Ashwini Gangal

"Beer shampoo is an irreverent product": Anil Kulkarni, JK Helene Curtis

Park Avenue tries to get more men to try its beer shampoo, by overcoming what it calls a "practical barrier" to the process - women! In its second TVC, the brand shrewdly addresses the lady of the house, the one who controls the shopping cart.

Not long ago, P&G's Head & Shoulders scolded men for using their "biwi ka shampoo." Now, Park Avenue has taken to persuading the biwi to allow her man to use beer shampoo, something his "man hair" needs.

Yes, allow. Sample the script of this commercial:

"Put it back" she admonishes, as her man picks up a beer shampoo at the mall.

"But please, it's got beer," he begs.

"No," she glares.

"Oww..." he whimpers as he puts the bottle back on the shelf.

"Beer shampoo is an irreverent product": Anil Kulkarni, JK Helene Curtis
"Beer shampoo is an irreverent product": Anil Kulkarni, JK Helene Curtis
"Beer shampoo is an irreverent product": Anil Kulkarni, JK Helene Curtis
"Beer shampoo is an irreverent product": Anil Kulkarni, JK Helene Curtis
That's when the straight-haired, now gold-suited mascot we're already familiar with, appears out of a puff of smoke and says, "Excuse me, Princess, but let me explain...." and goes on to tell her why she ought to let her man buy beer shampoo.

By the end of the ad, she's all smiles. "You need this. It's got beer," she says as she picks up a bottle and hands it to her man.

The brand already made a strong case for 'man hair' in its launch commercial released last year, in which the mascot clearly speaks to male TV viewers. In the current film, though, the woman is the one being convinced. Was this shift in tack a research-backed decision or one guided by pure anecdotal evidence of the May-I-please-have-one-last-beer kind?

Anil Kulkarni, business director, JK Helene Curtis, the Raymond Group company that markets Park Avenue's beer shampoo, explains, "Beer shampoo is an irreverent product. It takes a risk-taking attitude to move out of your 'family shampoo' and choose a specific product such as this. Our research showed that while a lot of young men - (and women!) - want to use beer shampoo, they're a bit apprehensive about how their family or friends will react to the decision. Therefore, it was critical for us to address this apprehension."

Kulkarni adds that the communication strategy is aimed at demonstrating that the man now has "social approval" to use beer shampoo. "A woman recommending it to him is the biggest social approval he needs," he asserts.

Interestingly, in this film, the woman is made to think of the myriad ways in which she stands to benefit if her man uses this product. The launch film, however, was all about the man and his glory. Is the brand addressing a different type of TG through this ad, say, married men, as opposed to the previous one, which perhaps addressed single men?

"Not at all," answers Kulkarni, "We are speaking to the same audience... but with a different objective." He explains that the previous film was "just an announcer" but now, the brand is focused on "attracting the 'aware non-users' who want to try it but are stopping from doing so, due to some apprehension."

So, what's the typical user of this shampoo like? "He is a person who is an early innovator, who is not shy to experiment, is in a life stage where he is taking his own decisions and is trying to take his life into his own hands," Kulkarni says. Beer Shampoo, he tells afaqs!, is for men and women who are either young (15-25 years) or young at heart.

Is it safe to assume the mascot in gold is a reflection of the TG's 'idealised self' - brute, brash, spunky and confident? "He represents the fun aspect of beer," Kulkarni responds, "He has emerged as a creative hook for the communication. Consumers loved his irreverence (in the launch film). Hence we wanted to keep the continuity."

Bobby Pawar, chief creative officer, South Asia, Publicis Worldwide, the agency that has created this campaign, labels this sequel the "Part Do TVC."

"It stars the epitome of manly man-ness, the peak of the pinnacle of male perkiness...Rockland Steel. He became quite a hit with the people in his debut," Pawar muses about the mascot, whose "softer side" is revealed in this film.


"Beer shampoo is an irreverent product": Anil Kulkarni, JK Helene Curtis
"Beer shampoo is an irreverent product": Anil Kulkarni, JK Helene Curtis
Satbir Singh, managing partner and chief creative officer, Havas Worldwide, sums up his opinion on this film with, "Very interestingly done. It does stand apart from other ads on TV. I don't know about women shopping for men but that seems to be conventional wisdom. I guess apart from condoms and beer, men are rather lousy at shopping."

KV Sridhar, chief creative officer, SapientNitro India, exclaims, "She not only controls the shopping cart... she controls him!" referring to the woman in the ad and the pool of consumers she represents.

Pops, as he is fondly known, analyses the marketing strategy. He says, "Traditionally, women's products have been targeted at men, be it Victoria's Secret or grooming products. Now, as we see in this ad, the same thing is happening in the men's grooming segment; the target is the woman and the message is: 'If you want your man to be more confident or manly, push him to use this.'"

Referring to the shift in addressee, Pops adds, "A man telling a man, 'You're not man enough; you need help... so use this and become like me' may not be well accepted. Routing the same message through the woman in his life, works better."

However, Pops finds the execution very "middle class" and critiques the way ad is hinged on the actual 'moment of truth', that is, the point at which the bottle either gets picked up or doesn't. "They've shown the shopping cart, the point of sale (POS) material and a very Big Bazaar-like shopping aisle. This makes the ad look like it has been crafted by the sales team!" he laughs, adding, "The previous commercial gave the brand a more up-market, aspirational positioning. In this ad, it has lost its edgy attitude. But I'm sure there's a reason for this... maybe they're trying to 'broad base' the product now."

For Pops, the Old Spice films that feature Milind Soman have more élan than this one. "Perhaps," he thinks aloud, "they should've brought in a jealousy angle... maybe the woman should've playfully flirted with the mascot," who, by the way, Pops is not a fan of.

"He's irritating. The characterisation is clearly borrowed from the West. He looks like a serial killer in one of those C-grade Hollywood films," he declares.

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