Sohini Sen
Advertising

AskMe.com Shuns The Sell-Brigade

In its latest campaign targeted at online sellers, AskMe.com takes a dig at brands like Olx and Quikr... without naming them, of course. The brand's marketing spends are pegged at around Rs. 40 crore.

Product differentiation has an all new definition - stand out of the crowd by poking fun at other brands in the space. Getit Infomedia-owned AskMe.com, an online information directory, has launched an ad campaign that, in a not-so-subtle manner, attempts to establish its superiority over online platforms that urge people to simply log on and sell their wares.

AskMe.com Shuns The Sell-Brigade
After all, there's nothing subtle about Kangana Ranaut grumbling, "Aaj kal 'becho becho becho' ki bhed chaal hai..." AskMe.com is clearly taking a dig at sites that stress the on the ease of online selling, in their communication. Names that readily come to mind are Olx and Quikr.

Earlier this year, AskMe.com launched a similar ad featuring Ranbir Kapoor, in which it took open digs at JustDial, Snapdeal and Olx.

Digital marketing agency Ignitee Digital Services has created this campaign.

While the previous campaign, also created by Ignitee Digital, underscored the multiplicity of AskMe's product offering (information, deals, e-commerce, classifieds), the current one takes a very specific stand against the prevalent herd mentality (Okay, you caught us - We translated 'bhed chaal') of mindlessly logging online and selling things. As underscored by Kangana towards the end of the films, AskMe.com is incentivising selling - and in turn, buying - on the platform, by offering special discounts/deals to sellers.

Big Billion... Big Aftermath

In the films, one of the roles Kangana plays is that of a politician, an entity Indians are quick to associate with the notion of false promises. Of late, a lot of brands and experts have been discussing the ability (or lack thereof!) of e-commerce sites to deliver on their promises; that's partly because we now live in the post-Big Billion Day Sale world. Did someone say Flipkart?

AskMe.com Shuns The Sell-Brigade
AskMe.com Shuns The Sell-Brigade
Manav Sethi, marketing head, Getit Infomedia, says, "Looking at recent 'big sale' days, we have learnt that we need to focus on customer experience, rather than on customer acquisition. Right now, 60 per cent of e-commerce users have satisfaction issues. We hope brands will look at both product differentiation and customer satisfaction, in the future."

Sethi goes on to explain, that an e-buyer typically visits at least three different sites before making the final transaction - a JustDial for listings/information, an Olx or Quikr to check if the desired item is up for sale, and sites like GroupOn, Snapdeal or Amazon for the best deals/prices. AskMe is positioned as a one-stop shop that caters to each of these needs.

Kangana has endorsed AskMe Bazaar, the online marketplace for the SME segment, in the past. AskMe has now extended that campaign to include another vertical, the Free Ads function.

The brand's marketing budget for the year stands at around $5-7 million (approximately Rs. 30-43 crore).

AskMe targets consumers in the 15-44 years age bracket, from SEC A, B and C. Within this, the sweet spot lies in the 15-34 years age group. The current campaign specifically targets e-sellers.

Why take potshots?

To stand out in a cluttered market, answers Ashok Karnik, executive creative director, Ignitee Digital Services.

He says, "When AskMe was being re-launched (the company has been around since June 2011, but was re-launched with the Ranbir Kapoor film earlier this year) there were many online and app players in the market, from Snapdeal to Olx. It is a competitive scenario and we had to show people how AskMe caters to many needs, with just one app." This sort of all-in-one offering is a newly emerging business model.

Interestingly, the films appear to promote AskMe - the mobile app, more than they do AskMe - the dot com. Notice how during the product-demo window, mobile screens are shown?

According to AskMe's Sethi, India has around 900 million mobile voice consumers and only 200 million internet consumers. It makes sense, he reasons, to speak to people who are more comfortable with using smartphones than promoting just the online portal.

Does it work?

AskMe.com Shuns The Sell-Brigade
AskMe.com Shuns The Sell-Brigade
The campaign has fetched mixed reviews from our expert panel.

Sanjeev Jasani, vice president, OgilvyOne, a digital marketing agency, feels the ads succeed in creating a "need" in the consumer's mind.

"Personally, as a viewer, I like it," he says, "It makes you take a fresh look at e-commerce portals. We visit multiple portals without actually differentiating between them. This ad makes us do so." And in doing so, AskMe has done the category a great service, Jasani opines.

As an aside, Jasani appreciates the "cheeky" creative execution.

To Sagar Kapoor, executive creative director, Lowe Lintas + Partners, taking a potshot at competition is a "shallow" approach.

In such ads, as seen in cola wars, 90 per cent of the brand's on-air time is spent talking about what others are not doing, leaving the brand with very little time and space to speak about its own features/benefits, he points out.

"Here, AskMe has made e-commerce sound like a confusing jungle and has positioned itself as the sum total of all the confusion. I don't think the ads will excite people towards the category, let alone towards the brand," Kapoor sums up.