The adman insists this six-minute-long film is not a Father's Day initiative.
Yesterday was Father's Day and brands across segments, with their well-timed, daddy-themed communication, discounts and offers, made sure we didn't forget that. Take this new ad film by Google India, for instance. A young son gifts his father a cinema-themed vacation, after learning about his unfulfilled dream of going to Bombay - (did Google deliberately avoid saying Mumbai?) - to become a Bollywood 'hero', back in the day. But wait a second; Lowe Lintas, the agency that created this ad, insists it is not a Father's Day film at all.
Arun Iyer, chief creative officer, Lowe Lintas, tells afaqs!, "This film isn't for Father's Day. It just happens to be released around the same time. It's a much larger initiative around Google search on mobile..."
But why the movie-specific search angle? Iyer explains, "Google has found that one in every ten searches in India is related to cinema. Cinema is the love of this country. So we came up with this thought and decided to create a story around it... In the film, the entire search platform of Google is optimised for cinema...," adding with pride, "The film industry has taken to it in a big way."
The film has been directed by Amit Sharma and produced by his production house Chrome Pictures. It took his team two weeks days to shoot it. The film has been shot across ten cities, namely, Chail, Shimla, Jaipur, Dulha, Bengaluru, Hampy, Goa, Srinagar, Pahalgam and Mumbai.
Chrome's Sharma tells afaqs!, "Half our time was spent taking road trips and the other half was spent in the air... it was great fun," he says, adding, "To shoot this kind of film, you need a strong production team."
By the way, 'the son' in the ad is played by Vicky Kaushal of Masaan (a 2015 Bollywood feature film) fame.
Says the brand team on YouTube: "There are only a few things in the world that epitomize hope, dreams and magic and one of them is Indian cinema. And in life, like in Bollywood, some dreams come true, some fall through and some just take longer. Watch this story of a father and son on a journey - Bollywood style - with Google Search by their side. #GoogleAtTheMovies."
The TV leg of this campaign comprises two product-specific 30-seconders.
Storytelling Versus Product Promotion - A Fine Balance?
Previously, long format digital ad films were solely focussed on emotions and story-telling; the brand in question made a subtle, near-apologetic appearance at the fag end, most commonly through a logo or super. Nowadays, brands seem to look for a balance between product 'hard sell' and soft story-telling. In this film, Google makes several appearances and the product-demo bit is unabashed.
Adds Ambi, "The Father's Day connection is a little tenuous in our country. I love the Canal+ ad that takes a diabolical shot at all these Father's Day ads... loved it just for its irreverence. Coming to this Indian Google father-son ad, I'm not sure if it works at the many levels it is supposed to - Sell the search feature, build topical interest and create emotional connect."
Giving the massy, relatable Bollywood and Sholay angles a thumbs up, Pooja Gosain, creative director, DigitasLBi a digital agency from the house of Publicis.Sapient, says, "... It would have been interesting to see the father in the ad use the (search) feature, to further demonstrate its simplicity..." adding, "Recent research indicates that people are comfortable with long videos as long as there is an interesting story or message. That has been done well here."
In the context of the ad's 'online performance' so far, Gosain says, "I believe there is undue pressure on every digital video to 'go viral'... The 'viral' effect is a must-have only if that's the core campaign design - (for instance, the ALS ice bucket challenge, where the idea would not succeed without virality) - not when conveying a message about a product feature is the objective."
About the storytelling-hard sell tightrope, Saad Khan, vice president, strategic planning, FCB Ulka, opines, "Is it really about striking the balance? I think it's still about the story. As long as the story is evocative, people will remember the brand and its offering, whether it appears multiple times, or once. 'Like A Girl' by Always doesn't speak about the product offering at all. On the other hand, in the Volvo Split film, the brand's trucks are in the frame almost all through. As long as the brand has a role in the story, people can connect the dots themselves."
To Ayan Banik, head, brand strategy, Cheil India, Google India's ad has "beautiful content" but lacks "digital intervention". The product category (search engine) lends itself to a lot more than TVC-type messaging, goes his argument.
Virality, he feels, is important. "To ensure virality, agencies should move away from creating TVC-style audio-visual films and focus on leveraging digital technology (social media engagement, gamification, user-generated content, etc.) for the purpose of storytelling and not restrict themselves to creating a single YouTube-based ad film..." he elaborates.
Banik cites Nescafe's 'stutter ad' as the perfect example of a brand film that balances emotional storytelling with product promotion.
With inputs by Suraj Ramnath and Aditi Srivastava