Indian ad-land is neither a stranger to a protagonist opting for 'unconventional' career choices, nor has it shied away from dissing Indian parents who bully their kids into pursuing so-called 'safe' careers. Taking the narrative forward is the latest digital video released by the Dutch beer brand, Heineken. The five-minute long ad takes the comic route to make a case against the country's most loved professional degree, Engineering.
The campaign titled 'Open Your World', is global and is crafted by the Publicis Group. In its desi rendition, the discussion revolves around the lack of communication that widens the generation gap, thereby causing friction between parents and their children, particularly when the latter follow offbeat careers. Bobby Pawar, managing director and chief creative officer - South Asia, Publicis India, says that the brief was to find a local insight for Heineken's 'Open your world' brand idea. He adds, "The idea came about when we hit upon the realisation that in India, the 'generation gap' is actually born out of a 'conversation gap'. Most parents and children don't talk as openly as they should. And rather than taking a traditional approach and doing a bunch of videos that urge parents and kids to talk openly, we decided to create an interesting way to demonstrate that this was possible."
However, the theme, though relevant, is not new. The track has been explored a number of times in ads, television and movies (remember the 3 Idiots tamasha?). Pawar explains, "We picked the most contentious issue that is relevant to most youngsters and their parents. How we dealt with this topic was unique. We chose to do a social experiment that captured people's current feelings, exposed them to a live performance that tackled and resolved their big issues and then captured their change of heart. It was real and it was live."
The video has a stand-up comedy act by Rudy Singh at the heart of the copy. Interestingly, the film was shot live, with no re-takes. "You have heard of Reality television, well, this is Reality Brand Activation! All the people who were invited to our stand-up comedy show had no idea what they were in for. And how they would react. We believed Rudy's stand-up act was funny and it would strike a chord. But we had no way of knowing whether it would get people to open their minds," shares Pawar.
While the video ends on a happy note, with both parties sorting out their differences over beer, can the same be said for the brand which is mostly missing in action for the most part of this long-format ad film? Samar Singh Sheikhawat, senior vice-president, marketing of the brand's parent company, United Breweries, says, "India is a key market for Heineken and with the 'Open Your World' campaign, we are trying to tap into specific cultural and social pressures to spark conversation. We at Heineken want to be that social lubricant which sparks conversations which ultimately leads people to be more open."
Pawar, however, feels that the ad is not an ad in the "traditional" sense of the word. He informs, "I believe, if the idea is powerful and it resonates with people, the brand will be memorable. Heineken has successfully followed that principle for years."
The brand is looking at a five-week window for executing the campaign, starting 26 January. "In the first week we went live on the primary platforms - Facebook, Twitter and YouTube along with a few seeded digital stories. The second phase of the campaign will involve going live on the Instagram platform. For the first time, we are also making use of Instagram's instant story format "Instagram Story" - wherein a user can click on the brand icon and it would lead them to a short snippet of the video and hyperlink it to the original video," elaborates Sheikhawat.
Sheikhawat tells us that the aim was to make optimum use of social media platforms to amplify content and target the Indian male audience in the 25-40 age bracket. He adds, "We have incorporated a social monitoring tool which enables us to track user sentiments around the campaign. There is a daily analysis of all the feedback from the viewers that comes in and is collated at a central-level with the help of this tool. This further helps us to weigh the positives and negatives that go around the video.
Shotgun or Buzzkill?
Unlike Indian parents, desi ads have welcomed the new-age careers with open arms. With changing times, a visible shift can be seen in the way doctors, engineers and chartered accountants have made way for astronauts, comedians, chefs, and musicians to occupy centre stage in Indian ads. It is essential to note that stand-up comedy is also becoming increasingly popular in the current age. Another beverage brand, Nescafe, featured a stammering comedian on stage in the brand's #ItAllStarts campaign a while back.
Nilesh Vaidya, director, Workship Communications, shares with us his opinion that brands are leaping at the idea of having stand-up acts in place of conventional ads. He says, "I must have pitched that to about five existing and prospective clients in the past couple of years. I'm sure there are many more like me out there. Using stand-up as a creative kink has become something of an expected innovation, if you know what I mean. There's nothing wrong with doing it, but then you either have to be really hilarious or your matter should be totally unexpected. From the bits they've shown in the Heineken video, it was neither. It was 'nice', and we all know what happens to nice."
While the idea of mending bridges between parents and their children over beer may work abroad, does the new video strike the right chord when it comes to Indian sensibilities? Will the brand gain from this film? "Making generations bond over a beer is a good space to be in though. If the creative idea is strong enough, I'm sure the brand will be remembered. However, this one was mild," Vaidya adds.
Speaking about brand insertion, Rahul Mathew, national creative director, DDBMudra Group, says, "The amount of branding in the communication is an exhausting debate that advertising is going through. I believe communication, whether short or long, should strive for 'brandedness' over branding. If the content is attributed to your brand, even if the brand itself makes little or no appearance, then you're high on 'brandedness'. Else your communication has to be so bloody interesting or relevant, that people remember you for bringing it to them. If you haven't managed to do either, then no matter how soon or how often you expose the viewer to the brand, you'll be about as memorable as a tattooed guy at a rock concert. You'll vaguely remember seeing him, but nothing more."