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Kama Sutra: Playing on the mind

By , agencyfaqs! | In | November 25, 2002
The soon-to-be-launched multimedia campaign for Kama Sutra does away with erotica, and uses fun situations to show how sex is always at the top of men's minds


Times were when ads for condoms in India were all about couples gingerly holding hands, silhouetted against the vermilion of the setting sun. Sans the brand name and the much-sanitized copy, the ads almost looked like ones for some holiday resort - or even a pension scheme. All that changed in the early nineties, when the just-launched (by JK Ansell) - and suggestively branded - Kama Sutra (KS, in abbreviation) blitzed the market with some bold advertising. A drenched Pooja Bedi cavorted on a desolate strip of beach in itsy-bitsy pieces of cloth, triggering palpitations among the male of the species. And the sex aspect of condom advertising came into the open. Since then, couples in KS ads have routinely gone into a tight clinch, helping the brand score in terms of recall.

Tight clinch. Now that is something that is conspicuous in its absence in the new multimedia campaign for the brand, which is scheduled to hit mass media later this week. The campaign, devised by Ambience D'Arcy, consists of three 20-second television commercials and four print ads.

The commercials being the campaign idea drivers, let's size up two of the commercials briefly. The first ('waiting room') has a guy and a girl seated in a waiting room. The girl, who is carrying a tote bag with a zip down its front, unzips the bag, slides her hand in and absent-mindedly starts feeling around for something. The guy looks up and notices the girl's hand 'exploring'. He turns a shade, squirms a little… and then smiles to himself. Cut to the camera focused on the guy. 'So what are you thinking of?' the voiceover asks, signing off with 'Kama Sutra'.

The second ad ('restaurant') is about this young executive seated at a restaurant table with his boss and a lady colleague. As they pour over the menu, the skirt-clad woman crosses her legs. The act catches the executive attention and he… well, stiffens. The woman absent-mindedly starts preening her hair, which has an effect on the executive. As he fidgets, the waiter starts unscrewing ('uncorking' is the right word, actually) a bottle of wine. The executive sees the corkscrew working on the cork, gets some more ideas and smiles a tad sheepishly. 'So what are you thinking of?' asks the voiceover.

A far cry from the smouldering 'blue-toned' passion exhibited by the likes of Bedi, Anu Agarwal and Viveka Babajee in days gone by. Of course, it's all by design. "KS was the first condom brand that actually talked about making love through its 'pleasure of making love' platform," Elsie Nanji, vice-chairman and chief creative officer, Ambience D'Arcy, sketches the background. "And this was something that KS' advertising has adhered to for a long time. However, of late, there have been changes in the environment that have forced us to re-look at the communication."

The changes Nanji refers to are essentially on two fronts. One, 'the pleasure of making love' thought is something that is being echoed even by competition. The Durex commercial, for instance, is all about couples in various stages of foreplay. And last year's ad for Kohinoor was basically KS-on-the-lawn. What's more, the advertising for related products such as aphrodisiacs have started assuming strong KS overtones. "In terms of treatment, there was no advertising differentiator for KS," says Nanji. The second problem that the brand has been facing pertains to censorship. "Over the past few years, ads for KS have been pulled off air routinely," she continues. "For some reason or the other, channels and publications would not run the ads. So we had to figure something new, and came up with this idea."

The idea at the heart of the latest campaign is rooted in the popular belief that men always have sex playing on their minds. (This is one category where men are still the primary decision-makers, which is why the ads show the male standpoint.) "We chose situations that were perfectly normal, but if seen with a slant (the male slant, that is), could suggest a lot," says Nanji. "Small things that can put a germ of an idea into your head - if your head works that way. But we did it all in a fun manner, the way people share dirty jokes over email. With this campaign, we've brought sex into the open not in an erotic way but in a fun way. And it is a leadership stance - KS asking you what's on your mind. And we're only asking you, mind it. It's you and your mind that provide the answers."

Clearly, the idea is to occupy share-of-mind. And that is something KS needs to pursue actively, especially considering the brand has not been advertised in two years (although variant KS Sport was quite visible in the media last year). "KS has been living on the good old Pooja Bedi magic," admits Siddhartha Singh, associate account director, Ambience D'Arcy. "It needed something new to push it forward."

KS currently has a 27-per cent share (by value) in the estimated Rs 110-crore (650-million-pieces per annum) domestic condom market. Kohinoor leads with 30 per cent, while Moods (12 per cent) and the government's hugely subsidized Nirodh (11 per cent) are the other significant players. Durex has a 2-per cent share, by value. The problem that all these players face is competition from cheap imports that thrive on a combination of erotic imagery (with packaging and branding), trade support (high dealer incentives) and competitive pricing. For instance, a three-pack of KS is retailed at Rs 14, while an equivalent 'import brand' would be priced at Rs 7. In fact, the grey market is believed to have contributed to the de-growth that has hit the organized Indian condom market these past five years.

Singh maintains that despite the slump, KS has been able to retain market shares. "However, the brand did need a fresh feel. Which is why we chose a new route, where the brand acquires a fun, witty personality." Another significant departure in this campaign pertains to the models. In the past, the models - from Bedi to Babajee - were integral to the brand, almost serving as mascots. Here, each ad has a different model, with no effort being made at 'owning' any one face. "Yes, there is no single KS girl or guy, no celebrity," Singh agrees. "But that's because sex can be on anybody's mind. You can't tie it down to any one person." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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