head, Ogilvy One, North India was also quite curious to know just what brand the visuals would end up being associated with. He says, "My head did not narrow it down to a category or a bunch of categories for that matter. It is a lovely ad from Skoda, but I think it will do little for them - their marketing problems are different, maybe the ad gets a lot of good PR, but from an on-ground problem perspective, in my opinion, it won't help."

In terms of whether or not the ad connected with him based on the concepts portrayed and the product, Sidharth says. "... what will get people to buy a Skoda is confidence in the company, confidence in the support they provide to customers and the way they engage with both existing and prospective customers. Be Philosophical on the back of merit, not because you can."

Agency Credits:
Client: Skoda
Brand: Skoda Kodiaq
Agency: Publicis India
MD/CCO: Bobby Pawar
Chief Strategy Officer & Managing Partner: Sudeep Gohil
MD - Srija Chatterjee
COO - Paritosh Srivastava
Creative Head/Copywriter - Jigar Fernandes
Account Management: Atin Wahal, Punit Bhatt, Meghna Kallat
Account Planning: Abhinit Agarwal, Ankul Singh
Films Head: Jignesh Maru
Production House: Prodigious
Director: Lloyd Baptista

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