Saumya Tewari

Even Dogs Know It's A Duster!

To promote the 'Adventure Edition' of the Duster, Renault has launched a short, tongue-in-cheek film in which a 'rich' looking dog admires the SUV in his own little way.

Models in the Indian advertising industry have ample reason to be annoyed with French auto maker Renault. In a move to promte the Adventure Edition of the Duster, its prized compact SUV brand, the company has rolled out a breezy 15 seconder that features just two entities - a sleek, black model of the car and a cocker spaniel with good taste.

Even Dogs Know It's A Duster!
The dog takes a few seconds to admire the Duster before deciding to take a leak on the car parked right next to it. The writing on the wall - or the tyre, shall we say? - is clear: Even dogs know it's a Duster.

The ad breaks category codes in many ways: First of all, it shows a parked car; most automobile ads show the vehicle being driven around. So there's no question of a product demo here. Which is counter-intuitive... after all, it's an 'adventure series' that's being advertised here.

Secondly, there's no mention of the Duster's product features; in fact, there's just a voice over that goes, "Admiration comes naturally with the Renault Duster." L&K Saatchi & Saatchi, the agency behind this campaign, says the point was to make the product the hero in this piece of communication.

Confidently Parked

This certainly looks like an ad released by a confident brand; only a car brand sure of itself can skip the part where it enumerates its product-related plus points. This probably has a lot to do with the life-stage of the Duster in the Indian market. It has seen a healthy growth curve since its launch in July 2012.

Noting that Renault's Duster has done "exceptionally well" and can actually be credited for "turbo-charging the compact SUV category in the country," Akshay Chaturvedi, business head, Zigwheels, agrees. He believes the Duster has reached a stage where its brand communication "doesn't need to be driven by or dependent on product features."

Even Dogs Know It's A Duster!
Even Dogs Know It's A Duster!
"India happens to be the fourth biggest global market for the Duster. Renault identified the gap in the Indian SUV segment and contextualised the Duster around consumers' needs and aspirations," Chaturvedi says, adding that this is "case study material."

He goes on to comment on the parent company and Duster's role in the larger scheme of things. "Initially, Renault had a torrid time in India with its entry with Mahindra & Mahindra and first product Logan, that didn't quite take off. Subsequently, after going solo, its premium offerings in Fluence, Koleos and Pulse (the cross badged Micra) also didn't help Renault strike a chord with Indian consumers. But the Duster eventually took the Indian market by storm and in the process inspired competition to create products in this segment," he analyses.

Other players in the category that the Duster operates in include Tata Safari, Mahindra's Scorpio, Mahindra XUV 500, Ford EcoSport, Nissan Terrano, Skoda Yeti and Chevrolet Enjoy, to name a few.

Respectfully Cheeky?

Earlier this year, in our very own Annual Issue, a round up last year's marketing trends, we published a segment on why compact SUVs emerged as the 'hot wheels' of 2013. At the time, we spoke to Vivek Balasubramaniam Srivatsa, head of marketing, Renault India.

Besides affordability and manoeuvrability, some other interesting points came up. He had pointed out that the trend has a lot to do with the way in which the modern, urban family has evolved - taking long distance weekend trips outside the city with the family is far more popular a concept today than it was a few years back.

In conversation with afaqs! again, this time about his current campaign, he admits that the execution is very "tongue-in-cheek", one that "gives viewers a humorous take on the desirability and respect that the brand commands."

"The objective of the campaign is to up product recall. Yes, it breaks category codes as there are no product features, no beautiful shots of cars or people," he says, insisting that the Duster has become a brand that does not need to sell itself on the back of its product features any longer.

The creative agency adds, "Duster has created its own equity in the market. We would appraise each individual communication piece as part of a larger set. We launched a TV campaign for the Duster in February which more than bought alive the performance and drive experience. This TVC (the current one featuing the dog, that is) is to introduce the limited edition. Customers are already aware of what the Duster stands for."

Is the agency guilty of trying to grab viewer attention by simply throwing in a furry animal - one of the two cutest visuals ad-land resorts to in order to fetch instant eyeballs? (The other one is a human baby, by the way).

The agency rejects the very idea of a sure shot 'formula' in the ad world, saying, the Indian automotive consumer examines every purchase with an "eagle eye" and that "features are a part of a package that the consumer will have to live with over the tenure of his bank loan."

"Our print messaging does communicate features. Different elements of the media mix play a distinct role, and we feel print performs this role better," says the team at L&K Saatchi & Saatchi.

Are the humans impressed?

Yes and no.

Zigwhees' Chaturvedi says, "It's a cute ad trying to tap into the 'admiration route'. He interprets the commercial as a "reflection of the love" the brand has received in this market. "Obviously, the intent is to capitalise on that," he observes.

He points out an interesting flipside, though. Since the ad ends with the message that the Duster Adventure is now available in showrooms, "relationally, the cuteness of the ad emerges as a bit weak as it doesn't convey anything around the adventure part." This particular creative execution, he feels, ought not to have been used for a variant hinged on the nothing-cute-about-it promise of adventure.

Even Dogs Know It's A Duster!
For Amitava Mitra, CEO, Percept/H, the ad just "doesn't work". While he admits that the features of a car "can and will always be checked out at the dealership," he goes on to critique, "But in this ad I fail to understand what the idea is. It doesn't come through. It doesn't say much about the brand."

In our species, 'pissing' all over something is hyperbolic slang for rejection of said something. In the canine world, it's quite the opposite - it almost shows preference for said something; it's an act of marking one's personal territory and claiming ownership over that item. In that sense, the dog in the ad has been, well, 'humanised'.

In keeping with 'species codes', should the dog have chosen the product being advertised to do his business?

Mitra responds, "Yes the dog should have been shown peeing on the Duster to mark his territory and make the point that the rest don't matter. Having the dog pee on another product goes against the core idea."

But that's as far his analysis of canine urination goes. "All dogs pee on all car tyres... so where is the big idea?" he fumes.

Well, as the team at the creative agency puts it, " This execution is a light-hearted take and results in reflecting the superiority of our new product. That's all we had in mind."

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