Chhota Coke: Packing a hell of a 'paanch'

By , agencyfaqs! | In | February 03, 2003
A far cry from the common notion of a 'price-promo' film, the Chhota Coke spot dovetails exquisitely with the larger 'Thanda matlab...' campaign

It was quite unexpected. Unexpected, because no one believed actor Aamir Khan and filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker would - or rather, could - be associated with a Coke ad where the brand's new price point was all that needed to be communicated. You wouldn't get an Aamir to endorse a price promotion, popular reasoning said. Certainly not after the 'Thanda matlab…' ads. Neither would you ask a Gowariker to direct so basic a film.

So, when news that Aamir and Gowariker had come together for a new Coke film filtered into the open some two months ago, everyone automatically assumed ad number four in the 'Thanda…' series was in the making. That, or some other thematic communication - though that seemed an unlikely possibility.

Everyone was both right and wrong. Wrong because both actor and filmmaker had, indeed, worked on a commercial that essentially communicated Coke's new pricing strategy. Right because the commercial is every bit 'thematic' in its treatment, with plot, storyline and crackling dialogues to boot. Before we go further, here's the ad, in a nutshell.

Two village belles who have just purchased a bottle of 'chhota' Coke are on the verge of being overcharged by an unscrupulous shopkeeper, when a wisecracking passerby intervenes and spoils the shopkeeper's party by driving home the Rs 5 value of the 200-ml bottle. When told so dryly, the plot sounds as exciting as a rusted nail in a carpenter's shop, but it's a totally different affair in film.

Especially when the camera is on Aamir, spouting Anglo-Bihari-laced Hindi nineteen-to-a-dozen. 'Abe dantmanjan, kya badmaasi hai?' he demands of the errant shopkeeper (played by Rajesh Vivek aka Guran, the fortuneteller in Lagaan) who has just told the girls the Chhota Coke has cost them six rupees. 'Maidam thanda maange hai… thanda toh haiye hai,' the shopkeeper protests. 'Dhur, burbag, chauthi fail. Pandab kitne the?' Aamir quizzes the shopkeeper. 'Paanch,' comes the reply. Raising his palm and gesturing towards it, Aamir then asks, 'Ee phingar kitna hai... caounting karo toh.' The shopkeeper again says, 'Paanch.'

'Jo gaal pe cantact hoga toh carbon kitna chhapega?' Aamir now asks menacingly. 'Paanch,' the shopkeeper fumbles, embarrassed. 'Yeh Cokewa kitne ka hai?' the question comes fast. 'Paanch,' the shopkeeper is forced to admit…

What a clever little way to drive home one small point.

A far cry from the common notion of a 'price-promo' film, the spot's treatment dovetails exquisitely with the larger 'Thanda matlab…' campaign. For one, it has Aamir donning the persona of a silver-tongued Bihari babu. Coming in the wake of the Mumbai tapori, the Hyderabadi shopkeeper and the Punjabi farmer, the Bihari (complete with tight-fitting shirt and a cheap reccine bag tucked under the arm) is another extension of the 'regional characterization' from the 'Thanda' campaign.

Then there is the signoff: 'Paanch matlab Chhota Coke'. While at one level it spells out the price of the 200-ml Coke bottle, at another it suggests that Coke is the 'chhota bottle' to ask for. And, at some subliminal level, it even equates Rs 5 with Coke. Generic value, if there is such a phrase…

Of course, that's where the entire exercise started. "The brief was very specific - we had to communicate the five-rupee value of the Chhota Coke bottle through a commercial," Prasoon Joshi, national creative director, McCann-Erickson India, explains. "Now, when you usually do such an ad, you have someone in the ad say, 'Now for Rs 5 only', and that's it. We said we wouldn't do it that way, so let's do a unique script to communicate the pricing strategy." Joshi offers a reason for this. "Who is interested in watching ads that say 'Now for Rs 5' over and over again? Ek baar bataa diya, main khareed loonga. Don't keep reminding me. But when you create a story around a price point, people get interested. There is fun in the story, and that is what people watch out for. And in the process, the message gets reinforced subliminally."

That Coca-Cola India agreed to do a 'thematic' ad (with Aamir and Gowariker) to convey a price proposition demonstrates the importance it attaches to the five-rupee price point. "Affordability is one of the things high on our agenda, and the key to achieving this is the five-rupee pricing," says Shripad Nadkarni, vice-president (marketing), Coca-Cola India. "This category is extremely price elastic, and a small price difference can make a huge impact on volumes. Five rupees is an attractive proposition to the average chai drinker, and it suddenly puts a bottle of Coke within his grasp. Also, the quantity is perfect for a single consumption. This pricing is a means of expanding our base by inducing trials." He adds that although the brief was to communicate pricing, the aim was to bring the communication under the ambit of the 'Thanda…' campaign.

The ad has achieved this admirably. After all, simply getting Aamir to don another regional garb and mouth a few smart lines wouldn't have worked. The relevance had to be there. "It was important to bring the 'Thanda…' values into this ad, and we have been true to that," says Joshi. "All we did was marry those values to the price proposition and tell an interesting story."

Interestingly, the 'Paanch matlab Chhota Coke' line happened late in the film's creative cycle, after many options had been put to test. It was used because it sounded nice, was in sync with 'Thanda…' and sat well with the proposition. "We don't plan everything in Coke ads," Joshi remarks. "For instance, the song that Aamir sings ('Thande ka tadka…' a variation of the evergreen 'Chalat musaafir…') as he walks away was added at the last moment. It added a layer to his character - one that showed that he was also a bit of a flirt and a showoff. And that has worked very well. I think if we had planned everything, we wouldn't have been able to create such magical scripts for Coke." © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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