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Bajaj Auto moves Caliber from Burnett to Lowe

By , agencyfaqs! | In | December 27, 2002
Bajaj Auto has shifted the advertising account of its motorcycle brand Caliber to Lowe, following a three-way pitch that included O&M and Leo Burnett


In the wake of a three-agency pitch, two-wheeler giant Bajaj Auto has shifted the advertising account of its mid-segment motorcycle brand, Caliber, to Lowe. The account moves from Leo Burnett India, which launched the brand in the country in mid-1998. Speaking briefly to agencyfaqs! late last night, Balki (R. Balakrishnan), executive creative director, Lowe, confirmed the news. "Yes, Lowe has won the account, and the decision was communicated to us two days back."

agencyfaqs! has learnt that last month, Bajaj Auto had invited the three lead agencies in its roster - Lowe, Burnett and O&M - to pitch for the business. "Bajaj was looking for fresh alternatives for the brand," says Balki. "They were very fair on all three agencies, and gave everyone the opportunity to present their best ideas. Ultimately, the best ideas won." For the record, prior to this development, Lowe was in charge of the advertising for all Bajaj scooter and scooterette brands, while Burnett had been entrusted with all motorcycles other than Bajaj Pulsar, which is with O&M. Lowe also handles Bajaj Auto's corporate account.

For Lowe, the Caliber win is especially sweet as it 'reunites' the agency with Bajaj motorcycles. It may be recalled that in the early and mid-90s, Lowe (then Lintas) handled bikes as well as scooters (back then, Contract Advertising was the other Bajaj agency). However, as Bajaj Auto's focus on motorcycles increased, it split the entire business, and the motorcycle portfolio was parked with Burnett (then Chaitra Leo Burnett). "Yes, it was exciting pitching for bikes, and I am pleased we've won back a significant bike brand from the Bajaj stable," says Balki.

If the mood at Lowe is upbeat, the loss of the account is a setback for ex-incumbent Burnett. As already mentioned, Burnett was instrumental in putting the brand into orbit, and a sizeable portion of the bike's early success in the market can be attributed to the communication devised by the agency. In a market/segment that was talking 'product features' and 'functional benefits', Caliber rode in on an emotional platform. Pitched on sharply etched attitude, the advertising was all about the Caliber owner's 'unshakable character in the face of adversity'. So the ad about the man looking for his long-lost sweetheart, only to find her married… The Caliber sold 1 lakh-units in its first full year in the market.

However, since then, the going has been uphill. Sales have been plateauing at roughly 12,000 units per month for quite some time now, and competition - in the form of Passion (Hero Honda) and Victor (TVS) - is mounting by the day. Incidentally, the advertising for the brand has always stood out - both the 'soldier on leave' and the 'traffic signal' commercials enjoyed good recall. However, it must be added that the special effects-intensive 'when time stops' ad for the variant, Caliber Croma, was a letdown.

With a change in guard, it remains to be seen is whether the brand will continue to be pushed on the attitude platform. Balki is noncommittal about the details pertaining to the new communication, so one would have to wait and see what kind of a makeover the brand gets. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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