Power: 'Trailer-made' to break category clutter

By , agencyfaqs! | In | August 11, 2003
The new commercial for HPCL's petrol brand Power aims to differentiate Power from rival brands by using the 'Hollywood movie trailer' format for storytelling

He's a normal guy, driving his car around and leading a normal life. Then, unexpectedly, fate intervenes, and life is never the same again.

A wizard-like character pops up from nowhere and puts some sort of a talisman in his safekeeping. The next thing he knows, he's being hunted by men who covet the mysterious talisman he now bears, men prepared to kill for greed and power. Blazing guns; hot car chases; narrow escapes; a daring rescue of a damsel in distress; the wizard who appears and disappears at will, guiding him through the mayhem and reminding him that he has 'the power to move on'… and the strange aura of the dagger-shaped talisman that he has to defend.

The plot looks straight out of one of those high-octane Hollywood movies that promise intrigue, action and adventure by the bushels. Something of a cross between Frodo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey defending the Ring in JRR Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings, and Neo and Dr Morpheus fighting the 'matrix' in sci-fi cult classic, The Matrix.

In reality, the plot belongs to the new television commercial that Rediffusion DY&R has created for Power, the superior-grade petrol brand from Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL). The commercial, which has been on air for roughly a fortnight, is the centerpiece of a campaign that aims to differentiate Power from rival petrol-with-additives brands (Speed from Bharat Petroleum, and IOC Premium from Indian Oil Corporation) by demonstrating how Power delivers on its 'performance' promise.

"At the time of Power's launch (in August 2002), we had created a positioning for the brand based on 'petrol with energy boosters'," says Adrian Mendonza, vice-president & executive creative director, Rediffusion DY&R, speaking about the genesis of the current campaign. "Back then, we had done communication that essentially informed consumers about how Power was a superior product… things like how you didn't need to add additives to your petrol, and how Power energised the car's engine." That campaign, which was primarily press- and outdoor-centric, ran during the months of August and September.

The need to create a television commercial for Power was verbalised as early as end-2002, Mendonza reveals. "The client wanted a commercial that reinforced the fact that Power is the best, and they wanted us to clearly demonstrate the effect Power had on the performance of the car." The problem for the agency back then was that in a low-involvement category where product parity ruled, Speed (which had been launched earlier) enjoyed near-generic recall. "The agency discovered that the consumer knew relatively less about Power," Mendonza says. "So, the task for us was two-fold. We had to differentiate Power while demonstrating enhanced car performance."

The agency, Mendonza continues, was faced with two options. One was to do a "safe commercial" with shots of a car zipping around - one that would be easily lost in the clutter. The other was to do an ad that stood out not just in the petrol category, but also in the bigger automotive category. "We realised that our ad would have to fight the clutter of all sorts of automotive products, be it cars, lubes, petrol or tyres," he says. "So we said, let's do an ad that stands out of the entire category. The first objective would be to break all clutter and get noticed. The second would be to differentiate Power and communicate its advantages."

It was the agency's desire to break clutter that led it to look at a different format of storytelling for the commercial. "We had to show the Power-fueled car's performance without sticking to automobile advertising formats," Mendonza. "We went through almost all car- and auto-related advertising to see what all had been done. That's when we realised that the Hollywood-trailer format is something that had never been done before."

'Hollywood-trailer format' essentially means the manner in which Hollywood showcases its wares through trailers. "If you observe Hollywood movie trailers, there is a grammar to them," Mendonza explains. "There is a glimpse of the stars, fast cuts of the action, a partial revelation of the story and finally, a poser that has you asking, 'What happens next?' We decided to use this format for Power and build in larger-than-life imagery. We wanted to create a buzz around the brand, and this format - and its ability to lend itself to interesting storytelling - suited admirably."

Once the format was selected, the script for the ad was generated. The agency claims that it treated and wrote the script as if it was for a full-length film, complete with story and characters. "We had this guy who has a life-changing experience and what happens to him. We had this old man who helps him. We built in this dagger that is a mnemonic for Power. Once we had the entire script, we studied Hollywood trailers for their grammar and whittled down our full script into a trailer. We wanted the ad to look like a Hollywood trailer, nothing less." Mendonza adds that at times, the script "wrote itself backwards to meet client requirements like showing greater mileage".

If the ad - shot by Aniruddha Sen of Illusion Films - had to be true to its Hollywood-trailer premise, detailing was critical. Which is why Rediffusion even hired the services of Californian Ari Ross, who has done voiceovers for numerous television promos and movie trailers in the US. "Ari is among the top three voiceover specialists in Hollywood, and as we wanted to be spot-on with our Hollywood feel, we got someone from there who does voiceovers for a livelihood," Mendonza smiles, adding that Ross even agreed on a discount as he "liked the project".

Interestingly, what started as a single television commercial idea has assumed campaign proportions. "We knew that we would have to do press and outdoor for Power pretty soon," Mendonza says. "Now it doesn't make sense for us to create a disconnect in the communication when that happens, so we have created an entire campaign based on Hollywood film promotions for press and outdoor as well. The campaign simply evolved as we went along." In fact, a press ad released last week for Power 93 (a high-octane variant of Power) borrowed on the imagery for Power's communication. And, among other things, the dagger-shaped talisman from the commercial will figure prominently in ground-level promos for the brand. "We are attempting to have a promo built around Power memorabilia, akin to film merchandising," Mendonza reveals. "The point is to involve consumers with the commercial at every possible stage. And all the advertising for Power will draw more and more from that imagery to differentiate."

The point of the whole exercise, Mendonza says, was to create advertising that did not look like advertising. And he gives credit to HPCL for backing the agency's recommendations. "The approvals took a long while coming. The client was wary in the initial stages, but I am happy they bought into our thinking and gave us the freedom to do something different for the brand." © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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© 2003 agencyfaqs!