In a quick chat, Ajay Gupta, managing director, Capital foods, claims that the latest Ching's Secret ad featuring Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh had an advertising and promotion budget of Rs 75 crore, as much as that of a mid-size Hindi film.
To get Rohit Shetty, Ranveer Singh and Tamannaah Bhatia together in one frame is perhaps a coup of sorts. So, what do we get? A crazy Bollywood potboiler? Nah! An ad for Ching's Secret!
After the success of 'My name is Ranveer Ching' (2014), Ching's Secret, a brand of Indian Chinese cuisine ingredients from the house of Capital Foods, is back with 'Ranveer Ching Returns'. Directed by well-known Bollywood film maker Rohit Shetty, the larger than life (ad) film is set in a dystopian future where Singh plays the saviour, messiah, or call him what you may, who dashes into the arena Ben Hur style riding a modern day chariot of sorts (with wheels, of course) and sporting a headgear which could have put the Incas to shame, to fight a hunger war and save the people from starvation with the help of his Ching's Desi Chinese recipes.
"Shetty has never done an ad, nor would he for a regular shampoo or toothpaste commercial. So, we told him that we wanted 'a Rohit Shetty film', which also had food and 'Ching's Desi Chinese' in it," adds Patil, sharing an anecdote.
While the film had all the elements of a typical Hindi 'masala' movie -- boy meets girl, song and dance, a really evil-looking villain, and loads of crazy action, weapons, et al -- Singh pointed out that an essential ingredient was missing in the film's recipe - 'The Ma' (the quintessential mother of Bollywood movies). And, that's how 'Ma Ching' was created.
"Singh," says Gupta, "is more than a brand ambassador for Ching's Secret. He is part of our marketing team. We set a benchmark for brand integration with our first campaign, and with this one, we have set yet another benchmark for the use of celebrities in advertising."
The Media Push
'Ranveer Ching Returns' was released in cinemas and on YouTube on Friday, August 19. On Sunday, August 28, there will be a world television premiere on Sony Entertainment Television. The ad will then be telecast on select TV channels. Shorter edits with individual Ching's Secret products will be aired from September.
The film will be dubbed in the four South Indian languages of Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam.
"Desi Chinese is the soul food of Indians wherever they are. Our objective is to show the entire film to a large part of the Indian consumer, including the Indian diaspora, at least once," says Gupta.
He tells us that of the first 3.5 million views on YouTube, around five lakh views were from the US and the UAE, and with the television premiere, the brand hopes to reach more Indian consumers in Canada, Australia, Singapore, and the Middle-East.
Been There, Done That
Call them purists, but it seems that the advertising professionals we spoke to like to keep advertising and movies separate. Moreover, they unanimously disagree with the film setting any kind of 'benchmarks or gold-standards'. For them, there's nothing new in this.
While he loved the seamless brand integration 'Ranveer Ching', Santosh Padhi, chief creative officer and co-founder, Taproot Dentsu, is not convinced that this film is the best creative use of a celebrity. His favourite is the Ambuja Cement ad with Khali. He also feels that the way MakeMyTrip used Singh is "a lot better".
On the execution, he adds, "Ching's has a lovely proposition of 'Desi Chinese' -- unique and true for a majority of the Indian audience. Had the film been made to play around it, brand recall would have been for much longer." Padhi also feels that the first 'Ranveer Ching' campaign was better. The added layer of action in this one does not do any good to the brand.
And, like Padhi, an unimpressed Ayan Banik, head - brand strategy, Cheil India, too, points out one example after another to show that 'Ranveer Ching Returns' is not a thought as fresh in advertising.
"The use of celebrity actors and celebrity directors, and creating stories with beautiful and seamless product integration has been in existence for a long time, way before the digital explosion in India, or social media outburst," says Banik.
He corroborates his statement with the example of the BMW series where top-of-the-line Hollywood action directors such as Ang Lee, John Woo, and Guy Ritchie were commissioned to create short stories around the lives of different people. The only constant there was the car and the driver Clive Owens, who ultimately rescued the protagonists.
Tata Sky+ HD - Prison Break, then (2013) the 'longest commercial in the history of Indian advertising', was according to Banik, "an ad created like a movie trailer with a theatrical launch." He also points out the example of Ranbir Kapoor, who promoted Philips LED with the song 'Saara Zamaana'.
Hozefa Alibhai, co-founder, Puppet Pictures, an ad film production company, says, "It's a very 'Rohit Shetty film', and is entertaining for the masses. All the big names will surely create awareness for the brand."
He, however, adds, "It's poor man's 'Mad Max' meeting South Indian cinema, meeting Bollywood, meeting Ching's, where the product is a misfit. Should have been only one genre meeting the product story."
Gupta shares that in the past one year, the brand's retail presence has grown from around 80,000 stores to 3,25,000 stores across the country. Thanks to 'Ranveer Ching', the Ching's Schezwan Chutney, launched two years ago, is a 100 crore business in Maharashtra alone. The objective, now, is to double the distribution, and reach over half a million stores in 12 months.
And, as Patil says, "We are not selling a film, but a product here, and if 'Ranveer Ching' can get the consumers, the trade, and the brand sales team excited, nothing like it."