Do you remember the adrenalin rush you had while watching action sequences from 'Game of Thrones' where Dothraki tribesmen (nomadic horse-mounted warriors) swept across the vast central plains of mythical Essos in search of plunder? A glimpse of the latest ad campaign from Mahindra & Mahindra, released for its face-lifted XUV500, can give you that same feeling. The two-minute-long video takes forward the 'May Your Life Be Full Of Stories' idea, which was introduced in 2012. While the first campaign was about the drive through the Serengeti in search of a cheetah, the second film, released in 2015, was about a road trip where a group of friends meet an orangutan that steals their camera and takes pictures.
And even if it's after three years, the auto major has successfully rolled out an engaging communication that remains true to its core product proposition of a premium off-roader - stunning looks, plush interiors, auto transmission and a full demonstration of its off-roading capabilities through visual stunts in captivating locations.
Conceptualised and created by FCB Interface, the ad film weaves in a romantic storyline of an archetypal hero saving a damsel in distress... aka an adrenalin-pumped opening sequence from a typical James Bond movie. Touching both the rational as well as the aspirational chord of the premium off-roader target mindset, the narrative of the TVC strikes the sweet spot between the comforts of the daily city commute coupled with the thrills of weekend adventures.
"In today's time people are continuously looking out for newer experiences - visit new places, taste new cuisines, meet new people, et al. That's the insight the brand has always been bringing up because the XUV500 is a comfortable off-roader. Hence the theme remains the same," says Robby Mathew, chief creative officer, FCB Interface.
"We explored quite a few story ideas, out of which this particular one stands out because it had a movie-like quality to it," Mathew adds.
Shot in Amman (the national capital of Jordan) and the Wadi Rum desert, which has been used as the backdrop for a number of Hollywood blockbusters such as 'Lawrence of Arabia', 'The Martian', 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' etc., the action sequence has been captured on an actual heritage train of Jordan that has passed through the desert since the Victorian era.
"It was a complicated shoot spanning six days and we had taken top angle shots from a helicopter of the moving train and horses while fighting the hostile weather conditions in the desert. Also, every 6-7 hours, due to the blowing wind, the train tracks used to get covered under the sand. So, every time the sand had to be removed from the tracks before the train could move. But it was a great experience because the car manoeuvred wonderfully on the red sand," says Mathew.
The brand and the agency deliberately attempted to tell the story in a movie-like format, hence wide-angle shots were taken to establish the landscape and make the audience crave the opportunity to explore that place themselves. Also, special attention has been paid to acoustics and sound design - whining of horses, the chugging of trains etc.
The ad film has been released on television and in movie theatres because the brand feels that this kind of narrative is perfect for big screen presentation. However, small poster campaigns are carried out at dealerships while the brand plans to take the campaign forward on print as well as digital platforms over the next few weeks.
We asked the experts whether the new campaign succeeds in creating enough buzz and if would actually influence the viewers and customers to buy or at least test drive the new XUV500.
Ayan Banik, head - brand strategy, Cheil India, says, "What is noteworthy here is the timing of this communication. After a gap of almost three years, why did the brand release an ad film, that too in a segment where it had near monopoly (with the XUV500 and Scorpio)? The answer may be that Mahindra & Mahindra might be facing the heat from the newly-launched Jeep Compass - an iconic American brand with a long legacy and playing in similar price segment as that of XUV500."
According to Banik, the most interesting thing is the strikingly similar yet different communication approaches of the two brands - both highlighting the importance of mythical stories to capture the imagination of the buyer.
"While Mahindra has talked about 'an enriched life filled with marvellous adventure stories', Jeep has created enigmatic films around the concept of 'Indian Fables'. While Mahindra, being an Indian brand, is creating aspirations by borrowing international/ global codes (in the earlier film it was more like an Amazonian tribal set-up), in the current film, it's more like a Genghis Khan kind of a desert chase sequence. On the other hand, Jeep, being an American brand, is trying to woo the Indian audience by blending in with the Indian cultural ethos. In a nutshell, the same TG, same audience, similar product offerings, similar communication premise, yet different creative approaches, keeping in mind the different brand histories/ legacies," Banik concludes.