Neha Kalra

Airtel: SRK on a double roll

Airtel is learnt to have put Rs 30 crore on the table for its latest corporate commercial, which takes form across media

Airtel does realise what it is to get two to tango. In a strategically planned burst of commercials, the company has released two ads – one, a corporate film and the other, a TV commercial for the Delhi Half Marathon being sponsored by it.

Creative doubles

Airtel: SRK on a double roll
The film opens on a close up of actor Shahrukh Khan (SRK) voicing that alone, one is nothing. A montage shows glimpses of his school and college days, marriage and stardom. All the while, SRK speaks to the viewer, saying that his relationships make him who he is and that the people in his life are in the true sense, a part of his network. He stresses that something good is bound to happen if 110 million people are together. The campaign thought – Together good things happen – appears, along with a repetition of the phrase, '110 million people network' for added emphasis towards the end. The film closes on the logo of Airtel, which interestingly is a coming together of the faces of people in red, white and black.

The TVC for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon is also woven around the same brand premise – Together good things happen. The film is essentially a montage of shots of monuments and significant places of the capital, with a voiceover of SRK talking about how he grew up in the city, chasing something or the other – kites, his school bus and girls! After chasing his dreams, he says he'll be back to the city on November 1 to run the marathon.

Airtel: SRK on a double roll
Airtel: SRK on a double roll
Deepesh Jha and Jaideep Mahajan are the creative heads on the Airtel account at Rediffusion Y&R. Talking about the singular creative alignment for the films, Jha says that it was a deliberate effort from Airtel to keep the corporate film and the marathon film on the same platform.

Chandrashekhar Radhakrishnan (Chandru), head, brand and media, Bharti Airtel, specifies that the corporate film emanates the hope and optimism of the brand and focuses on human relationships. "No man is an island. The film celebrates relationships and plays on the strength of Airtel's network of 110 million people."

The objective of the film is multi-fold, reveals Chandru: one, to show that life is made up of people and experiences; second, to focus on SRK's story, which he says is the best example to inspire and instil hope; and third, to show a shift of the one-to-one bond to the one-vs-many relationships. The basic purpose of the campaign is to cement the leadership of Airtel and reinforce the strength of Airtel's network.

The marathon commercial is an extension of the campaign philosophy on ground; the campaign serves as an instiller to the marathon.

The campaign, which is spread across various media, is primarily television-led and also includes OOH, radio and digital. Sources reveal that Airtel has pumped in about Rs 30 crore for the corporate campaign.

Anybody for duality?

Airtel: SRK on a double roll
Airtel: SRK on a double roll
Talking to a few members of the ad fraternity, afaqs! tries to figure out what's in store for the duality of the commercials released.

KV Sridhar (aka Pops), national creative director, Leo Burnett understands that considering the dual opportunity that brand Airtel had, it has been quite a waste. "The star that SRK is – you cannot get a better personality who made everything from nothing. If it's his story that is being narrated by himself, the corporate film could have ventured into interesting aspects of his life which could hook the viewer.

"Sadly, the story or incidents that are picked up from his life are not very inspiring and are already known to all." He feels that it is a missed opportunity by all three parties – SRK, the creative agency and Airtel.

He has no qualms about SRK's fit for the brand or even the fact that he has been used for both the films. But, "he's an endorser, not a salesman! The films mouth clichés, are not at all dramatic and have nothing to borrow from."

Sujay Nanavati, chief strategy officer, Percept/H says that the ad doesn't have the feel of an Airtel commercial and SRK seems to be a force fit.

For him, the corporate commercial is trying to say too many diverse things and the message is not conveyed clearly. "I am not sure whether the thought of 'Together good things happen' is as strong, simple and relevant as 'Express yourself' or even 'Barriers break when people talk'. The final payoff (Jab 110 million log saath ho...) seems like pure chest thumping, just because 110 million people have bought into a particular brand doesn't automatically qualify it to be a great brand."

The previous brand expressions of Airtel established leadership status in a far more subtle and refined manner, he suggests. He feels that the idea of people coming together for doing great things could have been expressed in a far better way than showing SRK's history and the coming together of two or five people.

Nanavati adds that the ad bears an uncanny resemblance to the Nokia corporate ad, which used SRK and how Nokia has been a part of his life for 10 years.

On the usage of SRK across the films, he understands that under usual circumstances, using the same celebrity across two simultaneous ads of the same brand seems confusing, especially so when the stories of both are similar.

"Both ads seem to be SRK nostalgia trips. If the strategy was to make them seem similar, the thought of 'Together great things happen' also should have also been continued into the marathon ad, which does not seem to surface."