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"Nadia Chauhan is an ideal client..."

By Ashwini Gangal, afaqs!, Mumbai | April 10, 2018
We interviewed Jessica Walsh, partner, Sagmeister & Walsh, the agency that makes ads for Parle Agro's Frooti.
Jessica Walsh

Jessica Walsh

Partner, Sagmeister & Walsh

When the Frooti business was for up for grabs in 2015, dozens of creative agencies in India, big and small, pitched for it. Nadia Chauhan, joint managing director and chief marketing officer, Parle Agro, gave them all a miss and handed the mandate to New York-based design and creative agency Sagmeister & Walsh, run by Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh.

Frooti's 2018 summer ad campaign (#TheFrootiLife, with Bollywood actor Alia Bhatt and Tollywood/Telugu actor Allu Arjun) has broken. We spoke to Jessica about her experience working on this brand.

Edited Excerpts


What was the creative brief like this time?

The brief was to create a new commercial in the miniature world starring Frooti's ambassador Alia Bhatt.

Alia has the perfect personality for Frooti - bubbly and fun. We wanted the campaign to highlight these traits and evoke humour. We went through many different story ideas before we landed on the concept of the love story, where a miniature suitor character tries to win Alia's heart.

We adapted the film for the South market with Allu, making his film about his fans. The goal for both films was to continue to build on the visual language we've created over the years. We wanted to make (something) playful and delightful, that people can enjoy watching...

Now that you've 'lived with' this account for a while, was your comfort with the brand and its nuances much higher this time around?

Yes, there is always a degree of comfort when you work with brands for many years as you (get) to know the brand and everyone involved inside and out. So there is less of a learning curve and the strategy is already in place. However, I wouldn't say the overall job becomes easier. It's difficult to ideate new ways and to evolve stories and visuals from previous seasons such that the work feels fresh, but continues to builds on the brand equity of the visual language already established.

Considering the volume of assets needed these days with social media, it's a challenge to keep coming up with so many new visuals and ideas each season. But it's interesting and fun...

This is the first time Frooti has created region-specific creatives. How did you approach this additional 'geography' layer? What did you do to research and prepare for this requirement?

We had an intensive briefing and research phase to learn about the culture of South India. The challenge for this particular campaign was - thinking of a commercial concept that would be adaptable to both celebrities, while also being unique; we didn't want the stories to feel too generic and wanted to personalise them to the stars.

Rewind a little and tell me about the time you pitched for the Frooti business - a beverage brand from a country you knew little about...

We take the initial strategy phase very seriously. We don't just jump into a project and design without doing plenty of research and thinking first. We flew to India to meet the team at Parle Agro and to learn more about Indian culture. We went to markets to see where Frooti was being served first hand. We took dozens of photos of the advertising landscape on the streets of Mumbai. We listened very closely to the history of the brand, their goals, ambitions and challenges. We worked with Nadia to help define key brand personality traits,which continue to inspire all the work we do.

After all this research and strategy was complete, we started the ideation (process). Our goal was to create a visual language and campaign that felt very fresh and different from what was being done in India. We noticed that OOH advertising in India was heavy on copy, and we wanted to depart from that and create a graphic world which allows us to tell stories and evoke humour universally, without relying on copy. Since we didn't see any stop-motion style commercials done before and felt that could be an interesting technique to make the commercial stand out.

Do you track Indian creative work at all?

I try not to track much advertising or design work at all. I find when you look too closely within your own field of work for inspiration, that's when you end up regurgitating existing ideas and styles.

What other overseas brands do you currently have on your client list? How do you manage the time-zone factor working on all these businesses outside of your home market?

We've had clients in countries around the world such as Lebanon, China, Spain, Brazil, France. We are currently working with Artz in Mexico City, Wix in Tel Aviv, MAK museum in Germany, The Venice Biennale in Italy, among others.

I'm always travelling to speak at events or for client meetings. This essentially means I am never in one time zone; I often work late nights or early mornings to make it all happen... I love our work so I don't see this as a burden.

When your first few posters for Frooti Fizz were released, people left comments on our story saying it bore a strong resemble to the Aizone campaign...

The Aizone campaign we created was a single-season campaign in Lebanon using body-painted colourful patterns, themed to different periods of art history like constructivism or Mondrian. It was not their entire brand identity and was short lived in that region, for only a few months. Therefore, we did not see it as an issue to also use colour and patterns for Frooti Fizz, as it was a different application, region and execution.

The patterns for Frooti Fizz were made as optical illusions that trick the eye when you view them on the computer, as we were doing a large push on social with these images. We spent quite a long time developing these custom illusions for the Frooti Fizz brand identity to bring out the brand attributes of being funky, crazy and fun.

Aizone ad by Sagmeister & Walsh. Screengrab taken from the agency's website Aizone ad by Sagmeister & Walsh. Screengrab taken from the agency's website

What's it like working with Nadia? Does she brief you directly?

Nadia is an ideal client - she's smart, direct, and knows what she wants. There's no BS. She's willing to launch creative that's unexpected, edgy and different; many CMOs at large companies are too risk-averse when it comes to creating work outside the box of traditional advertising.

She does brief me directly and we communicate via email and collaboration tools like Basecamp quite regularly, and talk on call when necessary. We both work hard, are passionate and exchange ideas constantly; it's a true collaboration.

Lastly, tell me about your experience working with Alia...

Alia's a pro! Typically you need to spend quite a while directing people on set to get the emotion and poses you need for a campaign, but she is able to listen to the brief and quickly deliver a great range of looks...

2017 poster for Frooti Fizz. Grab taken from the agency's website 2017 poster for Frooti Fizz. Grab taken from the agency's website

This particular TVC campaign was a tricky one to film as she had to (enact) all the motions of interacting with the characters without seeing them; we filmed the stop-motion (part) separately. She had to time her expressions and movement perfectly to the animatic boards. She was able to accomplish this within a few tries; we were impressed.

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