Sample this -girl meets boy; they click, sing and frolic around a beautiful city of some first-world country. While the plot seems to be a straight lift from one of those done-to-death Bollywood movies, what if we tell you that the boy is actually a mobile phone and that the 13-minute-long video is actually an ad for a brand?
Oppo's recent digital film for its 'F5' handset is a star-studded affair. Directed by 'Aashiqui 2' fame film-maker Mohit Suri, it features actors Sidharth Malhotra and Kriti Kharbanda in lead roles. While the Chinese handset manufacturer is no stranger to pumping money incessantly into ad campaigns, this one tops the lot.
Recall the old Oppo ads starring Deepika Padukone - none of them match the recent one's opulence and splendour. Apart from gloss, the film's utilisation of a celebrity as the product itself, coupled with a lengthy runtime, is sure to turn heads. A look at what adland's experts have to say...
Sidharth Malhotra = Oppo Phone; ultimate level of mascotisation?
In today's day and age having a celebrity on-board is no big deal, in fact, it is about out-shouting competition in the media buying game. So, the manner in which this film innovates and transforms Malhotra into the living-breathing version of the Oppo F5 smartphone seems to be an ultimate level of 'mascotisation'. Priti Nair, director, Curry Nation, agrees and says, "I really can't predict what it will do for the brand, but it's a very unconventional and an interesting use of a celebrity and I really liked it! Also, I can't remember a brand that has used a celebrity like this. It is usually endorsements only."
K.V. Sridhar, founder and chief creative officer, Hyper Collective Creative Technologies, though impressed with Malhotra's personification as a mobile-phone, finds it to be nothing new. He states, "Brands have used people as a metaphor in the past and that's no big deal. Look at Onida, it is built on that. After all, who is the TV in the 'NV' ads?"
Ashok Lalla, digital business advisor, is unmoved by the creative treatment of the ad. "The film seemed to be a mix of a music video and a metro-millennial film, with a couple of clichés around 'inner beauty' and 'destiny, not dream' thrown in. More than a brand film, it could well have been an extended trailer for another hackneyed Bollywood movie," he opines.
13-minute-plus runtime - a deal-breaker?
In times when YouTube pre-roll videos are ruling the roost and dwindling consumer attention is giving advertisers sleepless nights; does this video stand the test of time? Sridhar notes, "Length has absolutely nothing to do with the video's success. Earlier, movies used to have two intervals and it was alright. But the moment a brand enters, your video statistics will dip. The video is painfully long because you know the end."
The video has garnered over 17 million views on YouTube in a short span. "It's not the number of people who clicked and started watching, it's the number of people who watched till the end which matters," Sridhar chuckles and adds, "Apart from you, me and the client, I don't think anyone would have watched it till the end!"
Sridhar's comments resonate with Lalla, who notes, "I would not have watched it beyond two minutes if I wasn't reviewing it. While it apparently has garnered 17 million views, an interesting way to evaluate its impact will be to look at the number of views over 60 seconds, 2 minutes and 3 minutes. The product's first introduction in the film only happened at 2:20 and I think that a vast majority of viewers would have dropped off by that time. So much effort and production cost wasted on a 13-minute-long film!"
So then what is the ideal runtime? Nair, however, is not quite sure, "The long/ short version is something I have not been able to put my finger on yet. Today we are doing 30-second master-films with edits and 60-second film for digital. So it is as ironic as that! However, everyone is watching long format on WhatsApp/ YouTube and everyone views it till the end. Despite being long, they get forwarded as well. This is provided the content is good."
Lalla adds, "Long form content, for the sake of it, is a waste just as doing a 6-second video for the sake of creating 'snackable content'. Without a clear purpose, content will do nothing for a brand; right-sized content that does the job and then stops to let viewers act (consider, try, buy the brand) is what makes a piece of communication work, whatever its format may be - video, print, digital, outdoor or in-shop."
"I think more than the merits or otherwise, of this specific creative storyline, what needs a discourse is the content strategy," informs Ashish Khazanchi, managing partner, Enormous, when questioned about the returns which the brand could yield from the video. He adds, "We'll actually see more such (over ten-minute-long) mini-featurettes evolving in the coming days."
However, Khazanchi believes that the nature of the content will certainly improve. "I think content strategy wise, this piece is on point. I'd like to see specialist feature writers getting into crafting these mini-featurettes, like we saw with Ahilya and Royal Stag. There are enough number of younger folks consuming such content on their commutes etc. and if the story emanates from the brand's DNA, there's no reason why these wouldn't push the brand agenda forward," he explains.
Lalla however, is unsure about what the brand is trying to achieve through this film. He says, "It does nothing for me. Would I consider an Oppo or recommend it to someone after having watched the film? No!"
Could a better video be conceptualised, given that it is an expensive one? "The funds could well have been used differently and yet delivered real results beyond the vanity metrics of 17 million views and the feel-good factor of having produced a super long ad," shares Lalla. Moreover, Sridhar labels the video as a "wasted opportunity".
The Karan Johar connect
"I applaud the intent of the film," says Sridhar and adds, "...but the video looks like a Karan Johar movie where everything looks perfect and is shot in 'dreamy' foreign locations where characters are wearing designer costumes, pursuing clichéd hobbies and ambitions of becoming models and rock stars. You can't stereotype more than that! My point is very simple, today, people online are not consuming Karan Johar films. Rather, they are watching films like 'Bareili Ki Barfi' since they are far more rooted in the real world."
Sridhar goes on to add that excess emphasis to beautify each and every frame has ended up making the film look superficial. He says, "There are a lot of ways in which one can portray an underdog winning. When you do that correctly, then viewers' hearts will go out to him/her. But when you take a lazy person as the protagonist, who has everything - from good looks to designer clothes; you end up asking: what else does she need? When she wins, you don't feel anything since other than running around with Sidharth Malhotra, there is absolutely nothing in the film which actually shows her hardships. There are so many people in the USA who are struggling to convert their dreams into reality, who share rooms with 10-12 people and have limited money. The story needs to be a non-cliché and real."