N. Shatrujeet

Idea Cellular: Banking on the power of suggestion

The latest television commercial for Idea Cellular attempts to communicate the promise the new cellular brand identity of Birla-Tata-AT&T holds

Confusing this may sound, but as a piece of communication, this one doesn't ‘tell' as much as it ‘suggests'. And by ‘suggesting', it leaves open some blank spaces… for the viewer to fill in. Which is the idea, in a way.

We're talking about the latest television commercial for Idea Cellular, the newly constituted, combined brand entity of Birla-Tata-AT&T (also referred to by the playful acronym, Batata). Now, to understand what we exactly mean by ‘suggestion' and ‘blank spaces', let's first look at the communication briefly.

The ad starts with the shot of a young boy running into an open field and setting light to a firecracker. As the rocket bursts in the sky, it showers a profusion of ‘numbers' to the ground. ‘The Coverage Idea' reads the super. The next shot is that of a young couple at a tiny railway station, awaiting a train. Suddenly, the two crouch near the tracks and put their ears to the rail, listening for the rumble of the approaching train. Just then, a series of ‘numbers' ripple past them on the rail. ‘The Clarity Idea' says the super.

Cut to the inside of a running train. Packed coaches, one after the other. Then, suddenly, one coach… Empty. Just one lone occupant, holding on to the handrail with a strap of ‘numbers'. ‘The No-congestion Idea.' Next, a silent college library, noses buried in books. One student steals a glance at another. The other acknowledges and gently kicks a football of ‘numbers' towards the first. A stealthy game ensues… ‘The Games Idea.'

A lilting soundtrack runs right through the commercial in the form of a female voice singing a series of random cell phone numbers. The commercial ends with super ‘A cellular service called Idea', followed by the Idea logo. ‘An idea can change your life' reads to tagline.

Now what exactly does this commercial ‘tell' about the brand? Superior coverage, voice clarity, congestion-free service: the usual cellular operator shibboleth. But there are also things in the commercial that haven't been articulated. Things implied, blank spaces. Things that, perhaps, even the viewer might struggle to articulate.

"When you have a brand like Idea, there must be an idea in your advertising that harbours the very vision of the brand," says Balki (R Balakrishnan), executive creative director, Lowe. "Here are three huge forces (Birla, AT&T and Tata) coming together to create a brand that is innovative, imaginative, international and consumer-friendly. We had to make people imagine the power and the promise of that brand. The idea was to get people to ‘feel' all these things." The hope is that all this decoding happens in the viewer's head, perhaps even unconsciously.

The task of the communication is also to drive home the creation of the new brand entity - both among existing subscribers (of Batata) and prospects. "It is a task of migrating the individual brand names, brand values and brand personalities of Tata Cellular and AT&T to Idea," says a Lowe executive.

Incidentally, this process of migration has been on since April 2001, when the three companies formed the alliance. "The process of creating a unified brand was kicked off a long time ago," says the agency executive. "All three brands (Tata Cellular in Andhra Pradesh, RPG Cellular in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and AT&T in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa) were well entrenched in their respective markets, and enjoyed good consumer bonding plus comfort at the trade levels. So the journey to Idea was kept in mind and we had a complete rollout plan in all markets. The trade and the consumer were taken into confidence, both formally and informally, and were reassured about how the new brand would actually be an enhanced product."

Idea, as a brand, was formally unveiled in end-April, and market-specific communication (press, outdoor and below-the-line) heralded the launch. The Lowe executive adds that although a formal research is in progress, Lowe has "informally" picked up news that the "migration has been smooth and well accepted". The television campaign, incidentally, has been created keeping in mind the brand's upcoming launch in Delhi. "There is already a buzz in Delhi," says Balki. "Film is an effective medium in establishing branding, plus it puts the brand on the national map."

The film itself is refreshing in the manner in which it talks about clarity, coverage et al. The use of the numbers mnemonic (both visual and auditory) is especially clutter breaking for the category. "We used number because that is the universal identity of cell phones," says Balki. "We just made numbers relevant to the features." He admits that this could have ended up looking quite tacky "because you really don't know if you're going to get it right", and credits USL Studios for "slogging very hard on this".

There is a certain serenity, a non-intrusiveness about the film that is appealing (the film has been directed by Icelandic filmmaker Laarus Johnsen). "Sometimes, things have to be underplayed as the power of the situation is in-built," says KV Sridhar (‘Pops'), executive creative director, Lowe. "You don't always have to spell everything out, be it propositions, characters or emotions. I think Laarus showed us how to underplay. All in all, I think we pitched this one right."

Agency : Lowe, Mumbai

The Team :

Creative : Amer Jaleel, Narendra Yadav

Servicing : Tarun Chauhan, Himanshu Saxena

Filmmaker : Laarus Johnsen

Production House : MAD Films

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