"We've been known for explicit content, but right now it's not about being kinky..."

By Abid Hussain Barlaskar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital
Last updated : October 22, 2018 05:28 AM
... Says Blaze Arizanov, CMO, StayUncle, about the brand's latest video ad.

To the delight of the LGBT community and its supporters, the supreme court of India recently scrapped section 377 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) that criminalised homosexuality. Cashing in on the news, StayUncle, cult hotel booking platform, now has an offering in line with the apex court's verdict. The brand's latest advertising is in the form of a minute-long film that delivers a simple, open-minded message - its hotel-partners won't judge same-sex couples and they can have a hotel room and peace of mind, without an issue.

The ad - a couple of guys step into a hotel. One makes a mechanical 90-degree turn towards the reception, the other (Ashish) meets a friend (Abhi) exiting the hotel after a stay with his girlfriend. Abhi inquires if Ashish is also with his lady-love, to which he responds he's with his boyfriend. This is met with a cheeky retort from Abhi, "Sahi hai, chal maze kar."

This time, the brand's communication seems pretty watered down and quite unlike previous campaigns. In fact, in an earlier communication, StayUncle quite literally gave a rival the middle-finger. "The homepage of the brand's website, its own digital ad space also features its message of acceptance to the community, irrespective of preference."

The brand's communication and offering both make a timely landing following the 377 verdict; not too early when the industry was abuzz with umpteen brand communications and not too late to create a decent connect. Even their selection of two males in a relationship is a step away from dominant industry narratives of women partners.

ALSO READ: What is StayUncle?

We spoke to Blaze Arizanov, CMO, StayUncle and the Macedonian who's out to solve Indian social mysteries. He gave us more insight with regard to the latest ad:-

Blaze Arizanov Blaze Arizanov

"Section 377 is a massive event for India and the strange thing is, brands didn't do much about the event. The fact is, a draconian law like Section 377 was in effect in India in the 21st century and after it was scrapped, brands didn't think to celebrate it enough," Arizanov states.

About why the ad wasn't launched right after the verdict, Arizanov explains, "I wasn't aware that the scrapping was about to happen, maybe because I was out of India. But preliminary reactions like posters and changes to the homepage, happened immediately. Other brands did that too and it boiled down to just posters. We asked ourselves what happened to us being different. This ad shows that we are serious about what we do."

While the absence of a mainstream ad agency can be understood, why not a production house to execute the ad?

"It was done by people from our own network. We avoided professional help because we could not spare that much from our budget. We believed that we could do a commendable job and I am fascinated by the final product," responds Arizanov.

But why such a soft, toned-down approach to the brand communication?

"We have been known for our explicit content and remarks in general, but in this case, we felt that it's a very emotional moment for the LGBT community. Right now, it's not an issue of being kinky, but emotional. We deliberately maintained the softness in our communication. The community will have a lot of time to be kinky; for now, they just want to be accepted and not beaten up on the streets," Arizanov replies.

Arizanov further confirms that there will be another follow-up ad in the coming months on similar lines. However, he adds, "There is a good chance that we might be back to our old kinky self in the next communication. As we go into the mainstream market, we have to be slightly cautious with our content, but we won't be a comforting brand. We started as a couple's booking portal and the narrative is back with 377. It's a couple-based event and we need StayUncle to be in the limelight."

Speaking about the idea of putting a male same-sex relationship in the fore, Arizanov says, "We had a discussion, but decided to stick with the male idea because, in India, we've seen a lot of guys in the limelight for LGBTQ issues and decided to do the same ourselves."

Turning to experts:

Anupama Ramaswamy, national creative director, Dentsu Impact maintains that the ad gains on timeliness, but looks like a sorry attempt to cash in on the SC ruling.

"The execution is not good, nor is the casting. Even if one wants to do this, it should have been done with class. The use of phrases like 'Sahi hai ' etc. makes the whole film cheap. The subject should have been handled in a more sensitive way. It needed better actors," Ramaswamy states.

Anupama Ramaswamy Anupama Ramaswamy

Navin Theeng Navin Theeng

Ramakrishnan Hariharan Ramakrishnan Hariharan

"The film concept could have been brought alive in a better way and the writing could have been better for sure. Overall, the heart is in the right place but went wrong in execution," Ramaswamy adds.

Navin Theeng, executive creative director, Havas Gurgaon, says, "Most advertising falls flat by trying to please too many people at the same time. The StayUncle ad stands out by being sharp and clear about who it is talking to. So it will get noticed."

Theeng maintains that measuring the ad in terms of execution and production values is barking up the wrong tree. "The production is home-video quality and the lack of professional handling is evident, but the big story is the message. It's bold, but it also fulfils an unmet need. So, it will achieve the sales and marketing objective," Theeng says.

"The other interesting aspect, by its very messaging, makes StayUncle a very contemporary brand. It has a missionary vision. It has a point of view on love, freedom and privacy; one that you may or may not agree with, but is a hyper-contemporary issue. It is also well-timed. Coming on the back of the recent SC judgement, it comes across as a meaningful action and not just an empty gesture that most brands have indulged in. The brand personality is not sophisticated; it typifies the sullen resentment of the college kid against the establishment. But it works. And 'Hotels for LGBTQ Couples' sticks true to that core," Theeng surmises.

Ramakrishnan Hariharan, head of creative, Publicis India, says, "I'm a bit disappointed with this one. StayUncle's service is truly unique and genuine in its offering, but the TVC fails to evoke the warmth associated with love. After all, the intent, as far as I can make out, is to create a private space for young lovers where they can spend quality time with each other. In that, it falls short in terms of crafting."

He adds, "'Chal, maze kar' sounds more to do with sex than love and bonding. The way they hold their hands and walk into the room is also a bit too staged. The music didn't move me either. All in all, it's a bit too flat for my liking, but I appreciate the effort, nonetheless. It's highly topical and the service is clearly communicated. Better crafting could have made it a beautiful spot."

For feedback/comments, please write to newsteam@afaqs.com

First Published : October 12, 2018 05:44 AM

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