Aditi Srivastava

FreeCharge Connects With Digital Natives; Says #ReverseTheCharge

Online recharge platform FreeCharge has released a humour-laden, TV-led campaign. We spoke to Ashish Virmani, head, marketing, FreeCharge, about the effort

The relationship between children and their parents is most cherished and unique in its own way. But, what makes this relationship bittersweet is the viewpoint of parents as opposed to that of their wards.

Working on the same insight, the mobile commerce company FreeCharge, has come up with the TVC #ReverseTheCharge, which explores the youth-parent relationship through role reversal. In the current campaign, the youth have been portrayed as more responsible who help parents understand the new-age 'fizool kharchi', following a pattern from 'Recharge Nahi FreeCharge', its earlier TVC released in 2014. In that, parents blamed the youth for fizool kharchi (unnecessary expenditure).

FreeCharge Connects With Digital Natives; Says #ReverseTheCharge
The campaign this year, is created and conceptualised by Lowe Lintas and produced by Early Man Films. It was launched on December 12, and will continue for four weeks. And, in the event of a good response, it may be extended further. The aim is to reinforce the brand connect by focusing on the youth's requirements, particularly those residing in metros and Tier II cities.
FreeCharge Connects With Digital Natives; Says #ReverseTheCharge
Talking about the campaign, Ashish Virmani, head, marketing, FreeCharge, says, "#ReverseTheCharge is not an extension of the previous campaign '
'. Rather, it is an evolution of the same with a two-fold objective -- to engage with the target group and build affinity and appeal for the brand, and to leverage slice-of-life situations in a family set-up which can help communicate the message persuasively."

While the previous campaign showed a bunch of youngsters as the main communicators, the current campaign focuses on how people of the previous generation, who are now in their 50s, have become adaptive to the technology-driven world around them.

FreeCharge Connects With Digital Natives; Says #ReverseTheCharge
Commenting on the shift in the target audience, Virmani opines, "Times have changed and people are becoming smarter due to the presence of smartphones in their lives. Parents have taken to technology like fish to water and they are as adaptive as any 21-year-old these days. But, our focus is upon the youth. With this campaign, the youth have evolved to the point where they can charge their parents for being spendthrifts."

As for the new TVC, he says, "FreeCharge, as a brand, understands youth and their needs deeply. With FreeCharge, they don't just recharge, but get their problems solved smartly.

The campaign, which aims to build the already strong appeal for the brand, will use an integrated marketing plan leveraging TV, digital, and radio."

The brand intends to target youngsters in their 20s, within SEC A, who have the financial freedom and are the digital natives of this generation, with the mobile being the primary mode of communication. The brand believes that its intended target group is witty and humorous and shares a healthy relationship with parents, and hence, levy the relevant 'charges' on their parents as part of the #ReverseTheCharge campaign.

The online recharge platform, available on desktop as well as on mobiles, claims to have over fifteen million downloads, on Android and iOS together. The monthly average ticket size for recharge orders across all its segments (mobile, DTH, bill payment, metro and data card) varies from category to category. E-commerce sees an average monthly ticket size of 2,500 orders while bill payments and other recharges lie between 1,000 to 1,500, and 150 to 200, respectively.

The campaign has two 30-second TVCs, namely, ReverseTheCharge - Prepaid, and #ReverseTheCharge - DTH. The campaign is in Hindi and has also been translated in other regional languages such as Tamil, Telugu and Kannada to strengthen brand awareness and recall, and penetrate deeper into the Indian market to attract new users on board. The pan-India TVC campaign is being aired on more than 30 channels on national television spanning major Hindi GECs such as Colors, Star Plus, Sony, and SAB TV, and English channels such as Star Movies, Star World, and Romedy Now.

When asked about why only the two categories of prepaid mobile recharge and DTH have been advertised in the current campaign, Virmani replies, "Mobile data is fuelling growth for mobile payments in addition to the DTH segment. Hence, for now, our focus in on these two segments."

FreeCharge Connects With Digital Natives; Says #ReverseTheCharge
Talking about the campaign, Arun Iyer, chief creative officer, Lowe Lintas, says, "For the launch phase of the campaign, we had established FreeCharge as a brand that frees young people of various money-related charges placed on them by their parents. In this phase, we thought we'd flip the dynamics of this relationship. The young FreeCharge user is a step ahead of the game and knows how to save so well, that in addition to freeing himself/herself of all charges of being a spendthrift, he/she can now, in fact, go ahead and place the same charge on his/her parents."

Besides a TVC, the campaign has taken a multi-media approach by leveraging both offline, as well as online media channels. Radio advertising for the campaign includes audience engagement measures like radio contests, promos and talks by radio jockeys about #ReverseTheCharge campaign while for social media, there's an ongoing contest related to the campaign on Facebook and Twitter. The brand also asked people to send funny messages received from family members on WhatsApp, which had more than 6,000 entries from 1,200 people. The social media impressions stand at a staggering 50 million till date.

Furthermore, the brand is trying to target consumers across multiple touchpoints via offline and online modes. As an extension of the same, it has started a trial experiment of giving out discount coupons for meals to passengers flying certain airlines. The discount coupons can be used by the passengers across any retail outlet that FreeCharge has a tie-up with. The brand also claims to have earmarked Rs 2,000 crore as ad spends for the next 15-18 months.

Talking about the marketing challenges for the campaign, Virmani explains, "The biggest and the only challenge for us, has been to sustain the excitement for the campaign after a blockbuster opening to the maiden TVC launch last year."

All Charged Up?

Tanushree Radhakrishnan, senior vice-president, digital, ZenithOptimedia, finds the ad to be a good one. "If you can't beat them, join them. #ReverseTheCharge is a quirky take and a good extension of the earlier campaign. The ad is quite insightful, considering that the digital natives these days are not just onboarding their parents onto smartphones and the internet, but also steering them through," she says.

FreeCharge Connects With Digital Natives; Says #ReverseTheCharge
FreeCharge Connects With Digital Natives; Says #ReverseTheCharge
FreeCharge Connects With Digital Natives; Says #ReverseTheCharge
Talking about the brand recall value associated with the campaign, she adds, "While it may have a good recall, it lacks the connect of the previous ad. A strong value proposition is also amiss in the current series."

On the other hand, Ajeet Shukla, senior creative director, FCB Ulka, gives a thumbs-up to the execution of the advert. Commenting on the same, Shukla opines, "The execution is really nice. The amazing casting and music makes it even better. In one line I would say -- it's fantastic."

Continuing further, he adds, "The brand is trying to connect to the youth with the key message 'Reverse the charge'. Our parents always put the charge of fizool kharchi on us, so 'reversing the charge' as an insight works really well with the consumers of FreeCharge. This campaign is a continuation of the previous campaign." Shukla also feels that the campaign will create a high recall value for the brand as the execution is funny and quirky and the key message is a reality as well.

Vishnu Srivatsav, creative head, DDB Mudra South and East, too, finds the ad to be nicely shot. He finds the moments in the ads well-captured even as he feels that the earlier campaign was bigger in content and message, and more rooted to the youth. According to Srivatsav, the current campaign offers a stretched premise.

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