Annapurna Salt: Product story and parable, nicely matched

By , agencyfaqs! | In | January 19, 2004
The new commercial for salt brand Knorr Annapurna uses a mix of storytelling genres to tell a well-known fable that sells the brand's proposition refreshingly

The Flintstones meets Sheikh Chilli meets Ramlila. That's how one can best describe the new television commercial for packaged salt brand, Knorr Annapurna. Okay, maybe the significance of Sheikh Chilli is lost on consumers in some parts of the country, but supplant Sheikh Chilli with Kalidasa - or, for that matter, with any of the various dimwitted protagonists who populate the popular fable of the stupid woodcutter - and it makes as much sense.

After all, in this context, Sheikh Chilli is merely symbolic of poor mental faculties.

Which is precisely why the clever use of the story of Sheikh Chilli (or Kalidasa or whoever else you name) by Knorr Annapurna and its agency (O&M) to make a point about the role of iodine in proper mental development is commendable. But we realize we are getting ahead of ourselves, so here's the gist of the commercial.

The ad is about Sheikh Chilli and the countless falls he takes while chopping wood from the tree. As we all know, the reason Sheikh Chilli keeps tumbling out of the tree is because the poor man is too dense to realize that he is chopping the very branch he is perched on. However, what we learn this time is the reason behind Sheikh Chilli's stupidity. The iodine in the salt his wife uses for cooking keeps 'evaporating' - much to his wife's chagrin - resulting in poor mental development. Finally, the wife uses Knorr Annapurna salt, and wisdom beams down on Sheikh Chilli.

A rather interesting use of a well-known fable to communicate a product story. Yes, that's what it sounds like. But what lifts the commercial is the execution, which helps the ad migrate from 'communication' to 'entertaining communication' territory. For starters, the use of the Flintstones sort of Stone Age imagery. While the Sheikh Chilli in the ad is a passable Fred Flintstone look-alike, the wife is a convincing Wilma double. However, it is the overall treatment of the ad, and not the specifics, that cue in on The Flintstones.

The other aspect of the execution that sticks out is the narration of Sheikh Chilli's story, rendered brilliantly by Chetan Shashital in true Ramlila fashion. 'He ghanaa jangal bina chhaaya, Sheikh Chilli ki dekho maya…' the impassioned narrative goes. 'Akal ke naam pe dhoka khaaya… Kyunki, aam iodised namak se kuch na paaya. Iodine udaa… haath na aaya. Knorr Annapurna namak mangvaaya, dal-sabzi mein milaaya… Pakaaya, pakaaya. Iodine phir bhi barkaraar paaya…' The film ends with a chorus that goes, 'Knorr Annapurna ki jai ho! Dimaag aayushmaan ho!'

Actually, it is the mixture of two distinctive (and seemingly mutually exclusive) genres of storytelling that makes the film so interesting. The basic visual treatment borrows from a western cartoon like The Flintstones, while the narrative is rooted in India's oral tradition. Together, they tell a story that is nearly universal in its appeal to sell the product proposition in a very refreshing manner.

And that, in fact, is where the entire exercise started in the first place. "In mid-2003, we created the 'kachcha khana' film (which was about a kid who serves a meal of uncooked food), which was aimed at establishing the product differentiator," says Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar, creative director, O&M. The differentiator in this case being that Knorr Annapurna Salt has 'stable iodine that does not evaporate while cooking, thus providing the right level of iodine necessary for mental development'. Mahabaleshwarkar reveals that the brief for the new communication was to stick to the product differentiator, "but do something that shakes the consumer out of her inertia by making her realize the importance of iodine in salt".

For Hindustan Lever (HLL), shaking the consumer's inertia is of paramount importance if it has to make headway in the 1.6 million-tonnes-per-annum branded salt market, where over 120 national and local brands (including market leader Tata Salt) are battling for the consumer's attention. And the biggest obstacle that Annapurna has to surmount is consumer attitudes towards packaged salt. "As far as the consumer is concerned, a salt is a salt, and brands make no difference to her as long as the salt she is buying is packaged," says Mahabaleshwarkar. The trick, as HLL and the agency saw it, was to highlight the emotional payoff of using salt that provides the right level of iodine necessary for mental development. "The insight we had was that the woman of the house feels personally responsible for the well-being of her family, so we said let us put across the fact that the right amount of iodine can make people brighter," says Mahabaleshwarkar. "And to do so, we said let us also highlight what happens when the iodine is deficient."

Another true-to-form 'before-after' product story was in the making… till the agency chanced upon Sheikh Chilli. "We were thinking about stories of dumb people who did stupid things, and Sheikh Chilli came to mind. We immediately saw that his story fit in very well with our need. And Sheikh Chilli's story is something all of us know of since our childhood." Mahabaleshwarkar credits the client (Guninder Kapur of HLL) for backing the script. "Yes, it was true to the product proposition and there were similarities with the old communication for Annapurna. But the delivery - a mix of techniques such as sets, 2D and 3D animation, claymation and the Ramlila rendition - was very different. But when we presented the script to the client, he immediately loved it, as he saw a clear executional difference which was bound to break clutter."

Mahabaleshwarkar also credits Neha Mitra and Kapil Mishra for helping in fleshing out the script "under Piyush's (Pandey) supervision. And yes, filmmaker Abhinay Deo's contribution is huge," he adds. Deo, for his part, admits that his first reaction to the script was, "This is going to be brilliant but also very risky, as so many genres in one film is something that has not been done in India before." Yet, he saw an opportunity to break clutter, "and if the client is prepared to go with it, I decided I would give my best and add as much value without touching the core idea."

One of the highlights of the film is the level of detailing that has gone into it; every repeat viewing reveals something new about the film. And Deo insists that while he took pains to detail things, the challenge was "how not to overdo things, especially when the ad was so execution-led. I think the biggest thing about this ad is that it is essentially a demo film (large parts of the film are about Sheikh Chilli's wife cooking in the kitchen) in the made extremely interesting." Mahabaleshwarkar agrees. "It's the same one-line product story told in an engaging manner. And it has been possible only because of the involvement and support of the client, the director and the agency team," he says.

The Team:

Creative : Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar, Neha Mitra, Kapil Mishra
Account Management : VS Srikanth, Bhavna Darira
Animation : E Suresh
Camera : Vikas Sivaraman
Music : Ram Sampat © 2004 agencyfaqs!

Search Tags