From the moment the yellow polka-dotted turban bobs up from behind the sofa to the time the Sikh kid helplessly shrugs, 'Papa ki karan, petrol khatam hi nahin honda,' this one's an entertainer. But that's only one part of the story. For apart from being entertaining, the commercial is also a clean winner… for the manner in which it puts across a simple message of reassurance (fuel economy, actually, but that's a subset of reassurance) from India's largest car manufacturer, Maruti Udyog (MUL).
A look at the ad first. The film opens on a Sikh kid driving a dinky car (shaped like a Maruti 800) around the living room floor. Well, 'floor' isn't exactly right, for once the kid runs out of floor, the car simply makes its way over a heap of blankets, over some freshly-rolled chapaatis, into a goldfish bowl…
The car is virtually unstoppable. So a dog's tail that comes in its way is unceremoniously raised to allow passage. The schoolroom blackboard becomes yet another driving ground, as does the piebald head of the school watchman. Back home, the car surges on relentlessly, driving family members up the wall. Finally, the kid starts pushing the toy up his father's foot. Exasperated, the father tells the kid, 'Oye chhote, bas kar yaar!' The car slows down reluctantly, and the kid raises his head and repartees, 'Papa ki karan, petrol khatam hi nahin honda.' What a clever little way of telling us here's a car that goes on and on and on… The ad ends with the voiceover telling us the Maruti Suzuki is India's most fuel-efficient car. 'Count on us,' goes the slug.
Count on us. Yes, that's the message that MUL has been increasingly beaming at consumers, be it through assurances on fuel efficiency or assurances on the service network (the 'Ladakh' ad from 2001, or the recent 'desert' commercial). The idea, quite clearly, is to tell consumers that Maruti is a dependable brand. The attempt is also to re-emphasize Maruti's leadership position in the automotive market.
But, ultimately, 'Count on us' and 'fuel-efficient car' are only manufacturer's statements. What really moves the consumer is a simple creative idea/execution that is relevant and entertaining. And full marks to Capital Advertising for keeping it that way. "We had set out to tell a story that is already well known - the story about the Maruti Suzuki's fuel efficiency," says an agency executive. "There was nothing new we are saying here. Fuel efficiency was a cold and logical fact, so we just had to find a chord that would connect with the consumer, and tell it in a way never told before."
The core idea of a kid pushing around a toy car came from a creative mind at Capital, Candy Singh (incidentally, a Sikh). "After that, it was just a matter of getting the details right," explains the agency executive. "A lot of little things that anyone would identify with began falling in place in the storyline." Things like how kids are obsessed with driving dinky cars all over the place all day long, how elders initially indulge them, then, at some point, get irritated and ask them to knock it off. "Even the fact that kids usually have some smart reply to everything mom or dad say… all these small facts just resulted in making the storyline more identifiable, enjoyable and warm," says the executive.
One of the reasons the commercial scores so well has to do with the element of surprise built into it. All the viewer sees is shots of this kid pushing his little toy around. And the more one sees it, the more one wonders where all this is leading to. "We had to do that to maintain interest," the agency executive explains. "In fact, there is a gradual build up, because we wanted the audience can sit back and enjoy the antics of the kid. And in the end, we have used those loveable antics to get the message across."
It is to Maruti's credit that the message gets across so neatly and convincingly. In a day and age where kids in commercials tell you everything from the chemical construct to the health benefits of salt brands and toothpaste brands, Maruti could easily have been tempted to get the kid to mouth 'Maruti' somewhere in the punch line. The ad's simplicity - and the credibility of the situation - could easily have been lost had Maruti not exercised that restraint. It takes a brave client to keep things subtle… Â© 2003 agencyfaqs!