Soho Square's new boy-girl spot has brought Balki's 2007 mother-son ad back into the conversation. We couldn't resist a comparative critique.
Electrical goods company, Havells has launched a new ad for its most popular product, the heat-resistant, flame-retardant wires. The brand is moving further with its famous product attribute - ‘Wires that don’t catch fire’ - with a refreshing take.
We spoke to Amit Tiwari, vice-president - marketing, Havells India, to find out how the brand has endeavoured to exhibit an emotional charm within the segment as wiring is not a high-involvement category.
Tiwari talks about the conscious guideline that, as a brand, is followed on the communication front. He says, “We are in the storytelling business. So, rather than sell a hard proposition of any concept, if we are able to sell it in the minds of the consumers, we think our job has been done.”
Putting storylines in the forefront, Tiwari states that it does indeed carry forward the emotional plank while adding value to it. “When it comes to children, emotion automatically flows with a natural progression,” he adds.
Amit Sharma of Chrome Pictures has directed this film and after conducting an extensive recce, he finally zeroed in on Sadhupul, a small village in Himachal Pradesh, near Shimla.
The only thumb-rule Sharma adheres to while making an ad is to follow his heart. “Love is innocent at any age; that was my inspiration,” he tells us.
Sharma is delighted that he was given complete freedom to visualise the film the way he wanted. “That is because of the trust the creatives have in me and I am humbled for it,” he shares.
Sharma feels that storytelling cannot have any time restrictions. “It really is about the time it takes to convey a story and if the client gives you the freedom to express it, then there is nothing else a director like me could ask for,” he says.
Sumanto Chattopadhyay, chairman and chief creative officer, Soho Square, The Ogilvy Group India, considers it a pleasure to work on a brand with a legacy of great advertising. Chattopadhyay observes humbly, “The brief was to create a worthy successor to the iconic ads created by the previous agency.”
The task was not to hard-sell the product, but to refresh the brand campaign. Hence, as the newly appointed agency on the block, the thumb-rule that Soho Square followed while ideating on the role of the wire in the story, was that it should touch the heart rather than the mind.
“Of course, there was a rational aspect to the message as well - we needed to demonstrate that the wire does not catch fire. And this 'demo' had to fit into the film seamlessly. The girl rejecting the wire flower and tossing it into the bonfire provided the perfect opportunity,” Chattopadhyay elaborates.
“The milieu of the ad and the theme of puppy love are quite different from what Havells Wires’ communication has explored so far. Yet it is faithful to the original brand platform and campaign idea,” he explains.
The 2-minute-long video is for viewing online. “The duration is in keeping with what works in that medium. There are shorter versions for cinema and television,” Chattopadhyay signs off.
So, keeping the original campaign idea intact, the big question is whether or not the agency has been able to create a charming piece of communication that will help the brand remain top-of-mind in an increasingly competitive market scenario.
KV Sridhar, founder of HyperCollective, a consultancy, observes that in a completely uninvolved category like this, one always has to borrow the interest from somewhere else because inherently, these commodities don't have a role to play in a consumer’s day to day lives.
So, how can one convert these commodities into brands/ categories? “By simply making advertising top-of-mind,” he says. And to make advertising interesting, one has to draw inspiration/ stories from life.
He further cites the examples of the cooking oil and hair oil and how, over the years, they have evolved from mere commodities to increasingly focussing on telling life-driven, gripping stories. He thinks that it is a sort of ‘reflected glory’; the brands pick the product benefit and weave it into a ‘beautiful’ story to tell consumers.
Anchor and Bajaj have also done some interesting advertising to make people familiar with their products.
For instance, if you are the fourteenth entrant in the water purifier category, you have a huge challenge in front of you as you don't have anything new to talk about concerning your product. Generic stuff like – it kills the bacteria - has already been done to death.
“So, you either have to be the first mover or a late entrant to be a little brave to tell stories,” Sridhar says.
According to him, the new ad doesn’t work as the execution seems forced and non-descriptive. He is of the opinion that people identify children with transparency, honesty and innocence; hence, fidgeting with flower wires was not a good idea.
“With the 2007 Havells campaign Lowe borrowed interest from real life and, therefore, it stood the test of time. It was emotional and at the same time, purposeful,” feels the veteran.
He continues, “As a viewer (of the 2007 ad), our heart will go out to the mother and we would be bowled over and delighted by the child's smart move in helping his mother out thus making him the brand for us! We don't feel anything similar in this latest 'puppy love' story of two Convent-educated children.”
Sridhar predicts it will probably be the most forgettable ad in the entire Havells repertoire.
Sridhar sees every advertiser as an intruder into the audience's mental space; thus, he believes that it is their responsibility to make sure the ads make for worthwhile and rewarding experiences.
The character of the brand/ brand personality plays a key role.
With there being no electricity at the location (camp) in the new ad, the relevance of electric wires seems forced. His opinion is that although the intent might be sound, the execution seems to be a little askew. He does, however, feel that to some extent, the creative premise has been affected because of the transition between the agencies (Lowe to Soho).
A few Havells ads still share some sort of social context.
Sridhar is clearly not too impressed with the first attempt by the creative agency, but he believes time will help them understand the brand value and create a more impactful ad.
However, he shares an empathic note with the agency as he believes that it's not an easy task to carry forward the torch or live up to the “creative legacy” of a previous pioneer. “Rather than getting affected by the criticism they should keep at it,” he shares a candid suggestion.
He cites the example of Flipkart ads where children were featured showcasing operational use; eventually, they got rid of the children and went back to dealing with adults for a while. This, again, made them look like any other e-commerce site in the market.
The social relevance factor plays a key role too.
On the other hand, it was the '80s when Onida decided to approach the audience with a new angle - 'Envy'. TVs were considered a status symbol back then and the brand used that to their advantage. But as Sridhar points out, the brand tried to revive its iconic 'devil and owners pride' campaign in a bid to reignite the brand’s image, but failed miserably in the last three attempts.
“With Havells, they tried to tell a story, but it's not unique enough to cut through. They first have to decide which direction they are headed in - is it puppy love or the consequences of not having a fireproof wire (as displayed in the earlier ad),” Sridhar explains.
Comparing the length of the two ads in discussion, Sridhar identifies that the previous ad (2007) ran only on TV whereas the recent one is easily accessible for digital consumption as well (the TVC being the shorter edited version) but is a bit over-stretched.
“Internet isn't free! The story/ content is not something worth spending two minutes on,” he observes wryly.