Assam - the land of mystic beauty - is known mainly for its pristine locations, the one-horned rhino and its tea cultivation. The state, also known as the gateway to north-east India, has a rich legacy of culture and civilisation. To ensure that Assam gets etched on the global tourism map with a list of reasons why one should have it on their bucket list when planning vacations or travels, Assam Tourism has launched its new multimedia campaign with its brand ambassador, Priyanka Chopra.
As of now, only one film has been released on YouTube; the ad film will hit TV screens on November 1, 2017. A total of six films will be launched in a span of one-and-a-half months. The campaign launch has been strategically timed keeping in mind the upcoming tourist season.
Conceived and conceptualized by a seven-member team from the two agencies - Yaap and Crayons - the films have been written by Rondeep Gogoi (senior creative director, Crayons), and directed by Arun Gopalan and Ken Rolston of Storytellers.
Speaking about the campaign, Shouvik Roy, senior partner, Yaap, who is heading the project, says, "Priyanka (Chopra) was signed by Assam almost a year ago, as having a celebrity to promote a state has always helped historically. With this campaign, we are eyeing global tourists and global tourism. That's why we thought Priyanka Chopra to be most suitable."
The three-and-a-half minute video that begins with Priyanka sporting the traditional Assamese Mekhela chador and practising Bihu - the traditional folk dance form of Assam - showcases pristine locations, the Bhupen Hazarika bridge, famous cuisines of the state, dances, craze for football, the Kamakhya Temple and the cultural heritage of the state. As part of the project, a lot of local talent has been included in the campaign to depict the pride of Assam. Auditions for local bands and dance troops were conducted for this.
"The idea of the campaign is to show the cultural diversity and the experience of staying in Assam. It is expected that this film will influence a lot of tourists from the UK, Europe and the Indian diaspora from across the world to visit Assam. We also expect people from south-east Asian countries like Japan, Singapore, China, Thailand, etc. to come here. This campaign is also targeted at domestic travellers, especially those from Gujarat, Bengal and the Metro cities," says Roy.
Talking about the challenges faced during shooting the films, he says, "We started the project just before the Monsoon set in, so time management was a big challenge because we had to wrap up the shoot in a definite time. Another big challenge was covering the geographic vastness and cultural diversity of the state. We had to have multiple crews shooting to cover multiple geographies, themes, etc. The state tourism department helped in guiding and identifying the locations."
Aside from Assam, other states such as Rajasthan, West Bengal, Kashmir, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat, also launched campaigns to promote themselves as tourist destinations. Unlike previous campaigns that were launched some 10-15 years ago, most of the recent campaigns have been in the long format, released on digital platforms first and then on TV or print. We asked the experts 'how tourism advertising has evolved over a period of time or at least in the past decade?'
According to Senthil Kumar, chief creative officer, J. Walter Thompson India, today's travellers do their homework and search engine research on the destination and map out their travels well before the actual date. Therefore, 'Tourism Promotion' or 'Destination Advertising' has to rise up to meet this smart traveller in more ways than one.
"While no one can negate the power of print communication and that will always be the backbone of storytelling, today, almost every hotel chain and location thrives on an inviting audio-visual display or preview of the various attractions. And since a large section of these travellers is booking their tickets and hotels online, it pays to be seen alongside their online booking windows and power up their search engines with stunning long format or visual content that stimulates interest and completes the pitch," Kumar opines.
Agreeing with Kumar, Azazul Haque, chief creative officer, Ogilvy South, says that the traveller has shifted to digital mediums. They follow travel apps, share, like and post travel stories and book tickets and hotels via online portals. "So for the tourism sector to choose the digital platform for communication is quite natural. That's where their audiences, the travellers are," Haque says.
He adds, "Unlike other products and other brands, tourist destinations need to show more. Their products are the destinations. And they also need to lure the well-informed consumer about places that are unexplored. So, the need of long format films arises. Having said that, on Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan tourism, the two brands I have worked on, we didn't follow long format rules. They were 60 seconds long."
Kailash Surendranath, ad film-maker and founder of Kailash Picture Company, a film production company, says, "A recent development is the presence of brand ambassadors for each state - Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, all help to influence vacation decisions of the Indian traveller."
He adds, "Today, so much is choreographed and set up for the camera in order to make a striking visual and the films go in-depth for each region - showcasing local cuisine, people, faces, kids, and streets in villages. Realisation has dawned upon the creative that tourists are adventurous and not just looking for the front view of the Taj Mahal. I believe you just can't always shoot it at any time of the day and expect magic. So, one gets the budget and spends time and effort to create an almost fantasy world of the destination. The ad man tends to shoot a lot and then, while editing, the director hates to let a single brilliant shot go. The result is a director's cut!"
Speaking about the challenges that agencies face while doing a tourism campaign Veneet Raj Bagga, founder and creative director, Onions Creative Media, says "One obvious difference is that of unforeseen contingencies when shooting an experience versus a hard-sell product. The scheduling and planning in this kind of a project can be compared to covering features in a product. The challenge, therefore, is to make the best possible collaborative schedule and plan, keeping unforeseen issues in mind as well. Having said that, product films are within certain diameters, but the possibilities to shoot an experience are endless because it's a land waiting to be explored which, by default, makes it riskier and more difficult to produce.
Furthering the thought, Haque says, "Tourism campaigns need shooting equipment and gadgets that enable us to capture the scale of such places beautifully. More than gadgets and equipment, a tourism campaign needs directors who can capture such scale beautifully."
He adds, "The sudden competition in this category has made the task of luring the traveller tougher. A tourism brand has to keep looking out for newer places to differentiate one state from another. Also, how to make a different looking tourism campaign is the biggest challenge for the agencies and the production houses."
A look at some of the recently launched tourism campaigns: