Suraj Ramnath

"E-comm brands need a mix of thematic and practical advertising": Vikrant Mudaliar, CMO,

We spoke to Mudaliar about his new ad campaign that stars Ranbir Kapoor - and challenges MakeMyTrip's Ranveer Singh, perhaps?

Online travel portal,, recently launched its new TVC, 'Koi Nikal Pada Hai' featuring Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor. Conceptualised by Ogilvy & Mather India, the ad introduces Yatra's new brand proposition of being 'India ka travel planner'.

"E-comm brands need a mix of thematic and practical advertising": Vikrant Mudaliar, CMO,
In the past, actor
had minority stakes in Yatra and in the year 2012, he was also the brand ambassador, featured in a few
. Post that the brand's ad campaigns have been seen without any big celebrity.
"E-comm brands need a mix of thematic and practical advertising": Vikrant Mudaliar, CMO,
Talking about the association back then with Salman Khan, Vikrant Mudaliar, chief marketing officer,, says, "The association with Salman went well for us back then and from time to time, we will re-evaluate our marketing and advertising strategy in terms of external associations. There is no deliberate strategy that requires us to necessarily have a celebrity association year after year. We plan things on an annual or a two-year basis..."

Adding about the reason behind the current ad not focusing on discounts and promotions, Mudaliar says, "Promotional and discount-led advertising, to a certain extent, has been symbolic to e-commerce advertising, not just Yatra. That's because of the nature of the category - it is very transaction based. There's a larger objective of establishing and communicating that Yatra caters to all kinds of travellers, for all kinds of travel."

He adds, "Too much messaging is not a good thing. Hence we stuck to a single-minded proposition this time. Having said that, offer-based or promotion-based advertising is something that we do from time to time and it will find its place in the future as well."

According to Mudaliar, brands in this segment need to find a healthy mix of thematic and practical advertising. "We too have tried to do that. In this case, our ad has a part to play in the overall re-branding and re-positioning of Yatra; this has coincided with Ranbir coming on board as brand ambassador," he adds.

In the recent past, Yatra has been focusing on discount and promotion based ads. This particular campaign featuring Kapoor, makes no overt mention about discounts. We asked Mudaliar what role each type of ad plays in terms of return on investments (ROI).

He says, "Whether it's thematic or practical advertising, our metrics show us the role it plays in increasing traffic or bookings; we keep ROI focus on any kind of advertising that we do. Yes, in the case of functional advertising, we see more of an immediate response - say, a short term spike in traffic on the site. At times, it is dependent on discounts and promotion-based advertising - they have a role to play too".

According to Mudaliar, there are other matrices like brand awareness, intention to purchase, affinity, etc. which help in increasing (long term) ROI. He says, "So it is more of a short term versus long term play. For long term brand building, thematic advertising seems to contribute more."

Currently, Yatra is promoting its TVC through English news channels, Hindi news channels, general entertainment channels, Infotainment, HD channels and regional channels.

It appears as though the ad wars between online travel agencies like Yatra and MMT are boiling down to celeb-wars (Ranveer Vs Ranbir). We asked our experts if this is necessarily a bad thing. Should these brands focus, instead, on promoting specific, unique features in their ads?

"E-comm brands need a mix of thematic and practical advertising": Vikrant Mudaliar, CMO,
"E-comm brands need a mix of thematic and practical advertising": Vikrant Mudaliar, CMO,
Bikram Bindra, vice-president and strategic planning head, Grey Group Delhi, says, "Personally, I don't think this is a bad thing as much as it is a slightly unnecessary thing. For both brands, there was more to the campaigns than the popular face and they could arguably have worked without the celeb endorsement as well."

He adds, "I like this ad, and the brand message of the world being full of different kinds of travellers. While MMT decided to focus on a specific product truth, this film focuses on the larger brand promise. In a fiercely competitive category where everyone is essentially offering the same thing, a larger umbrella brand film does make sense, since it will help build affinity and a unique brand POV."

Bindra finds the execution of the film very refreshing. He says, "The use of music is catchy and the film exudes a well put together sense of aesthetic."

Ashish Tambe, associate creative director, Social Kinnect, says, "The use of celebs by OTAs in their ads is in fact, a strategic move to propel their respective agendas. Yatra through its brand film, wants to create a recall for its communication - 'India ka travel partner'. MakeMyTrip in its ad series with Ranveer, has done a brilliant integration of its unique features and storytelling, backed by the popularity of the actor. Hence I would say that this is not a celeb war, but each brand upping its game with great concepts aided by the celeb quotient."

Currently the size of the total travel market in India is $ 28 billion and online is roughly $ 10 billion, according to Phocuswright, a travel, tourism and hospitality research company.

Have news to share? Write to us