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Air Deccan: Empowerment on a wing

By , agencyfaqs! | In | June 15, 2004
The new television commercial for low-cost airline brand Air Deccan uses the comic book superhero as a metaphor for flight in a charming and simple manner


'It's a bird… It's a plane… No, it's Superman.'

Those of us who've been brought up on a regular diet of comic book superheroes will undoubtedly find this popular phrase from our collective childhood extremely familiar. After all, who doesn't remember the awe that an airborne Superman instilled in people, who saw him streaking across the sky defending earth and earthlings from sundry archfiends.

Interestingly, apart from superhuman strength and exemplary virtue, it is the average superhero's ability to fly at will that sets him apart from the normal people, who inhabit comic book towns and cities. So much so, the capacity for flight is a significant aspect in the transition of a mild-mannered Clark Kent into a caped Superman (remember 'Up, up and away'?) The thought here is implicit: Flying isn't for mortals.

It's in this context that one has to view the new television commercial for low-cost, no-frills airline brand, Air Deccan. Conceived by Orchard Advertising, Bangalore, the film is about different people - a middle-aged housewife, a bearded ascetic, a schoolgirl, a small boy, a punk motorcyclist, an old lady, a corporate executive, a college student - taking turns to stand behind a cardboard cutout of a headless, muscle-bound superhero. The superhero is about to take off into the blue yonder, and as each individual stands behind the cutout and positions his or her head where the superhero's head should be, it appears as if the individual is set to fly. 'Now everyone can fly,' the concluding super explains. 'Air Deccan. Up to 50% lower airfares.'

The idea of using the comic book superhero as a metaphor for flight is extremely charming and simple. More importantly, in the context of Air Deccan, the metaphor sits particularly well, considering the brand's stated positioning philosophy is 'empowerment'. "At a product level, Air Deccan is an economic alternative in air travel," says Nitish Mukherjee, managing director, Orchard Advertising. "However, the brand is about 'empowerment'. Flying made possible to many Indians for whom it was just a dream."

Of course, at a basic level, the communication is aimed at driving home the brand's low airfare advantage - which, in turn, is aimed at expanding the Rs 6,500-crore, 13-million-passengers-per-year domestic air travel market, which has been more or less stagnant over the last couple of years.

"India has a population of 1 billion, and we have less than 800 commercial flights," Captain GR Gopinath, managing director, Air Deccan, points out. "The US has a quarter of our population, and has 40,000 commercial flights. With a growing middle-class population, an expanding consumer market and a considerable increase in the frequency of both corporate travel and leisure travel, the potential is huge. Even if we can tap 1 per cent of our potential, we will need 1,600 flights a day. Which means, in terms of volume, it should be close to 50 million passengers per year in the next couple of years." Which is why, despite competing with Jet Airways, Indian Airlines and Air Sahara on some sectors, the company views offering the lowest possible airfares and expanding the air travel market as "the true battle".

Specific to the client brief and the creative challenge, Orchard reveals that the task was to push the 'low airfares' USP - without making the brand look cheap. "Air Deccan is a new concept in India; it aims to bring more and more people from all walks of life to experience flying," explains Thomas Xavier, executive creative director, Orchard Advertising. "As Capt Gopinath rightly puts it in his vision, 'Every Indian should be able to fly at least once a year'. So, we single-mindedly focused on the brand thought: Air Deccan gives you the power to fly. Now everyone can fly."

Despite the communication essentially being about 'saving money and travelling smart', the agency chose not to simply hammer in the brand's value-for-money proposition. "Sure, the airline was offering low airfares, but what was more important was the fact that it was actually paving the way for a billion Indians to fly," Mukherjee explains the strategy. "Air Deccan was giving many their first flight ever. Therefore, it wasn't just a 'low fare airline', but an airline that was empowering a nation. Hence, the film about real people who wished to fly, and an airline that is making it possible."

The idea of using the superhero's cutout as metaphor for flying came from a desire to break category clutter. "How do you do a film on flying without the typical clichés of smiling air-hostesses, happy families, clouds and ecstatic parents? The answer came in the form of a visual metaphor that said it all," says Xavier. Interestingly enough, the superhero idea for Air Deccan did not have its genesis in a comic book. Xavier explains that the team that conceived the idea and the film burrowed into their childhood, when they used to visit fairs that had huge muscleman cutouts. "You would stick your head out of these cutouts and take pictures and feel excited about it. The idea came from there," he reveals. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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