Anushree Bhattacharyya

Vespa: Retro unplugged

Vespa, in this campaign, has been positioned as a style statement and not just as a mere mode of transportation. The thought is further accentuated through the tagline, 'Fashion unchanged'.

After a hiatus of almost 13 years, Piaggio has brought back the Italian brand, Vespa, to the Indian soil in its original avatar. The newly launched campaign for the new Vespa positions the scooter as a timeless and ageless lifestyle product which leverages its rich heritage.

Vespa: Retro unplugged
The campaign aims to establish the point that the Vespa is not just a mode of transportation but an individual style statement, which is further articulated through the tagline, 'Fashion unchanged.'

Conceptualised by Meridian, the television commercial (TVC) titled 'Fashion unchanged' shows a young man in a modern setting, getting ready to go out. He jumps out of bed, wears his favourite shirt, shoes and jacket, and straps on his helmet. Interestingly, he styles himself in the Vespa way, maintaining the retro classic look. He gets on his Vespa in search of the perfect girl to match his style and his scooter. After screening several girls, he finally finds the perfect girl and takes her for a ride on his Vespa. The film ends with the line, 'Vespa. Fashion Unchanged. Since 1946'. The brand was first introduced to the Indian market in 1946 through a joint venture between Bajaj and Piaggio.

Vespa: Retro unplugged
Vespa: Retro unplugged
Vespa: Retro unplugged
MV Krishna, associate vice-president, marketing, Piaggio Two Wheelers, explains, "The idea was to present the iconic Vespa to the Indian consumers in its true personification. But the question was how to retain the retro drama and its heritage. The campaign captures both and showcases the Vespa as not just a scooter but a way of life. The TVC brings out this retro yet contemporary magic of the brand."

Speaking on the idea, creative duo Anuraag Khandelwal and Satish deSa, executive creative directors, Meridian, say, "Most Indians are not familiar with Vespa's lineage as they are mostly used to Japanese designs. Therefore, the task was to create familiarity of Italian designs. Also, Vespa has remained chic and stylish since 1946, fashionable in every age. The film brings out this aspect and connects with the fashionable who want to showcase a vibrant taste for fashion and good things in life. It promises to bring to life this individual style quotient. The layering of style is 'modern retro chic' which highlights the 'unchanged' bit and the heritage aspect of the Vespa."

In addition to the TVC, the company has also launched digital, below-the-line (BTL) and out of home campaigns.

A touch of chic

While the overall idea is liked by industry professionals, they feel the TVC loses its ground when it comes to execution.

Prathap Suthan, managing partner, Bang in the Middle likes the whole retro touch given to the TVC and feels that it's a world that the brand truly owns. However, he is quick to point out that there's much more that one can do within that space.

"I have two observations - the execution perhaps could have been taken ahead. When you know the brand space so clearly, perhaps one could have pushed it. Secondly, did I feel it was too toy-ish, too young? Did the execution underplay the offer of a clearly better engineered scooter? I think somewhere if the same film was treated in a more real space, it would have given a substantial bulwark to the authenticity of the brand, especially for those who don't quite get the true pedigree of the brand," he adds.

Vespa: Retro unplugged
Vespa: Retro unplugged
According to Suthan, Vespa is a marquee brand, and unlike any other brand or offering in that space both the name and the product are well differentiated, and they certainly ride the top of the category. "As a parallel, I see this more like the coming back of the Volkswagen Beetle - a legend, an era, and a certain romance. If I am reading the opportunity or seeing one, then this campaign is an undersell," he remarks.

Divyapratap Mehta, vice-president, planning, Grey, calls the commercial visually refreshing. "The TVC creates an international appeal for Vespa. Consumers will see it as a trendy scooter, almost a candy-like visual appeal. However, I am not sure if the song and the imagery will connect with the youth beyond top end metros."

"Fashion unchanged as an idea is rooted in reinforcing brand belief. The youth of today might not have any legacy connection with the brand and might not care about the legacy. For a generation that lives in the now, all it establishes is that we make stylish scooties. The retro treatment and the bike of today is confusing. Fashion unchanged is a powerful thought and the entire appeal of the commercial is retro but the product looks contemporary. So I am a bit confused - if the brand is celebrating retro style and design, why is it not reflected in the product? More importantly, it is another scooter brand telling consumers I make stylish scooties, where a lot of others are telling them the same thing," he adds.

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