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Bullet Electra: Making a noise with a 'sound' idea

By , agencyfaqs! | In | October 06, 2003
The commercial marks Bullet's return to the medium of film after a gap of about 15 years, and uses 'sound' to demonstrate how the brand dominates 100-cc bikes


A phalanx of 100-cc motorcycles (give or take a few cc here and there) rides abreast down a road in slow-mo, as the telltale background track goes, 'Arre-baba, arre-baba, arre-baba… Arre-baba, arre-baba, arre-baba…'

As the cavalcade nears a crossing in the road, the rider on the lead bike raises his hand, signaling his intent to slow down. The bikers coming behind get the message, and the entire column of bikes slows down, even as the 'Arre-baba' soundtrack sheds its peppiness. A few meters from the obviously empty crossing, the cavalcade finally draws to a complete halt. The 'Arre-baba' also drawls one last time (like a cassette stuck horribly in a tape recorder's deck) before giving in to silence.

The silence is but momentary. A familiar 'thump-thump' of a heavy engine fills the air. Moments later, a 350-cc Bullet crosses the road majestically (bang in front of the smaller bikes waiting patiently) and disappears from sight, leaving the road open to traffic. 'Everybody makes way for the Bullet,' explains the voiceover.

Thus goes the new 15-second television commercial for the Bullet Electra. The 'Electra' bit is a mere technicality, of course, as the communication is essentially for India's 'retro' badge brand, Bullet. Now what is interesting about this piece of communication is the fact that it marks Bullet advertising's return to the medium of film after a gap of some 15-odd years. For although the brand has been spotted sporadically in print advertising, a Bullet commercial (overlaid with that unforgettable 'Yeh Bullet meri jaan…' jingle) has not been seen since the Doordarshan days.

So what brings Bullet advertising back in full force? A desire felt at Royal Enfield to connect with a younger motorcycle consumer. Or rather, a larger section of young motorcycle consumers, given the fact that the Bullet already enjoys considerable franchise among a niche segment of the youth. "The idea at Royal Enfield is to shake off the strong 'defense personnel' imagery associated with the Bullet and get more and more young consumers to buy into the brand," says R Narayanan, COO, rmg david, the agency handling the account. (Interestingly, Narayanan reveals that since the launch of the more colourful and vibrant Electra roughly a year-and-a-half ago, the Bullet's target consumer's age profile has dropped from 30-plus to 20-plus.) "Now many young Bullet owners consume the Bullet because of certain collective memories associated with the brand, and because of an aura and an ethos that surrounds the bike. What we had to do was expand the market for a proposition called Bullet by talking to people who loved biking and getting them to relate to the Bullet."

The "brand challenge" - as Josy Paul, chief creative officer & agency head of rmg david, puts it - was to give younger consumers a strong reason-to-buy. "Independent research conducted by the agency, as well as research that the client had conducted threw up one significant finding," says Paul. "Everyone respects a Bullet on the road, and everyone stays clear of a Bullet. The aspect of 'respect for the Bullet' came through clearly, which is why we conceived the thought 'Everybody makes way for the Bullet.' Respect is a convincing reason-to-buy as it appeals to the emotional core of consumers." What followed was a print campaign that showed visuals of monstrous trucks and spiraling twisters hurriedly getting out of the way the Bullet.

Now, given the audio-visual potential that television affords, the idea of 'making way for the Bullet' has clearly moved to the region of sound. "The respect the Bullet commands results in dominance on the road, but that dominance is announced by way of the familiar sound of the Bullet," Narayanan points out. "So the sound of the Bullet is a strategic way of saying the brand dominates the 100-cc bikes." Also, the fact is that the Bullet is best known from its sound, "…so we said let's simply bring the Bullet's sound into the advertising", Paul explains.

With so much focus on the aspect of 'sound', one can't but take notice of the soundtrack in the new commercial. While 'Arre-baba' is certainly nothing more than a symbolic hit at bikes in the 100-cc category (Bullet can't be training its sights on just one 100-cc bike brand), there's little doubt that the 'spoof track' is one of the most arresting elements in the commercial. When quizzed on why this track was selected, Paul replied, "Because the idea of the campaign is that even popular sounds make way for the powerful thumping sound of the Bullet. It's sound versus sound." And the Bullet coming out on top.

According to Paul, much of the credit for this particular film goes to Mahesh Mathai (of Highlight Films). "We were sitting in Mahesh's office and ideating on different scripts of people and things making way for the Bullet, and one of the ideas we decided upon was 100-cc bikes making way," says Paul. "Then, during the shoot, Mahesh had this idea. He said if 100-cc bikes make way for the Bullet, why can't 100-cc sound make way for the sound of the Bullet. We liked it, so we bounced it off the client, who also liked it, so we did it. The soundtrack heightens the drama in the ad."

Incidentally, the 15-second commercial, which has just gone on air, is actually part of a bigger campaign "to own and grow the respect that people have for the Bullet". A longer 35-second commercial (which is also based on the Bullet's sound and the way that sounds forces someone to give way) is scheduled to go on air in a week's time, and Paul informs that a radio campaign (also driven by sound) is being lined up. "The effect of the Bullet's sound is the new campaign idea, and we will be exploring this in interesting ways across media," he promises. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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