Ashwini Gangal

The twin down South

Vim recently released a campaign featuring a Mizoram-based family with 160 members. The campaign comprises two identical films featuring different brand ambassadors - one famous in the North and the other in the South. A look at the geography-sensitive, dual-celeb route, something other brands have also taken of late.

Vim, dishwashing brand from HUL, recently launched two 30 seconders. The Hindi ad features Sakshi Tanwar, TV actress of Hindi GEC fame and the Tamil ad features Devayani, film actress down South. What caught our attention is that both ads are identical, except for the celebrity and of course, the language.

The twin down South
The twin down South
The twin down South
The twin down South
The twin down South
The twin down South
The twin down South
The twin down South
Few weeks back, Santoor, soap brand from Wipro, did the same with Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan and Telugu actor Mahesh Babu. Not long before that Mondelēz International's Cadbury India, launched a couple of ad films for its cookie brand Oreo; Ranbir Kapoor featured in the national campaign and Tamil actor Karthik Sivakumar (aka Karthi) featured in the TVC that was aired across Tamil Nadu and Kerala-specific media. Just like in the case of Vim, in these cases too, both ads were identical on all fronts - script, overall treatment, creative execution, costumes and actors' expressions.

Pan-India Ideas?

R Sridhar, founder, brand-comm, a brand consultancy, says that while brands have historically been launching separate campaigns for the South market, the point to be noted here is that today, the national and South campaigns are identical. This, he notes, is possible only if the core theme is very broad. "While Coca-Cola has been endorsed by Aamir Khan nationally and by superstar Vijay in the South, the scripts of the ads featuring each were completely different. The trend we see today is that the themes brands are selecting for their campaigns are very generic and inherently pan-India." Oreo's brother-sister play or Vim's utensil cleaning challenge are not ideas that are intrinsically rooted in a particular geography. "Brands seem to be coming up with 'general' ideas such as these," Sridhar says.

This also solves the problem of translating the script at a later date. Often in translation, the essence of the original script gets lost. But as is seen in this trend, the two scripts are thought of right at the inception stage itself and are then executed simultaneously; not as an after-thought that goes, 'Now let's translate and dub this Hindi ad into Tamil.' "In the future, I do see more ads with such general themes, that is, themes good enough to hold nationally," predicts Sridhar.

The "cultural contexts" in the North and South, as Mahuya Chaturvedi, managing partner, Cogito Consulting (independent consulting division of the Draftfcb Ulka Group) points out, are believed to be opposite. The flamboyance and high decibel entertainment of the North is in direct contrast to the disciplinarian and information-hungry stance of the South. "Likewise, in advertising," she says, "while the South would like to know 'what benefit?', 'why?', and details about ingredients, the North enjoys the narrative, the humour and the music."

"Which is why, when marketers hit upon an emotional hotspot, like women's quest for eternal youth (read: Santoor), the transferability across borders is more effortless," she says, about the trend.

Chaturvedi shares an example of a brand that, in the past, has created entirely different campaigns for the North and South markets: Tetra Pak conveyed its 'protection proposition' to its Northern audience by using the black tika (dot) on a new born baby, while in the South the same end was achieved by demonstrating the actual stamina and energy of a kid. While the current trend of creating identical ads with different celebrities is a sustained admission that the two markets are indeed different, it is also a time-effective way out, from an effort-and-execution perspective.

She points out yet another trend: The use of 'South characters' and 'South lingo' in pan-India campaigns. For instance, Idea Cellular showed a South Indian dad playing Holi with kids in an ad film not too long back and Mahindra's ad for the Duro featured Kareena Kapoor - a star with far less appeal in the South than the North - liberally using 'Romba Nalla' as the catch phrase all through the Tamil commercial. "These ads caught a chuckle because of the surprise value," Chaturvedi says. Some experts attribute this ancillary trend to "media overlap" between the South and other markets.

According to experts, the 'dual-celeb, identical ad' trend is here to stay. Chaturvedi alerts us to a study by Millward Brown, a research agency, which suggests that only one in seven ads travels well across the country and has similar likeability/enjoyment scores; in all, 1,000 ads were studied. Maybe the dual-celeb route was born out of such findings. Come to think of it, the only endorsers left with national appeal are perhaps cricketers. So would a Dhoni have appeal in Chennai? Yes. But whether it is because cricket surpasses state boundaries or because he is captain of Chennai Super Kings is anyone's guess.

Vim Story

The Vim commercials feature the world's largest family (160 members) that resides in Mizoram. The ads are shot in and around their home.

Joshua Thomas, creative director at Lowe Lintas & Partners India, stumbled upon information about this family, while working on a Vim brief. The agency then went ahead and presented a campaign idea, centered on this family, to the brand team. "Vim communication is always set in a 'challenge' context. This family seemed like a perfect fit for a 'torture test' brief. The brief came first and the idea of using the family came later," informs the HUL company spokesperson.

In a sense, the campaign takes the brand out of the kitchen and onto a larger canvas. Will going back to the previous 'kitchen imagery' be a challenge for the brand in the days ahead? "When you view the advertisements, you will notice that the brand is still shown in and around the kitchen. It is just the context and story that take place in a larger setting. Dirty utensils exist everywhere and this was just one way of conveying the brand's message. So in that sense, we don't really see any problem for subsequent campaigns," says the spokesperson.

The shoot took around four days to complete, although a dialogue with the family was initiated a few months back. A lot of the shots in the films are candid shots of the family members going about their daily routine. Understandably, both logistics and language were challenges the agency was faced with. The family speaks Mizo and the services of an interpreter were availed for this campaign.

Interestingly, the extreme North and North Eastern parts of India don't get featured much mainstream ad campaigns, unless of course, the effort is to show that the product/service is available in every nook and corner of India - like in the case of the recent Tata Sky commercial, shot in Leh Ladakh, in the Northern most state of J&K; "India ke kisi bhi koney se..." went the voice-over artist.

While integration was not an agenda - ("This advertisement was made with the sole aim of communicating the brand's message and hence should be viewed through that lens only," goes the HUL spokesperson) - it may well be a welcome byproduct of the Vim campaign.

The media agency is Mindshare and the production house is All in the Family. The ads have been directed by Vishal Gehani.

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